Exterior Pools & Water Features

11 Ways to Make a Small Pool Work in Your Backyard

Get inspired and transform your outdoor space with one of these perfectly proportioned water features.

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Take the Plunge


If you’ve dreamed of having your own pool, but don’t quite have the space—think again. Even bite-sized backyards can benefit from a water feature, especially one that’s subtle, proportional, and user-friendly. There are many small pool ideas from which to choose, ranging from the most expensive built-in and custom-designed pools to more affordable above ground, inflatable, and stock tank options. Whichever pool you choose, make sure it marries style with functionality. A pool that doesn’t serve as a relaxing retreat could be more upkeep than it’s worth. These 11 small pool ideas prove that good design is the key to success, so read on for some clever configurations that may work for you.

Related: 11 Things You Need to Consider Before Putting in a Pool

Hidden Depths

Space Landscape Designs

An asymmetric plunge pool offers a sense of hidden depths. Blue tile inside the pool enhances the deep color of the water. Pair it with a curved hardwood deck that floats above the pool to provide a sitting area and elevated walkway. Relax on built-in daybeds, or use it for after-hours entertainment. Finish the poolside area with smooth, slip-free bluestone pavers. While luxury pools like this can be expensive to install, the benefits can outweigh the costs if done right.

Secret Garden

Craig Reynolds Landscape Architects

Transform your secret garden with a water feature. The pool itself is sleek and capped with a surrounding narrow stone deck. Stone steps lead down into the water, where you can immerse yourself in this private paradise. Add mystery and shade to a small pool by planting the right foliage: banana trees, palms, and ferns for a tropical look and feel.

Related: The Dos and Don’ts of Swimming Pool Maintenance

Fountain of Youth


Surrounded by turquoise tile, this stylish take on an above-ground pool gives the illusion of an overflowing basin. Look closely, though, and it’s a subtle feat of engineering and trompe l’oeil architecture. The turquoise tile matches the water perfectly, while elevated spigots pour streams of fresh water. Sit, wade, and become the flow.

A River Runs Through


When it comes to small pool ideas for even the narrowest backyard, check this out! At this Key West home, a pint-sized river has turned the back deck into a mini oasis. Positioned right outside the lower level windows, this tiny river-pool also cools the house and offers a pristine view. To beat the heat, slip into the water for a quick dip before dinner.

On Safari


Soak under the stars, or enjoy dawn’s first light, in a Safari-inspired plunge pool. Simplicity and luxury are both in evidence here. The gently curved rectangular pool is just big enough for one or two people, and is surrounded by dark brown timber decking. Most importantly, the pool seems to hover at the edge of complete wilderness.

Castle Rock


Natural rock has a beauty all its own, so if you live in an area rich with slate, granite, and other stone, surround your pool with a raised, rough-hewn wall. The contrast between the unfinished stone wall, pure white stucco that matches the exterior of the pool house, and clear water gives this hidden pool a castle-like ambiance. Outside the walls, plants and flowers are plentiful, so you feel protected and surrounded by nature at the same time.

Related: Are You Spending Way Too Much to Operate Your Swimming Pool?

Circle of Life


There’s something sacred about a circular pool. It gives us a sense of harmony, balance, purity, and eternity. If you have a small, open backyard, consider filling it with a large circular pool, lined with glittering tile, and surrounded by brick pavers. Add some flowering trees and a bench and it becomes the perfect spot to dangle your feet and read on a hot summer’s day.

Family Fun


A swimming pool is fun for the whole family. Lacking space? Go for a narrow, rectangular pool, flush with the surrounding deck. This makes it easy to cover in winter or when not in use. A high white fence and bamboo stand keep your family gatherings private and safe. And it bears repeating: Always monitor the pool area when children are present.

Related: The Best Pool Vacuums for a Spotless Pool

Surprise Swim


If you live in close proximity to your neighbors, a tiny swimming pool can give you a sense of privacy and luxury all your own. And it’s certainly more convenient (and easier to clean) than the community pool. This hardscaped backyard has been transformed by a bright blue swimming hole surrounded by a low wooden fence. A few potted plants, deck chairs, and a swinging bench are all that’s needed for a sweet, secure place for kids and adults to play.

Spa Day


The best small pool ideas feature appropriate proportions. Symmetry helps too, as you can see with this gem-sized backyard pool retreat. Clean lines frame the small rectangular pool, just big enough for two people to comfortably relax in and take a cooling dip. The pale turquoise water is offset by gray pavers, a timber fence, and minimalist design overall.

Beautiful Memories


You don’t have to install a custom-built pool to make the most of summer magic. Your kids (and grown-ups too) will thrill when you make room for an inflatable or stock tank pool in your backyard. Go for simple colors, like white and turquoise, and surround your pool with plants. It’s a small investment for some beautiful memories-in-the-making.

Related: The Best Pool Heaters to Extend Your Swimming Season