Small Backyard Pool Ideas — 9 Ways to Make a Splash in the Tiniest of Spaces

These small backyard pool ideas will show you how to have the most dreamy exteriors on a budget, even when space isn't on your side

A backyard with a small pool
(Image credit: Katherine Lu. Studio credit Vanessa Wegner Architect)

Use these small backyard pool ideas as the perfect springboard for fresh ways on designing the most joyful exteriors. No matter the size of your backyard, a small-to-medium-size pool can very well be accommodated with a few creative hacks.

'Before you install the pool, the first thing that you need to consider is where your property lines are, what property line setbacks you have for a pool or spa, and whether the pool equipment must be within the setbacks or can sit on the property line,' advises landscape architect Janice Parker. 'This may seem like a small detail but can make a big difference in your design.' 

Once you have all these basic details in place, you can go about installing the perfect pool idea for you and your family.

1. Add a plunge pool

A small backyard with a tiny plunge pool

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

Amongst the many pool types, a plunge pool is the easiest one to add to a small backyard. These are essentially used for lounging and cooling off, and are not big enough to swim long laps in. Since they are significantly smaller, they can also double as a hot tub in winter. 

'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 + Shop. '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.'

To make the small waterbody a focal point, consider adding interesting pool lighting ideas such as floating pool lights, string lights, or lamps around it. 

2. Consider a natural pool in your small backyard

A small natural pool in the backyard

(Image credit: Forward. Studio credit Bob Greenspan)

A great, whimsical addition to a backyard is a water feature, and if you want to maintain the untouched organic quality of this space, consider a natural pool. These look like water bodies built by nature but are equipped with water filters that will need to be cleaned regularly. Some of these may be in non-standard shapes and sizes and can add oodles of interest to the outdoors.   

'With every pool small or large comes pool equipment and zoning restrictions,' says Janice Parker. 'Once you know the ‘buildable’ envelope on your property for a pool, you can start to consider what kind of a pool will fit and look right in that space. Do not forget to consider that your pool needs to be fenced according to state and federal law. Think about this carefully, as it will affect your space in a small yard.'

3. Blend it into the landscape

A small backyard with a pool

(Image credit: Doublescape Photography. Studio credit Amantea Architects)

Allow the surrounding nature to envelope the water body is a popular pool landscape idea. It gives the feeling of swimming in the wilderness, and being one with nature. 

'The client wanted to preserve elements of the existing yard – notably the mature trees lining the property, which provide seclusion and natural character,' says Michael Amantea, founder of Amantea Architects. 'The 380 square-meter rear yard features a swimming pool and hot tub with a modernized material palette.'

4. Go long and narrow

A long and narrow swimming pool

(Image credit: Daniela Mac Adden. Studio credit Martin Gomez Arquitectos)

If you have been blessed with a backyard, it actually couldn't be easier to add a pool. It's important to think that swimming pools, especially in a smaller space needn't be tucked away, out of sight – they should be a key feature of the garden, working with the surrounding hardscaping and landscaping.

See how in this pool deck, the long and narrow waterbody sits so seamlessly with the very architectural design, echoing the shapes and style of the house. 

'The house opens up through the swimming pool in an unexpected manner, and establishes a relationship with the sea,' says Martin Gomez, founder of Martin Gomez Arquitectos. 'There is a house-beach connection, where the property is separated almost by 100 meters from the outdoors.'

5. Make it moody with dark tiles

Small modern garden with small pool

(Image credit: Murray Fredericks)

Ditch the traditional blue and opt for dramatic dark tiles. This is ideal for smaller pools as much like in small rooms, using a dark color can expand the space and make it look bigger and deeper. And isn't there just something so glamorous about a black pool? It looks wonderful contrasted with the pale sandstone patio of this indoor outdoor Australia home designed by CplusC architects.

'A small gunite in the ground pool will generally add a minimum of $40,000 to your budget,' says Janice. 'Even if the pool is small, and uses less resources than a large pool, you will still need the full set of equipment, plumbing, and electrical scopes of work. You will be required to have pool safety fencing and most likely some masonry work near the pool.'

6. Embrace minimalist industrial style 

Small pool in modern garden with small patio and sun beds

(Image credit: Mathew Williams)

Surrounded by concrete walls and stone slabs, this small urban garden has a very pared-back industrial feel and a simple rectangular pool fits perfectly in with the minimalist style. 

And look at the positioning too. The positioning of a small pool can make all the difference when square footage is limited. Floating a pool in the center of your garden will only work if you have enough space to be able to comfortably move around the pool, so having a pool closer to the house, as can be seen here, leaves plenty of room on one side for loungers. 

‘There are pool finishes for every type of pool and budget, from sleek stainless-steel pool finishes at the top of the scale through to attractive vinyl liners, which are less expensive, and come in an array of colours and designs,’ says Jamie Smith, managing director of London Swimming Pool Company. 

7. Opt for a raised pool

Small pool in a backyard in Philippe Starck home

(Image credit: The Agency)

If you're wondering how to build a pool so that it fits seamlessly into the raised decking, then take a look at this project. The small plunge pool fits into the decking while still allowing plenty of space for loungers, day beds, swing chairs, and even a lawn. Instead of tiles this small pool is white-painted plaster, very chic, and mirrors the white cladding of the house too.  

'Installing a raised pool above the ground creates a destination and a focal point that a flush install rarely offers,' explains Karen Larson, the co-founder of Soake Pools, a maker of high-quality plunge pools that can also be installed fully above ground. 'Additionally, the above-ground edges provide seating. It is also a great opportunity to add additional personality and decorative elements, as the exposed vertical surfaces can be adorned with materials that fit within the landscape.'

8. Go right up to the edges

Small swimming pool with green wall used as screening

(Image credit: Armelle Habib)

When space is tight, don't waste it on a pointless edge around your pool. Make the most of unused corners, and go right up to the edge of the yard's boundaries. Be sure to soften the walls using cool deck planting ideas such s climbers so the pool feels less small and boxy, and plants just make for a nicer view than a solid wall when you are in the water. And see how the wall has been painted white to blend with the white interior or the pool, again making the boundaries feel less solid and creating the allusion to a larger space. 

'Calamintha is an appropriate plant to have near water because its herbaceous scent repels mosquitoes,' explains landscape designer Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earth Care. 

9. Think about hardscaping 

Small pool in narrow backyard

(Image credit: Courtesy of House + House Architects)

In a small backyard, the hardscaping and choice of paving or decking around your pool are key, as chances are whatever your choice it's going to take up the majority of your space. This gorgeous garden makes a strong case for crazy paving, as it has a lovely natural look to it that works both with the style of the property and the simple,  planting of the dry garden. 

'Ipe and sapele are the most common tropical hardwood decking materials, but the way they're harvested is controversial for a variety of reasons,' says Joseph Richardson, founder of Richardson & Associates Landscape Architecture. 'Some sustainable alternatives are Sassafras and Black Locust,' he suggests. 

What size should a pool be in a small backyard?

'There is no minimum size for a small swimming pool,' says Janice. 'For a small swimming pool, I would recommend 20-15 feet long by 8-6 feet wide – you want to be able to fully extend an adult body comfortably. There are variations – a pool that will fit 8 people on benches – comfortably, is 8’ x 8’. This can be versatile and yet fit well into tight spaces. Plunge pools that can be heated or chilled can be 5’x 10’. It is all a question of how you want to use the space. If you want to swim, 20 -30’ long will be comfortable.'

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Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.

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