Plunge pool ideas – 6 small yet refreshing designs for a backyard of any size

Try one of these dreamy plunge pool ideas to cool off, perfect for small backyards, terraces and more

A small, covered plunge pool inside the house
(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop. Photo credit Chad Mellon)

When the weather is unbearable, a plunge pool is just what you need on a hot summer day. The best part? You don't need a sprawling mansion or a penthouse to have one installed. The compact design can fit into a smaller home and make the impossible dream of owning a pool completely possible.

While the classic idea of a plunge pool might be more based around throwing yourself in quickly to cool off, the modern version of this pool idea might have steps too, so you can enjoy sitting by them, drinking a glass of cocktail, and immersing your feet in the water to cool down. 

If you've been toying with the idea of renovating your terrace, back, or front yard, then a plunge pool might just be the thing for you. Take a look at these six interesting designs and get inspired.

Plunge pool ideas that can fit in even small backyards

So, what makes a plunge pool? A plunge pool is a tiny, shallow waterbody designed for a more casual experience, rather than swimming laps. They tend to be around 8×8 feet to 8×16 feet, but of course, the absolute volume can vary due to the myriad designs and shapes available in the market. It's also possible to create tiny plunge pools that are perfect for a quick cool-off if the need arises. 

These six plunge pools vary in size and style, but all deliver something special to the compact spaces they inhabit. 

1. Add an antique charm with a wooden door leading to the plunge pool 

A small plunge pool with antique doors

(Image credit: Jeff Andrews Design. Photo credit Grey Crawford)

When it comes to aesthetics, there are plenty of plunge pool designs to choose from. They can fit into modern designs as a sharp-edged, blue-water square, or can fit into yards as a rock-edged pond. You can even choose a plunge pool with a fountain inside it. 

Along with thinking of new ideas for building a pool, consider updating the area around it as well. Perhaps an antique wooden door that leads into the pool area. A large urn, a stone sculpture, or even Astroturf around the space. 

'In this Hollywood Hills family home, we installed salvaged, antique doors leading to the plunge pool area mixed with contemporary chaise lounges for the perfect mix of Hollywood glamour,' says Jeff Andrews, founder of Jeff Andrews Design.

2. Transform the boring backyard with this small but functional pool

A backyard with a plunge pool

(Image credit: Joshua Smith Inc. Photo credit Lisa Romerin)

When it comes to the location of a plunge pool, any outdoor area of the house is good. A small backyard pool could up the ante of the space and increase its functionality. Although one thing to keep in mind is that despite their size, plunge pools are pools, and come with the same structural and design requirements that are necessary to install a full-fledged pool. There is no DIY in this – you need a professional.

Also depending on where you live and the type of design you choose, you will need to check your building codes and permits to install a plunge pool. 

'This small backyard is tucked into the Hollywood Hills, literally,' says Joshua Smith, founder and principal designer at Joshua Smith Inc. 'I love being surrounded by nature, both outside the walls and planted within the space. It transforms this space from a normal backyard pool into a personal oasis that elicits heightened relaxation.'

3. Go for an indoor, covered pool

A small, covered plunge pool inside the house

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop. Photo credit Chad Mellon)

If you're looking to set up a pool cabana indoors or out, consider the elongated rectangles for a modern edge or a Mediterranean vibe. Circular pools, on the other hand, have a more boho feel to them, plus take up a little more space. 

The advantage of having a plunge pool inside is that you can cover it, which will mean less cleaning, and that you can use it in no matter what the weather outdoors is like.  Add a few pool floats, and easy chairs to add an outdoor charm to your indoor pool. While most plunge pools are 4-8 feet deep, most people prefer a pool not deeper than 4-5 feet, so they can easily walk around in it. If you have children or pets at home, consider a shallow pool for safety reasons.

'We created this covered pool for a boutique feel that provided privacy and allowed for usage year-round,' says Lindye Galloway, founder of Lindye Galloway Studio. 'The sheer curtains are great for ensuring privacy from all sides but can be left open to allow more natural light and a light breeze for that perfect indoor-outdoor feel. The design creates an at-home spa area for a quick dip on summer days or a place to unwind after a long day.'

4. Consider a stone feature wall to make a statement

A plunge pool outdoors with a feature wall

(Image credit: Living with Lolo. Photo credit Life Created)

'This house was backed up the natural desert wash, and we wanted to preserve the view while adding a water feature statement,' says Lauren Lerner, founder and principal designer of Living with Lolo. 'We opted for beautiful quartz stacked stone feature wall with a simple single water spout which not only provides visual interest but also provides sound and ambiance when enjoying the pool. The backdrop of the pink bougainvillea gives a gorgeous layered effect to the pool.'

Another great idea is to add a wooden deck that’s perfectly fitted to the design of the pool. Consider a zen-like faux bamboo wall for privacy. Add umbrellas or even a mini garden around the area. Don't forget fun pool lighting ideas with outdoor lamps, string lights hung from trees, or LED sconces fixed on the boundary wall.

5. Install a firepit and built-in seating to cozy up the area

A plunge pool with a firepit and built-in seating outside

(Image credit: Jeff Andrews Design. Photo credit Grey Crawford)

Jazz up the area around your plunge pool with more luxuries like an outdoor shower, a bar, a dining table, or even a barbecue. 

'In this Beverly Hills bachelor pad, we added glamour and interest to this classic 1970s pool area with modern furnishings, a built-in concrete seating and firepit area, and round chrome floats in the pool,' says Jeff. 

6. To maximize views, install a plunge pool on the terrace

A small plunge pool on the terrace

(Image credit: Meirav Galan. Photo credit Gidon Levin. Roee Dori)

Plunge pools are great especially if you live in a hot climate, as these pools are generally cold bodies of water. However, some can be designed like a spa with warm water. You could also bring in a water heater to make the pool temperature comfortable all year for people who use their pools to exercise or simply enjoy a quick dip in the winter.

Due to their smaller size, it's also more convenient to vacuum the pool and maintain it. Usually, their cost varies widely depending on the size and style you choose, but on average, a plunge pool costs half of a standard pool. Of course, added features and a customized, architectural design can add significantly to that base price.

'When designing the Neve Tzedek Patio House, located in a very dense urban fabric, I was in a search to maximize the possibilities for private outdoor spaces,' says architect Meirav Galan. 'The patio and the upper rooftop balcony answered exactly that. To add more fun to the sea view rooftop experience, a plunge pool was added. The square design and the exact location were chosen as the most ideal one for the family of six to hang out there together or with friends, distancing it from the main facade (for privacy and safety reasons) and leaving enough dry space surrounding it.'

What size is a plunge pool?

Swimming pool ideas

(Image credit: Brigid Arnott)

Interestingly, plunge pools can be built on-site, unlike traditional pools, so their size can vary widely. Alternately you can also choose an above-ground pool. Plunge pools typically run from 6 1/2 to 10 feet wide and 10 to 22 feet long, and they can be 3 1/2 to 7 feet deep. Generally, the 10x20 feet is a popular size. 

How hard is it to maintain a plunge pool?

A big positive of a plunge pool is that it can be easily maintained, due to its small size. This also means the pool collects less debris, insects, and dirt. To clean it, you can use a manual vacuum and scoop net when you do need to remove any leaves or junk. Plus, due to its smaller dimensions, it's easy to throw a cover over it.

Plunge pools cost significantly less to install than standard pools. The electrical use for filters and heaters is also lower.

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.