Take the warmer weather as a sign — now is the time to splash out on your backyard and introduce some of those seriously luxe features you’ve always wanted. John Storch from A Total Concept tells us more
In Australia, when we talk about warmer weather we tend to think of the beach. But why not bring the water to your home with your own pool — perfect for the three Fs: families, fitness and fun. (Of course, the water works don’t need to stop there. Spas and saunas can take your space to the next level of relaxation for unlimited hours of bliss, as you’ll see…)
Planning for a pool is imperative and it can be difficult to know where to start. We presented your questions to some industry professionals (you’re welcome) so you can be prepared for the grand design of your great outdoors.
Don’t forget, water isn’t only for the pool itself; it’s also for the plants that surround it. An immaculate garden can be your peaceful retreat after a big week of work. Every space is different, whether you’re based on a hill, have a tiny backyard or acreage. Think about what you really want from your outside area and allow yourself to see the possibilities. Research, refer back to this guide and talk to the pros so you can dream big in your own backyard
Fashion forward pool trends
With summer’s fast approach, we can look forward to discovering all the latest in pool trends, from plunge pools to large-format pavers and pool automation. Award-winning design practice A Total Concept, which offers the full package (with a team of landscape architects, designers and swimming pool consultants on hand) knows just what’s happening.
“Pools have changed greatly in the past five years and will continue to do so this summer,” says company principal John Storch. “The Australian lifestyle has inspired a simple pool shape that utilises clean lines rather than complex shapes.”
The company has been doing a lot with chunky square edges to create floating effects for paving around swimming pools, explains John, using coloured micrograin interiors and large-format paving materials inside the pool instead of tiles. “It’s become more common for poolside paving to either use natural products such as sandstone and limestone, or handmade products such as porcelain tiles and timber prints. We’re being asked for more entertaining and relaxation areas around pools, with paving alternatives such as hardwood sleepers, stepping stones and lawns.”
John’s team is designing tanning benches within pools that allow a person to either lie on the bench or fully immerse themselves. “Of course, the rise in tech has seen a rise in automated pool systems that link the pool to the home as technology becomes more affordable,” he adds. “For pools this means ease of cleaning and being able to remotely control heating, lighting and water features.”
Whatever your needs coming into summer, John says the one certainty is the need to develop your external spaces. “We all want to increase the quality of our everyday life by creating a resort — a home away from home.”
Rules of the pool: your how-to guide
It’s easy to feel like you’re swimming against the tide when it comes to proper pool planning. A big investment that will significantly change your backyard, it can be daunting as you begin to research the ins and outs. We spoke to the team at GOODMANORS Garden, Pool and Landscape Design for the inside scoop on all things pool.
First things first, is every backyard suitable for a pool?
If the concept of “pool” can be malleable, then yes. While most consider only large yards suitable for pools, we find ourselves working more and more with inner-city property owners who want the best of both worlds. For these traditionally smaller and often unusually shaped blocks, we custom design in-ground spas that meet the requirements of relaxation and escape, without intruding too much upon the total landscape.
What are your best tips for planning a pool?
When thinking about a pool within the scope of your garden, consider your journey first and foremost. A pool should complement your use of space, not intrude upon it.
What pool design trends do you think will be popular this summer?
We don’t operate within the scope of traditional trends as we prefer to create landscapes that are investments for our clients, and which will stay relevant within the space for years to come. Something we look forward to seeing more of are pool designs bespoke to the architecture of the home, instead of cookie-cutter creations that lose their appeal only a few years after installation.
Where do you stand on the big debate: concrete versus fibreglass?
Concrete pools, as they provide higher quality and an incomparable longevity.
John’s top tips for pool design
- PREPARATION Investigate all underground services and know where they are. Research all authorities’ requirements and see if you need approvals. Look through magazines for inspiration — tear out and keep copies of things you want to incorporate into the design.
- HELP If it’s all too hard, employ a landscape architect to help. Spend the money as it’s always worth getting it right the first time.
- UNIFY The style of finishes around the pool must be compatible but not necessarily the same as the house. If possible, use the same materials and pick up the same colours in the landscape as the house. Bands of similar plants will also look better than a hotchpotch of many.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE Simple design lines always work better than complex intricate shapes and are more pleasing to the eye.
- SCALE Size is important. Keeping things relative to human scale makes the environment more comfortable to be in. A 15m pool with waterfalls, wet edges and water spouts can look inspiring in a large resort at sunset, but may not have the same effect in an inner-city courtyard garden.
- FEATURES Always incorporate at least one timeless feature in a pool as a focal point. A water feature, pool light or plant well positioned could lift a pool area from pleasant to electrifying.
- MAINTENANCE Automatic control systems, cleaning systems and chlorination systems are worth the cost.
- FUN Have fun with the design and garden. Remember, you’re the one who’ll use it. If you want the fluorescent furnishings, plastic plants and giraffe slides, go for it!
Make everyday a spa day
You can definitely sleep easy after an evening spent lounging in a spa. And that’s just one of the benefits that spas are known for. Add a bit of fruit, a glass of bubbly (beer if you prefer) and voila — that spa-cation you’ve been dreaming of becomes a reality, within metres of your own home.
Nevertheless, whether you’re considering a statement freestanding spa or an in-built version that complements your pool, there are a few things to consider before you start happily googling where and what to buy. We spoke to two expert spa teams and posed the questions
many homeowners ask.
In-ground versus above-ground — what are the pros and cons?
There are many advantages toboth — it just depends on your lifestyle, backyard and what you want from your spa. Above-ground or freestanding spas are movable, perfect for those who don’t want the commitment of an in-ground model. You may be renting or want to move in the future and take the spa with you. Portable spas are also easier to install, requiring only a concrete slab and hardwired electrical connection.
On the other hand, in-ground spas can create a beautiful visual element to your backyard as they are unobtrusive, sitting flush with the ground or deck or partly raised, depending on your preference. This type of spa can beautifully complement an existing pool.
What makes for a truly great spa?
A truly great spa is one that meets your needs the best. A spa is an investment and the quality should ultimately reflect that. Consider different jet counts and seating configurations to suit different needs and lifestyles, including lounger and all-upright seating options.
What are the health benefits?
A spa can provide loads of different health benefits including relaxation, hydrotherapy, aiding sleep and helping you achieve a better mindset. Additionally, the salt used in our spas is a natural healing agent and can help ease aches and pains as well as helping eczema and allergy sufferers relieve their symptoms.
Salt water versus chlorinated water?
All spas require a sanitising agent such as chlorine, bromine, peroxide or salt. We’ve found that salt offers many benefits compared to other sanitisation methods. It’s cheaper and easier to maintain, gentler on the skin (perfect for allergy sufferers and those with delicate or sensitive skin), has no chlorine odour and saves water as spa water is dumped less frequently.
In-ground versus above-ground — pros and cons?
There are two main types of in-ground spas. The first is a concrete spa, usually made as part of a swimming pool installation. This type may lack hydrotherapy benefits due to the type of jets and their placement. Often, this spa isn’t heated and when it is it’ll have a high rate of heat loss due to lack of insulation.
The second type is an acrylic portable spa that’s sunk into the ground to be near or level with the surrounding area. This option is similar to aboveground spas, providing all the same great benefits including superior comfort, hydrotherapy and energy efficiency, while also making a stylish installation. This type requires more planning and expense so that the area is well drained and spa or equipment bays can still be accessed.
Above-ground spas have all those great features mentioned for acrylic portable spas but can offer versatility in portability and be more cost-effective. Above-ground models can also be incredibly visually appealing and a popular choice for homeowners who want to add wow factor to their ground or deck.
What makes a truly great spa?
Many elements can make the difference between a spa and a great spa. Our top picks from the outside include: visual appeal; long-lasting durability and easy maintenance; a high-density cover for greater insulation; ergonomic and comfortable seating; jet quality and placement for effective hydrotherapy; an intuitive touch pad controller; programmable circulation pump for energy efficiency; and a controller with a heater that can stay on while the pumps are running so the water doesn’t cool during use.
It’s been noted from the earliest recorded human history that sitting in warm water provides several benefits for wellbeing. Numerous modern studies confirm this too, but most people agree spas provide seven key benefits:
- Relaxation and the countless associated benefits
such as reduced blood pressure and a better sleep
- Reduced muscle aches, pains and tension
- Increased blood flow
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Minimised arthritis pain
- Reduced tissue repair time
- A comfortable screen-free space to reconnect
Salt water or chlorinated?
Salt water is mainly used for sanitisation and magnesium’s beneficial properties. The natural sanitisation of salt water is automatic and can require less maintenance, while the user can also benefit from a reduction in chemical sanitisers. While not all salts are high enough in magnesium to have an impact on tissue repair, certain types definitely are. If the spa isn’t designed for salt or you “overdose” a spa system with chlorine, there is potential for early breakdown of components.
It’s getting hot in here
Fancy unwinding and cleansing in the comfort of your own backyard? From Japanese onsens to hot mud baths in Rotorua, New Zealand, detoxifying the body through heat, steam or natural land features has been practised for millennia.
With a long list of health benefits that range from improved blood circulation and faster recovery from injury through to increased energy levels, it’s no surprise that people all over the world enjoy a good soak. Its popularity has seen a rise in backyard saunas, in which you can enjoy all the benefits without the need to go anywhere!
“Saunas are where health, wellbeing, pleasure and relaxation meet,” says Scott Campbell, managing director of Australian Sauna and Steam Rooms. A typical sauna is a timber-enclosed room designed for sweat bathing, with temperatures usually between 60°C and 90°C. Typically equipped with heater rocks, the user can ladle water onto the hot rocks to create steam, which blends with the dry air and provides a rejuvenating experience.
If you’ve decided to invest in a sauna, you need to first consider the size and location.
“A sauna can be located anywhere in the home, with the most popular areas being near a pool, home gym, main bathroom, ensuite or outdoor alfresco area,” Scott explains. “The size will relate to how many people you want to sit in the sauna and if you want the ability to lie down.”
A designated sauna company will be able to help with the specifics — from building a one-seater to a set-up for more than 40 — to suit your space and needs. Don’t forget to situate your sauna near a shower or pool so you can cool off straight after a steamy (or dry) session.
The classic sauna isn’t the only option for providing cleansing capabilities. The latest on the wellbeing scene, infrared rooms provide heat therapy without getting extremely hot. Specific wavelengths of infrared heat raise the body’s core temperature and provide a number of health benefits. With plenty of commercial locations dotted around, we recommend you try before you buy — they’re definitely an alternative to consider.
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