5 "natural swimming pools" I'd love to dive into – they're the brilliant alternative for a more organic-feeling backyard

Natural pools are a beautiful blend of nature and design, here are 5 that create a perfect backyard oasis

A natural pool and pool house
(Image credit: Karen Millet. Design: Evens Architects)

Natural pools are the ultimate in backyard design and they are seriously in demand at the moment. Offering something a little different to the standard swimming pool, they bring a calming quality with their wild and luxuriant appearance. The perfect blend of nature and design, natural pools are characterized by the reeds and aquatic plants floating around like a natural pond, often purifying the water through nature, and gin-clear water that's not got that eye-stinging chlorine blue tinge.

'The feeling of being immersed in nature brings a sense of calm to the garden and natural pools are delightful to experience at different times of the day; early morning when the air is cool, during the heat of the day, or in the evening when stars are visible,' says Michael McGowan, project landscape architect at Evens Architects.

The aim of natural pools is them for to look, well, totally natural, but there is a lot of work that goes into creating something that looks this natural. The best designs are so natural looking, it's as though you've just stumbled upon a pristine clearing in the wild. Here are five beautiful natural pool ideas that I'd love to dive right into.

1. This naturally filtered pool with views out to sea

A natural swimming pool with views out to sea

(Image credit: Peter Vanderwarker, Milicent Harvey. Design: Jeffrey Klug AIA)

Situated at the tip of Folly Point in Gloucester, MA and overlooking an abandoned quarry, this natural pool landscape idea enjoys a 180 degree view of the ocean with the quarry in the foreground, the Atlantic in the middle, and the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine in the distant background.

'As far as I know, this was the first natural pool in the US, there were others but they weren’t totally chemical free,' says Jeffrey Klug from Butz and Klug Architecture who designed the space. 'What drove us to look at natural pools was the environmental impact of typical chlorinated pools, in close proximity to the ocean we didn’t want the pool to contaminate the delicate natural balance of the shore ecosystem.'

'The owner was intrigued by the natural pool because of its ability to blend with the landscape and the fact that it wasn't a big empty hole in the ground in the winter,' Jeffrey adds. 'I remember discussing with the client that in the winter snow, there would be rabbit tracks across a frozen pool, as opposed to a fenced-off canvas pool cover, or worse, a concrete hole in the ground. So aesthetics was a big determinant.'

The filtration system is completely natural, taking out phosphates in the water. 'It was better than we could have expected, once you swim in a naturally filtered pool you can’t go back.'

2. This natural pool in the middle of a forest 

A natural pool with ladder and reeds

(Image credit: Kirsten Bos (Where she Goes). Design: GetAway Projects BV)

In a clearing in the middle of a forest in the east of the Netherlands lies The C House. Built in a half hexagonal shape and clad in a russet colored corten steel, the house consists of five parts that have their own function, curving around a beautiful 12 meter swimming pool. 

All around are views of the forest setting, but the centerpiece is the unheated, natural above ground pool, fringed with a backyard deck and with a small ladder. This pool uses a helophyte filter - a sand filter that is planted with lava stones and yellow irises for the purification of the water.

3. This dreamy clearing in the woods

A natural pool surrounded by trees

(Image credit: Karen Millet. Design:Evens Architects)

This pool was inspired by the owners' desire to recreate the landscape of western New York, where she grew up. 'The client had fond memories of running barefoot through wildflower meadows and swimming in her local pond,' says Michael McGowan, project landscape architect at Evens Architects. 'The pool is designed to recall this experience, but also to pass this experience on to her grandchildren.' 

'The pool can be heated to a comfortable 90 degrees which does not affect the beneficial aquatic life. The pool plays host to a great blue heron that showed up shortly after installation, several families of migrating ducks and lots of frogs.' It's a brilliant way to bring habitats for nature if you like the idea of wildlife gardening

'The aquatic plants are those you would typically find in ponds throughout the United States, like cattails, several species of water lilies and water hawthorn.'

4. This pool that embraces nature with plants

A wild and natural swimming pool

(Image credit: Paulien van Noort. Design: GetAway Projects BV)

Designed by Arno Schuurs and Paulien van Noort of GetAway Projects , this natural pool accompanies a house almost entirely made out of glass in the middle of a forest, and makes the most of the verdant views. 

With a small pool deck, this above ground pool is unheated, with a 12 meter swimming lane and helophyte filter with lava stones that sit on the bottom of the pond and yellow irises for water purification. The water iris is instrumental in natural water purification systems, improving water by consuming nutriant pollutants, while lava rocks have a rought, textured surface, great for holding bacteria.  

'It's a fantastic place to relax and recharge,' says Paulien of GetAway Projects. 'Open the doors of the green house, hear the birds chirping and see the squirrels running up and down the huge trees, while in the morning you'll spot deer walking through the forest.'

5. This natural pool with a pool house

A natural pool and pool house

(Image credit: Bob Greenspan. Design: Forward)

This natural pool is located in Kansas city, and comes complete with surrounding decking and a pavilion that provides a bath, shower and dressing area as well as an outdoor kitchen. The natural pool has a border within the water and surrounding the water are plants and reeds that help give the space its natural feel, while helping to purify the water.

'The project presented two challenges,' explains Christopher Fein, architect and designer of Forward Design. 'First, the structure could not exceed 200 square feet per city regulations. Second, the project site was a tight semi-urban lot, so we had limited space in which to locate the new structure and also retain some of the yard space and privacy from the neighbors.

'Inspired by the concept of a delicate yet modern trellis, we developed the project as a pergola with discrete enclosed areas that allowed us to meet the city’s footage limit,' Christopher says. 

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.