Turn your swimming pool project into a backyard resort

Our first article in this two part series Designing Your Backyard Swimming Pool  addressed some of the practical considerations associated with planning a backyard swimming pool. This article will focus on some of the ancillary design features that will help transform your swimming pool into your very own backyard recreational resort.

For many families the swimming pool starts off as a backyard amenity, intended to provide the children with fun and activity during the hot summer months. However, with some creativity and planning that same swimming pool could also be a strong aesthetic element, becoming the focus of your backyard and the center of family life throughout the outdoor season.

The key to this transformation is creating a master plan of your entire backyard. This does not mean that it all has to be completed at the same time. Your plan can have many stages, but each stage should take you one step closer to the backyard resort of your dreams.

So, where do you start? Well you start by dreaming…taking time to get inspired by all possibilities your backyard offers. Collect pictures and ideas, searching the internet, flip through pool magazines, visit landscape shows and talk to your friends. Not all these ideas will be right for your project, but if you don’t look at all the possibilities you might miss the features and ideas that are right for your backyard.

Creating a master plan for your backyard retreat, involves more than making your backyard look great. There should be a practical side to your plan. The following are some things to consider to ensure your completed backyard is perfect for your family.

An effective backyard "master plan” should:

  • Maximize the time you can enjoy your backyard:  Consider ways to enjoy your backyard when the pool is not being used, mornings, evenings, when it is raining, spring time before the pool is open, autumn after the pool is closed, and maybe even during the winter. Including amenities like outdoor lighting, roof canopies, outdoor theatres, outdoor fire places, and patio heaters can significantly increase the time you can enjoy your backyard.
  • Ensure your backyard will be enjoyable to all:  While the kids might have been the main reason you are adding a swimming pool, with a little planning you can create a backyard that is enjoyable to family and friends of all ages. Amenities like comfortable patio furniture on a shaded deck, relaxing music or the sound of flowing water, or secluded garden sitting area to play chess.
  • Create more efficient use of your backyard space:  You don’t need an estate lot to create a fantastic backyard, you just need to plan it better. Many of these amenities can be connected, making more efficient use of the space available. Your pool deck can flow into your dining area reducing the area required, your water feature and hot tub can be integrated into your pool design, and your outdoor fire place can be integrated into your grilling area or outdoor kitchen.
  • Give you the most bang for your bucks:  I think it is safe to say that most of us are working with a limited budget for our backyard resort. Creating an effective backyard master plan can better allow you to control costs versus tackling projects independent of each other. You can save significant money by having the electrical contractor hooking up your pool equipment also run all the wiring for your water feature, outdoor lighting and grilling area, or the gas contractor connecting your pool heater also run a line for your gas barbeque and gas fire pit. However, this can only be done effectively if there is a complete plan for your entire backyard.
  • Increase the value of your home:  The better the plan, the better the results! By creating a backyard that ‘WOW’s’ your guests, you are also creating a backyard that ‘wows’ potential buyer when you decide to sell your home. In the first article in this series, we said that adding a pool was like adding an addition to your home, and if done properly it should also give you the same return of your investment when selling.

ancillary design features that will transform your pool into a backyard resort

​There are many great features you could include in your backyard oasis, but these four, along with comfortable patio furnishings, are the key ones to consider.

1.POOLscaping starts with the pool deck and patio

What are you looking for in your poolside landscape? Depending on your choice of coping and deck materials, you can create a seamless extension of your home’s exterior — or a departure into something stunning and exotic, just steps away from your back door.

Patios and decks are extensions of the home and can help create the perfect setting for your backyard. As such, patio and deck design requires accessories that will make your backyard as livable as any indoor room. From a fountain or hammock to wicker furniture and wind chimes, a few added accessories can transform your backyard into your new outdoor living space. In addition, your deck can also help add sophistication to any backyard.

Your deck should be strategically placed to enjoy the scenery and allow you to actively monitor the kids in the pool, while minimizing noise both to and from your neighbors. Consider your sunshine when planning your deck. Too much sun exposure can be managed, not enough sun can be a problem.

Decks and patios can have one or many levels and can be bold or unassuming, depending on your preferred design. Consider your own personal space requirements and preferences when selecting a deck surface. The materials you choose should fit into your lifestyle and budget.

Some common materials used for pool decks include: wood, composite materials, natural stone, exterior tile, concrete, brick and pavers. Your pool coping can either blend in with your decking material or you can opt to accent it. Whichever way you go, you want to make sure that the decking and coping — even your pool tile or liner — are selected to create a cohesive, complementary look.

  • Deck Pavers: Deck pavers are durable, affordable and comfortable to walk on, and can be found in materials to fit any budget — travertine, concrete, natural stone and manufactured aggregates. Pavers can be sand-set without mortar, grout or an expensive slab, plus, sand installation allows for flexibility between the pavers so they’re less likely to crack and need repairs in the future.
  • Decorative Concrete: Decorative Concrete is another option that offers a wide variety of colors and finishes. Concrete decking can be stamped and stained in your choice of patterns, textures and colors, and can be sealed with a spray-on, slip-resistant finish.
  • Composite Decking: Composite Decking can give you the look and practicality of a traditional wood deck without all the maintenance that comes with it. Composite decking is available in colors and textures that mimic the look of real wood, yet it’s durable, long-lasting and needs no painting or staining.
  • Tile: Tile adds classic beauty and is available in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles and colors — it’s also very durable. The tile needs to be exterior quality, non-slip and installed on a concrete slab.
  • Slate: Slate and aggregates provide wonderful texture and rich color and is a beautiful complement to your natural surroundings.
  • Brick: Brick is durable, available in a variety of colors, and can be laid out in a number of exciting and dramatic patterns.

For more great information on planning and building your deck, read quinju's article, Outdoor Deck...Planning to Build Your Dream Deck.

2. An outdoor fire PIT: WARMing HEARTS AND smiling faces of water logged swimmers

A fire feature tends to be one of the most popular outdoor additions to a pool area. Fireplaces and fire pits require the coordination of several key elements – masonry, gas and plumbing, and stonework. Below are a few options to consider;


A fireplace is the best way to make a statement in any backyard landscaping or pool project. This gorgeous focal feature can take on the design and feel of the house, backyard, or patio. A fireplace is more of a daily focal feature but as the night cools off, it becomes the center of the party. A fireplace is typically located on the edge of the patio, whereas the fire pit sits in the center. With that being said, the fireplace can allow more patio space for landscape projects.

Fire Pit

A fire pit is one of the most common fire features and has become a standard backyard installation. The fire pit can be wood burning or setup for natural gas or propane. A wood fire pit makes for a great evening, but requires cleanup, so, most homeowners tend to prefer the quick and easy gas setup. Fire pits have become popular because of their ability to be the center point of an evening of fun, with everyone sitting and talking around the fire pit.

Other Fire Features

Other interesting fire features include bar and table fire pits. Ready-to-Finish Fire Feature Systems are a fast, easy and efficient way to add fire to your backyard resort.  Combine the elements by adding fire/water pots or fire lines to your swimming pool. Customize anything from the size, shape, finish and fire rock to your outdoor design.

For additional information about outdoor fireplaces and firepits, be sure to read quinju's article titled, Fireplace or Fire Pit, Add One to Your Outdoor Living Space.

3. Using Water to Accentuate your pool

The calming sounds of water cascading into your pool, steam rising from your spa, a glass-like sheet of water flowing from a sheer descent waterfall, or a natural stone waterfall can turn your pool into a paradise.

Spas & Hot Tubs
  • Spill Over Spa:   Sits next to the pool and water spills over directly into the pool creating a waterfall atmosphere, a great addition to any in ground swimming pool. Plumbing connects to pool equipment.
  • Overflow Spas:  Sits away from the pool and water spills underground back to the pool. This allows you to have the spa almost anywhere you want in your yard. Plumbing connects to pool equipment.
  • Hot Tubs:  Stand-alone hot tubs come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and features. This is what you would want for year round use.
Rock WaterFalls

The world is your oyster when designing a rock waterfall. Your job is to use websites such as quinju.com and look at the diversity of designs which have been created by other backyard pool owners. Enlisting the help of a competent landscape designer will provide useful as you create your dream Rock Waterfall.

Sheer Descent Waterfall

Sheer Descent waterfalls produce a clear arc of water that can be adjusted from a silent, glass-like sheet of water to a rushing waterfall. A captivating addition to any new, remodeled, or existing pool or spa.

Sheer Descent Waterfalls are available in lengths from eight inches to eight feet, including curved and extended lip models. Choose from a variety of waterfall styles including Sheer Descent, Sheer Rain, Sheer Curtain, Sheer Arc and Rain Arc. Most sheer descents can be built into the stonework used around your pool or to accent your pool.

​Deck Jets

​Deck Jets create a beautiful arc of shimmering water squirting from the deck to a pool or spa. Deck jets are an easy and affordable way to add fun and excitement to your pool and spa experience.

For more information about creating an effective backyard water feature, read quinju's article, ​Waterfalls: The Soothing Sights and Sounds of Running Water.

4. Swimming Pools and grilling...they go together like hotdogs and hamburgers

The hardest thing about having a beautiful swimming pool is getting the kids out of the water when it is time.  They are having so much fun that time just slides by. However, there is one sure way to get them out...try yelling, "the burgers and dogs are ready!"

Nothing completes a great afternoon of splashing and swimming like a warm outdoor fire and delicious food, hot off the grill. So no backyard resort would be complete without a well planned grilling area or outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchens are not just a second functional cooking area replacing the traditional basement kitchens. Today’s outdoor kitchens have become artistic studios for our palettes, which include amenities that are difficult to put inside: charcoal grills, pizza ovens, smokers, and lobster boilers.

Including a breakfast counter and bar stools into outdoor kitchen or grilling area makes a great spot for the adults to gather while the kids are enjoying the swimming pool.  

When creating your backyard master plan, your grilling area or outdoor kitchen should have easy access to the house and outdoor dining area or patio. It should also have direct view of the pool, allowing you to actively supervisor the kids as you cook.

For more information about planning your outdoor kitchen, read quinju's article, Outdoor Kitchens: Turning Gourmet Grilling into Entertainment.


We could have easily added comfortable patio Furniture to this list of key amenities to consider when planning your backyard resort, however it would have been way too long.  Before selecting the patio furniture for your outdoor entertainment area, read quinju's articles, Patio Furniture: All the Comforts of Indoor Living...Outdoors and Patio Accessories: Adding Comfort and Style to Your Patio.

Good luck with your swimming pool project.​


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