Making a Splash

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Newport Coast sunset_Bob Hearn
A Newport Coast pool at sunset | Photo by Bob Hearn

A custom pool can turn your backyard into a resort-style destination.

By Beth Livesay


When creating a backyard oasis, a stunning swimming pool is often in the plan. Whether intended for doing laps as part of a fitness routine, taking a dip to cool off or simply providing a place to lounge by the water, a pool can be a sparkling addition to any Newport Beach home. Here, local experts weigh in on the latest trends that are making waves when it comes to swimming pool design.


Classy and Compact

Travis Gramberg, president and principal designer of OC-based Koheid Design, says it’s important to determine if a style element is truly needed or if a client simply likes the look of it. Mixing too many styles, he explains, can impede the ability to create balance between form and function.

IMG_7448_credit Bob Hearn
In a recent trend, a spa is built into the swimming pool, like this one by Aquanetic Pools and Spas. | Photo by Bob Hearn

One element that’s popping up a lot is the Baja deck. Also known as a Baja shelf or step, this popular design feature can often be added during a remodel (when staying within the pool’s original footprint) or included in the design from day one. These shallow shelves in the pool are similar to what you’ll find at high-end hotels, with lounge chairs placed on top of them so that you can relax while not being fully submerged in the water. For families with children, this can be a safe space to have them play in the pool (with full supervision, of course). Adding a large umbrella or other shady elements can provide a haven from the sun on warm summer days.

The idea of a pool that’s not too deep is another prevailing trend. Gramberg, who has designed several pools in Newport, cites the “spool” as something he’s seeing a lot of. A “spool” is a smaller, scaled-down pool that combines a swimming pool and spa, with temperature controls and an option for jets that create a current to swim against. Spools lack the traditional deep end that many pools typically have. For those who are short on space or have other plans for their backyard in addition to a pool, this space-saving layout is a smart one. Gramberg also points out that smaller pools overall are becoming more popular. Narrow pools, for example, are becoming more common. He points to issues like budget and water scarcity as potential reasons people are opting for more compact pool designs.

Scaling down is a common theme when it comes to aesthetics as well. Bob Hearn, a designer at OC-based Aquanetic Pools and Spas, which has also created several pools in Newport over the years, says that rectangular pools and spas are dominating the landscape in place of freeform pools. “Overall, the homeowner is asking for straight, clean and simple lines. Decking seems to follow with this as well,” Hearn says. Gramberg agrees, noting that clean, simple styles are even popular when it comes to materials. “The flashy iridescent waterline tiles of the pools we grew up with are not a thing right now,” he says. “People like muted and matte tiles.” In other words, the simpler, the better when it comes to current pool trends.   

New Image3_credit Bob Hearn
This pool by Aquanetic Pools and Spas includes a water feature and proximity to amenities like an outdoor kitchen. | Photo by Bob Hearn

While clients still want many amenities, the look is gravitating toward sleek and minimal contemporary design. “In terms of materials and decor, our clients are trending towards porcelain pavers in larger formats. This look provides for a very informed look with smooth and clean lines. It is also very durable,” Hearn notes. Other accents that are trending right now include porcelain veneers, porcelain wood tiles and glass tile, Hearn says.

While a clean aesthetic may be what’s on-trend now, an interesting pool design can still be achieved using subtler color schemes. Gramberg referenced a chevron design his company created using black and white tiles. Hearn points out that Aquanetic works with a variety of desired materials such as stone; smooth, hand-troweled color stucco; quartzite slabs; hand-painted tile; rock aggregate concrete; and interlocking pavers, which can be unexpected, eye-catching elements.


Diving Into a Plan

Inspiration abounds when it comes to the dreamlike areas a designer can create. Whether embracing or rejecting current pool design trends, the sky’s the limit in terms of what’s possible. Hearn recalls a recent project that included a pool and spa remodel in addition to a new large koi pond, an all-steel outdoor kitchen, and a room-sized catio (patio for cats), to name just a few of the features. Gramberg describes his current favorite pool, which features custom-designed tile, a Baja shelf, a fun deck with a bar for stretching and a wall for jumping into the pool.

Regardless of approach, having a plan is essential. Gramberg recommends that clients have their entire yard planned out prior to building a pool. “You need to be strategic about where you’re putting your pool, even if you’re having it put in later,” he advises. You don’t want your pool in the least accessible spot, so think out the entire concept of your yard first to maximize the pool’s potential and ensure it will be utilized. If you want a pool but aren’t sure what layout will work best, Hearn recommends thinking about how you wish to use your space and the overall scale of all the items within the design as well as the overall feeling you wish to attain. Ultimately, the pool, deck, decor and amenities should all flow together for a quality design that results in a unique space.

Koheid Design
Smaller pools are becoming popular, like this one by OC-based Koheid Design, featuring a Baja shelf and built-in spa.

Hearn also offers another tip. “Don’t be afraid to ask for references and review a contractor’s information,” he says. “Choose a solid company, and make sure you feel comfortable with the person running the job.” When you are happy with the designer entrusted to bring your vision to life, you’ll feel safe to discuss all aspects of the building process.

Adding a pool to your home does more than add value to your property. Create a space for future gatherings where memories can be made. Treat yourself to a private getaway that’s right outside your own door. Socialize, exercise or relax in the comfort of your home by taking the plunge on a personalized pool project.

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