With the style and details once found only at a luxury resort, current trends in residential swimming pool design allows homeowners to create a backyard retreat that feels like being on vacation. Options include waterfalls, fire features and elaborate light shows, creating a backyard resort.

Adding a pool is a major investment, and many of the options, while more expensive initially, ultimately save the homeowner money. “An electric heat pump with a chiller can cost twice as much as a gas heater,” says Jeff Vivion, owner of Vivion Pools. “But the homeowner will typically save two-thirds over the cost of natural gas on their utility bills.” Plus, chilling the water in late summer extends the use of the pool since often during a hot Oklahoma August the pool water can become uncomfortably warm.

Salt-water pools are also more expensive up front but pay for themselves in a few years because the use of costly and caustic chemicals is eliminated and the pool maintenance is much easier. “One hundred percent of the pools we’ve built over the last few years have been salt water,” says Pool Creations owner Jeff Landburg. In addition, the water feels soft to the skin compared to a typical chlorinated pool. It is less irritating to the eyes, nose and ears and doesn’t cause a chemical reaction to treated hair.

While pools in the past consisted of a shallow end and a deep end with stairs and ladders, today’s swimming pools incorporate a variety of features that expand the way the pool can be used. A beach or sloped entry allows for a wading area but does require a larger building site. Infinity or negative-edge pools create a dramatic effect, especially for pools with a view.

“Tanning ledges are extremely popular,” says Landburg. The wide shelf is usually a few inches under water, allowing sunbathers to stay cool while relaxing in the pool.

Elevated spas, waterfalls and fountains are an ever-evolving trend with customized features mixing a blend of materials. A new trend is to utilize sheets of commercial aquarium acrylic to create a see-through waterfall or wall sections. Vivion often uses copper scuppers built into a raised wall to create a unique water feature since the copper patina gradually forms. Both builders have seen an increase in the use of glass tile, and while the darker finish, lagoon-style pools remain popular, new options of exposed aggregate pool finishes offer sparkling colorful glass beads or processed seashells.

Fire features are also regularly incorporated into pool designs from fire bowls and fire pits to dramatic glass enclosed torches flanking the pool. And advances in LED technology offer colorful light shows that can be synchronized among the pool, spa and landscaping. From romantic colors to party and holiday modes, LED lighting is long-lasting and energy efficient.

Using a wireless remote control system allows homeowners an extensive choice of options in controlling the pool. “An expansive system can run from $2,000 to $4,000,” explains Vivion. “And you can turn a waterfall on or create a light show all from a tablet computer or smart phone,” adds Landburg.

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