The Ultimate Guide to Designing Your Dream Pool

With the pool business booming, there’s no time like the present to start building your own little slice of backyard heaven. Here, three local homes show us how it’s done.

A bluestone terrace offers ample gathering space for the clients, who regularly host get-togethers for loved ones. / Photo by Jimi Smith

What do you do when you’re building your dream home? Make sure you’ve got a dazzling green space to match, of course. Such was the case for the residents of this new Concord house, set on a verdant meadow near the Concord River. “They wanted a landscape that fit into the agrarian feel of the site,” says managing director Greg Tuzzolo of Stimson, the landscape-architecture firm the owners hired. In this case, that meant enhancing the property’s natural beauty with a range of flowering trees and shrubs while also allocating space for a terrace and the home’s pièce de résistance: a new 2,400-square-foot swimming pool, built by Chelmsford-based Environmental Pools.

Complete with waterline tile, the pool boasts a maximum depth of 10 feet. / Photo by Jimi Smith

Installed by Acton-based Onyx Corporation, new plantings include everything from hemlock and cherry trees to hydrangea and fothergilla shrubs. “[The team also] used a lot of grass plugs to create a curated, meadow-like garden that blended into the surrounding property,” Stimson’s Greg Tuzzolo says. Additional flora such as miscanthus and prairie dropseed make appearances, too. / Photo by Jimi Smith

A granite veneer, also constructed by Onyx, envelops the pool’s perimeter. / Photo by Jimi Smith


Dewing Schmid Kearns Architects + Planners

J.W. Adams Construction

Landscape Architect

Landscape Contractor/Masonry
Onyx Corporation

Pool Contractor
Environmental Pools


All the accessories you’ll need for a little fun in the sun.

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Unsun Cosmetics “Mineral Tinted” face sunscreen, $29, Follain.

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“Midsummer Floral” melamine plate, $12, Greentail Table.

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Weber “Genesis II S-335” stainless steel gas grill, $1,080, Poirier.

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Aluminum sunshade, price upon request, Brown Jordan.

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Ann Marie Vering “Pavona” lounge chair with cord-wrapped aluminum frame, starting at $1,265, and cushions, starting at $995, both RH.

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“Zebra Palm” cotton beach towel, $85, Matouk.

Wicker chaises and plush cushions from RH offer inviting perches on the pool deck, also outfitted with umbrellas and teak side tables from Lexington-based Seasons Four. / Photo by Chris Rucinski/Dan Gordon Landscape Architects

Twenty-five years into helming his eponymous design firm, Dan Gordon is no stranger to large-scale renovation projects. So when a Wellesley couple who’d eyed his work during a local garden tour tasked him with overhauling every inch of their outdoor living space while also creating an area for swimming and lounging, the landscape architect didn’t hesitate. And the results, not the least of which is a sparkling in-ground pool, speak for themselves. “It’s a summer oasis,” Gordon says of the revamped yard, which also includes 40 new plant types. “Creating beautiful spaces for families to enjoy never gets old.”

“We consider our yard as our getaway without having to leave town,” the client says. “We often have days where the sole agenda is to camp out by the pool, grill lunch and dinner, and eat outside.” / Photo by Chris Rucinski/Dan Gordon Landscape Architects

Transplanted cherry trees, catmint plants, voluminous fountain grass, and colorful geraniums add to the ambiance near the water. / Photo by Chris Rucinski/Dan Gordon Landscape Architects

Sporting a PebbleTec finish and ceramic tile that matches the surrounding bluestone paving, the pool includes a 49-square-foot hot tub, located in the shallow end. / Photo by Chris Rucinski/Dan Gordon Landscape Architects


Landscape Architect
Dan Gordon Landscape Architects

Landscape Contractor
Michael S. Coffin

Pool Contractor
Custom Quality Pools

Measuring roughly 800 square feet, the pool feels large and luxe with built-in benches and a sun shelf for lounging. “The platform is 8 inches below the water so you can sit and hang out,” general contractor Rich Rosano explains. / Photo by Jane Beiles

After settling into their new house in Connecticut, a couple with two young daughters shifted their focus to their largely bare backyard, envisioning a new, more inviting hangout space the whole family could enjoy. So they called Rich Rosano of RRBuilders, who had constructed their custom New Canaan home a few years earlier. Their requests? An in-ground pool and an adjacent spa, plus an outdoor kitchen and a dining area where they could entertain and serve up meals. Thankfully, the generous lot size meant that Rosano, who assmbled a team including local architecture firm Tramontano & Rowe, could help deliver all that and more. “It was really a blank slate,” he says.

Equipped with bluestone counters and DCS appliances, the outdoor kitchen also includes a bar area. “People can sit or stand there while someone’s cooking at the grill to keep the interaction [going],” Rosano says. / Photo by Jane Beiles

Water trickles into the pool from the elevated eight-person spa, clad in the same local fieldstone that accents the house and the outdoor kitchen. / Photo by Jane Beiles

Enlivening the yard with additional plantings was a top priority for the team, who installed lilac trees, pink azaleas, rose bushes, and more. / Photo by Jane Beiles

A pergola with cedar beams and flowering drapery creates a dreamy vibe in one of the patio’s seating areas. / Photo by Jane Beiles



Landscape Architect
Tramontano & Rowe

Tips and Tricks

Take the plunge and start planning your dream watering hole with pointers from RRBuilders’ Rich Rosano.

Determine Distance
Before you bring in that backhoe, think about the size of your property and how close—or far—you’d like the pool to be from your humble abode. “When the pool is further away, that’s when people [may want to] invest in a pool house with a full bathroom and maybe a washer and a dryer to minimize [walking] to and from [your home],” Rosano says.

Let the Sun Shine In
Orienting the pool to maximize afternoon sunlight, while adhering to local building codes, is key. Rosano’s suggestion? “Bring your team together from the beginning so both the designer and builder can look at local zoning regulations that dictate where you put the pool,” he says.

Consider Materials
When it comes to the pool deck or patio, choose materials that won’t feel too hot against bare feet. Granite, for instance, doesn’t heat up as much as bluestone, the RRBuilders’ pro explains.

Don’t Forget the Sparkle
Building the perfect pool entails so much more than just digging a hole in the ground. Dress up your new summer hideaway with underwater speakers, colored lighting, or special features such as a waterfall. Not only will the latter create a spectacular focal point, the movement of the water may also help drown out exterior noise—a must for pools set near busy roads.

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Trend Watch

Not ready to carve up your backyard for a pool or just don’t have the space for one? Try a buzzy inflatable number, like “Shapes” from West Coast–based Mylle, pictured above. Crafted from durable, non-toxic vinyl, this design-forward (and decidedly adult-friendly) model offers a chic antidote to hot summer days—without the cost of a renovation.