Let's be honest — above-ground swimming pools aren't exactly what you think about when you envision a stylish backyard. You may love your pool while you're in it, but the view of it from your kitchen window or patio likely has you contemplating decorative above-ground pool ideas. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to enhance the pool design and help make it look as if it belongs in your landscape.
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The Pool Deck
One of the most common ways people dress up their above-ground pool is to build a deck around it— almost disguising it as an in-ground pool. An above-ground pool deck allows easy access to the pool and provides a lounge area. Your deck can be small (just covering the area where swimmers will enter the pool), or you can build a more expansive space for sunbathing. Some pool owners build a fence into their deck, which looks nice and keeps out unwanted guests, like unattended children or summer pool hoppers.
While there's nothing wrong with keeping it simple, many pool owners build intricate decks around their above-ground swimming pool that offer designated spaces for lounging poolside, grilling or dangling your feet into the pool. If your pool is deep enough, you can even add a fun slide that goes from the deck into the pool.
Wood is a popular decking material and is easy to work with, but if your budget allows, use composite decking instead. Composite decking is more expensive, but it won't rot or warp when exposed to the pool water. Wood will work, but you'll need to seal it, and it requires more maintenance.
Whatever material you choose, make sure you keep your wooden deck safe. If you build the deck level with the top of your above-ground swimming pool, make sure you have safety railings in place. Above-ground pools are often about 52 inches high, and the building code requires railings around any deck with a height of 30 inches or more. Code also requires those railings to be at least 36 inches high, and balusters must be less than 4 inches apart so small children can't squeeze through them.
Hide the Pool
If the outside of your pool leaves something to be desired, hide it with something more attractive. You obviously don't want to be nailing or drilling things to the side of the pool, so build a frame of wood or PVC a few inches away from it instead. Once your frame is in place, you have a number of options for covering it and hiding the pool. This trick also works for hiding unsightly pool equipment.
One option is to install attractive wood planks sealed in polyurethane or flexible bamboo screening cut to the right height. If you want a tropical or beachy feel, attach a reed fence to your frame. You can even paint and seal wooden panels to weatherproof them. You can paint these panels a solid color, add a design or, if you're crafty, paint attractive pictures on them.
For a natural look, install faux stone or brick panels to the frame around your pool. These panels are easy to install and allow you to get the look you want much more easily than trying to work with real stone or brick. If you have a concrete pool, consider staining or tiling the outer walls to enhance their look.
Do you want something unique yet practical? Build and install a small bar around the outside edge of your pool. You can add a few bar stools to make the bar accessible from outside the pool, and you can swim up to the bar from inside the pool.
Above-Ground Swimming Pool Landscaping
Adding a planting bed around the outside perimeter of your pool is an excellent way to enhance its appearance and make it fit into the landscape. You can largely plant whatever you like, but there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
If you choose plants that will grow taller than the wall of the swimming pool, make sure you avoid deciduous or flowering plants that will drop leaves or flower petals into your pool. These plants work well next to the pool but are best avoided if they'll get taller than the pool. It's also best to avoid viny climbing plants, like ivy. Many of these plants are incredibly tenacious and can cause problems if they start to grow into the sides of your pool.
One great strategy is to plant small evergreen shrubs next to the pool for year-round appeal. You can then place flowering perennials or even annuals in front of the evergreens to add color. You can choose plants with a tropical feel or simply opt for vegetation that matches the rest of your landscaping.
Hardscaping Around the Pool
The right landscaping can vastly improve the look of your pool but don't overlook hardscaping elements. These can make your pool look better and improve the way it functions for you. Like landscaping elements, well-done hardscaping helps make your pool mesh with the landscape and feel as though it belongs in the space. The visual problem with many above-ground swimming pools isn't the pool itself but the fact that it looks as if it was plunked in the yard as an afterthought.
Consider creating a walkway to the pool from your patio or back door. This looks inviting when you walk out the door, and it can help keep your pool cleaner. Rather than tromping through the freshly mowed grass and having it stick to your feet, you can come and go from your pool barefoot without dragging a mess with you. You can use brick, pavers or composite decking to build your path.
Another way to add both beauty and practicality to your pool is with umbrellas or by building a pergola over part of the pool. Both of these above-ground pool ideas add some shade to keep you from looking like a lobster after a day in the pool. They also add attractive visual interest that can enhance the look of the pool.
Install Decorative Gravel
You may find that you like the design on the outside of your pool and don't want to cover it. That being said, you probably don't like constantly trimming the grass that grows next to your pool. Installing decorative gravel around your pool may be the answer.
To do so, simply dig a few inches into the earth around your pool and edge the area with landscape pavers or edging. You can then lay down landscaping fabric and spread the gravel. If weeds start to poke up through the gravel, the simple solution is to pull them or spray them with a broadleaf weed killer. This will create a nice, clean edge around your pool that is free of weeds and tall grass that the mower missed.
Create a Lounge Area
One way to make an above-ground swimming pool look better is to use it as a backdrop rather than allowing it to be a focal point. You can achieve this by creating an attractive sitting area next to the pool. Grab a bench, a couple of lounge chairs and a few potted plants. You can even add a framed porch swing and a few outdoor throw pillows. If you have enough space, you can even add a dining table and grilling area.
By dressing up the space around the pool and giving it a cozy feel, you change the focal point in your yard. You'll have a great space in which to relax next to the pool, and your eye will be drawn to the bright cushions and cheery plants next to the pool when you look out the kitchen window. This allows you to get the look you want without altering the pool.
Add Pool Lighting
One of the best parts about owning your own pool is going for a night swim. But because adding pool lighting can be a bit precarious, you'll want to do a bit of thinking before diving into this decorative idea. Adding lighting in and around your pool makes it safer to swim at night and gives it a dramatic, romantic effect on the space. If you do a lot of nighttime swimming, it makes sense to add permanent and perhaps hardwired lights to your pool.
In this case, consider adding undercap lights. If you have a deck around your pool, these lights will sit beneath the deck and shine into your pool. You'll see the illumination but not the light itself while you swim. If you're hardwiring these or other lights, however, give serious thought to hiring an electrician. The lights in and around your pool are bound to get wet, so you'll want to keep everything safe.
Frequent nighttime swimmers can also illuminate their pools by installing mini spotlights around the outside of the pool and shining them toward the top of the pool. This helps brighten the pool area and makes the pool look nice from the outside. Installing basic solar pathway lights around the pool also illuminates the area for safety and makes it a bit more attractive at night.
If you don't do much nighttime swimming, you'll likely want to illuminate your pool only on rare occasions. For example, perhaps you'll want to make the pool look good from your patio if you're hosting a barbecue, but it's a little too cold to swim. In this case, floating pool lights are an excellent choice.
Battery or solar powered, these lights float on top of the water and illuminate the pool. These LED lights are often programmable and may change color. There are many styles from which to choose, from floating orbs to artificial tea lights that flicker like real candles. These lights make your pool glow beautifully at night and are easy to turn on and off as the occasion warrants.
Consider TIKI torches for a tropical feel or hang strings of lights around or above the pool for a festive ambiance. These lights work well when you want the pool to look nice but don't need to completely illuminate it.
Pool toys and floaties are another simple and quirky way to accessorize your pool. It's hard to resist the fun-loving vibe of floating palm trees and pink flamingos. Inflatable pool toys are fun, colorful, inviting and very Instagrammable, especially in the whimsical styles that have come out in the last few years. They can enhance the look of your pool even if you're working within a budget.
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