Designing a Luxury, Celebrity-grade Swimming Pool

The Leisurely Homeowner’s Guide to Luxury Pool Styles 

“So, they loaded up the truck, and they moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Swimming pools, movie stars.” Swimming pools have been at the center of American luxury, glamour, and celebrity for decades. The swimming pool brings to mind images of California mansions, beautiful parties, and a life of leisure spent in the sun. Marilyn Monroe was discovered emerging from a Palm Springs pool. Slim Aarons popularized the allure of poolside parties with his iconic photographs of Hollywood socialites. And of course, Jed Clampett and the family purchased a Beverly Hills mansion complete with a Grecian-style swimming pool after striking it rich. Luxury pools are an iconic part of the aspirational American lifestyle. However, they are challenging to design. Our Texas interior designers and architects discuss the popularity of pools, luxury pool styles to consider, and pool design elements to avoid. We will also be reflecting on a few iconic Hollywood pools. Pull up a lounge chair and a drink, and let’s dive in! 

Why Americans Associate Luxury with Poolside Leisure: The Photographic Impact of Slim Aarons 

Slim Aarons himself came from humble beginnings, but fabricated stories of his past, as well as an air of charisma, earned him his seat with the Hollywood elite during the golden age of cinema. He made his photography career out of “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” What could be more attractive than glamorous socialites relaxing poolside? His Poolside Gossip photo shot at the Kaufmann Desert House designed by Richard Neutra in Palm Springs became an iconic depiction of the level of luxury many Americans aspired to attain for themselves. This classic American print features two women relaxing poolside outside of a luxurious mid-century modern home with stunning California mountain views in the distance. Of course, anyone who saw this photo would want a pool installed! Pools have become a must-have for hundreds of thousands of homeowners since.   

Slim Aarons Pool Photography
Slim Aarons Pool Photography

Types of Luxury Pool Styles to Consider 

When designing a luxury pool, it is essential to get the style right. Otherwise, it could feel out of place with the landscape or the home. Creating flow between the pool, patio, and interior spaces is a great way to bridge indoor-outdoor connections and elevate home living. Our Texas-based designers have six luxury pool styles to consider for your outdoor space.   

Natural Pond Swimming Pools 

Natural pond swimming pools are one of our favorite options, and they are incredibly luxurious and unique. Instead of using chlorine and chemicals, natural swimming pools rely on plants for the water’s filtration and oxygenation. This means you can say goodbye to red eyes, green hair, and itchy skin after your summertime swim. Natural pool designs can vary, but all plans typically consist of an area made for swimming and space for plant filtration. Overall, natural pools create a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere, connect us to nature, and reduce maintenance expenses over time. Natural pools also make a glamorous and unexpected statement. One Hollywood example is the California ranch home pool from The Parent Trap (1961) starring Haley Mills, which has similar poolside decor as the famous Slim Arrons’s photo.   

Parent Trap Pool 1961
Parent Trap Pool 1961

Gunite Swimming Pools 

Gunite is used in most modern swimming pool designs. This combination of concrete and sand is durable and easy to construct into almost any pool form, from simple rectangles to curved lagoons. Most people are familiar with gunite pools as it is a common material that has been used since the post-World War II housing boom. It still has an elevated feel and can be integrated into luxury designs. Gunite will also feel more upscale and last longer than alternatives like vinyl or fiberglass. An updated gunite pool appears in the modern California ranch from The Parent Trap (1998), starring Lindsay Lohan. All we can say is that it’s time to move to Napa and enjoy a life spent poolside with a glass of wine! 

Architectural Swimming Pools 

Architectural-style swimming pools will complement the construction of the home and typically feature linear lines and geometric shapes. This style tends to lean much more modern, but it can also take on a traditional or formal feel. 

Architectural Pool
Architectural Pool

Naturalistic Swimming Pools 

Naturalistic-style swimming pools will complement the surrounding landscape. This type of pool will feature curved and freeform lines, rock formations, waterfalls, beach-like entries, and integrated landscaping. People often associate naturalistic pools with a tropical feel, but that doesn’t have to be the case. 

Natural Swimming Pool

Infinity Edge Swimming Pools 

Infinity edge swimming pools have continued to rise in popularity for their clean, modern, and infinitely stylish appeal. This style pool features one or more edges that allow the water to flow over, producing an effect of water with no boundary. In an infinity pool, you won’t see a defined end bordered with tile or stone. This is a great style option for elevated pools or pools overlooking the water, as the edge seems to blur with the horizon. 

Infinity Pool
Infinity Pool

Retro-inspired Swimming Pools 

Of course, you can’t go wrong with an original luxury pool design. Retro-inspired swimming pools can transport you back to a time of Hollywood glamour and regency. If these mid-century designs were good enough for Marilyn Monroe, they should work for any homeowner! To achieve a vintage pool look, consider starting with a simple shape like a rectangle. Accent the pool with bright blue tiles and accessorize the pool deck with cabanas, umbrellas, and lounge chairs. This simple design brings back a timeless elegance, perfect for relaxation. 

Retro Pool
Retro Pool

Pool Styles to Avoid When Designing a Luxury Pool

“The ad said this pool was lagoon-like. There’s nothing lagoon-like about it.” One of the most infamous Hollywood pools is the kidney-shaped pool featured in American Beauty (1999). When creating backyard luxury, it is essential to pay attention to the details, so you don’t end up with an unenjoyable space or an unsellable house. 

The Kidney-shaped Swimming Pool 

Overall, a kidney-shaped pool tends to look uninspired and doesn’t help elevate the home’s structure or highlight the outdoor landscape. This design may even cheapen the look of your backyard rather than enhancing it. When designing your pool, we recommend bringing in experts who can develop a design plan that perfectly complements the surroundings. 

If you have a house with an existing kidney-shaped pool in the backyard, don’t worry! The curves of this pool design make it easy to upgrade to a naturalistic-style swimming pool. Simply call in a designer to add new decking, landscaping, and rock waterfalls. Your old kidney pool will look like a relaxing lagoon in no time. 

American Beauty Pool
American Beauty Pool

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