De­sign­ing the per­fect pool­side

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Melissa Ray­worth

Ask El­iz­a­beth Stu­art De­sign founder Muffie Faith about how to dec­o­rate around a back­yard pool and she’ll an­swer you with a ques­tion of her own: How are you go­ing to use it?

“I know the ob­vi­ous an­swer is ‘swim and en­joy the cool wa­ter,’ ” says the South Carolina-based in­te­rior de­signer. But it’s worth div­ing deeper (yes, she says, pun in­tended) into that ques­tion to en­sure you’ll create a back­yard that re­ally makes you happy.

Who will be spend­ing time around this pool and what will they be doing?

Is din­ing pool­side a pri­or­ity? Then you’ll want to take time choos­ing a large enough ta­ble for guests and fam­ily, and you’ll need com­fort­able chairs that can get damp with pool wa­ter.

Do you wish to face the pool or be tucked in a side gar­den where you’ll glance over at your pool but not fo­cus on it?

And do you love to gar­den and want the pool in a lush set­ting or do you hate to gar­den and pre­fer hard­scape and beau­ti­ful pots with less main­te­nance?

Tak­ing your time with ques­tions like these, Faith says, “will help you to de­sign your area around the pool, which I would say is al­most as crit­i­cal as the pool de­sign it­self.”

De­sign­ers Jade Joyner, co-founder of Metal+Petal de­sign in Athens, Ga., and Abbe Fen­i­more, founder of Stu­dio Ten 25 in Dal­las, agree.

Fen­i­more has sev­eral clients who don’t have chil­dren or whose kids are out of the house, so the pool area is mainly used by adults com­ing over for cock­tail par­ties or quiet af­ter­noons. In those cases, sleek fur­nish­ings and an open fire pit are per­fectly ap­pro­pri­ate.

But Fen­i­more and

Joyner point out that home­own­ers with small kids have dif­fer­ent needs. They might have lots of young house­guests us­ing their pool, so they need plenty of com­fort­able seat­ing. And avoid­ing sharp corners is im­por­tant if lit­tle kids may be run­ning around with wet feet.

More advice for cre­at­ing an ap­peal­ing and safe back­yard pool area: Han­dling sun and heat

The fur­ni­ture around your pool will likely be in di­rect sun­light and will in­ter­act with plenty of wa­ter. So it must be durable.

Met­als, es­pe­cially in di­rect sun­light, “are very un­for­giv­ing,” Fen­i­more says. “They will scald you.”

So she sug­gests wood fur­ni­ture and resin-based ma­te­rial that re­sem­bles wood.

Joyner rec­om­mends out­door pieces that are fully up­hol­stered — no hot metal chair arms — and tough enough to be left out­side or splashed with pool wa­ter.

Also, when you choose fur­ni­ture and pil­low fab­rics, Fen­i­more says, keep an­i­mals in mind. Squir­rels and birds might try to pull out loose threads from nubby fab­rics to make nests, so opt for durable and smooth up­hol­stery.

And Fen­i­more rec­om­mends adding one or more large um­brel­las that can be repo­si­tioned as the di­rect sun­light moves across the pool area.

Build­ing from scratch

If you’re adding a pool to a yard that didn’t have one, take into ac­count the lo­ca­tion and root sys­tems of nearby trees, Faith says.

“Some trees have in­va­sive root sys­tems that could harm the pool over time. Also, are there any de­cid­u­ous trees close by that will make a huge mess in the fall? If so, I may want to vote for a pool cover,” she says.

An­other con­sid­er­a­tion: What kind of equip­ment will the pool have?

“You must fac­tor in where a good spot will be to dis­guise it, as well as the noise that in­evitably comes from the pool equip­ment,” Faith says.

One ben­e­fit to build­ing a new pool or re­design­ing an old one: You can choose the color pal­ette of the pool’s in­te­rior.

“I am cur­rently de­sign­ing a pool for an amaz­ing mid­cen­tury home and the client wants it to be au­then­tic,” Faith says. “The pool will have crys­tal-blue wa­ter, so it is nec­es­sary that the bot­tom of the pool be white to re­flect blue. There will be a pale blue tile sur­round, so as not to dis­tract but give a ‘Don Draper’ 1960s look.”

Faith de­signed a pool with a dark bot­tom for her own home, cre­at­ing the feel of “an over­size pond that you could swim in.” She sur­rounded it with slate, for a nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance. Re­sort style

Rules vary, but for safety many towns re­quire fenc­ing around a yard with a pool.

Joyner sug­gests choos­ing a fence that com­ple­ments your house’s ex­te­rior and blends in, with sim­ple and clean lines. All three de­sign­ers rec­om­mend soft­en­ing a fence’s ap­pear­ance with bushes, pot­ted trees and other plants.

Add small fin­ish­ing touches like a throw pil­low on each chaise and a bas­ket of rolled-up fluffy tow­els in a ca­bana stripe or other pat­tern, Fen­i­more says.

An out­door fire­place or fire pit can also el­e­vate your pool area, Joyner says.

Make sure you have a small ta­ble be­tween your chairs for cof­fee or a cock­tail, Faith says, and put in plenty of elec­tri­cal out­lets.


Throw pil­lows and pool­side ta­bles can bring a bit of va­ca­tion re­sort ex­pe­ri­ence to a back­yard pool.

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