Natural Swimming Pools: 10 Green and Gorgeous Designs

It wouldn’t be summer without a trip to the pool—but those harsh chemicals can be a real turnoff. These days, eco-conscious and design-savvy homeowners are increasingly adopting an unorthodox means of pool filtration: plant life. Aquatic plants and naturally occurring bacteria not only filter the water, they also contribute to the landscaping. Yes, natural pools require more planning than the standard-issue variety, but you can—with a little know-how and not an overwhelming amount of trouble—build a fairly self-sufficient swimming pool (or give an earth-friendly upgrade to your existing pool). Besides being less costly to maintain, natural pools come with an additional bonus: They don't have to be shut down come winter. In fact, if temperatures drop low enough, your pool can double as an ice rink. So come take a tour of some of our favorite natural swimming pools, each more inviting than the next.

  1. Picturesque and Perfect

    Natural Pool with Lily Pads

    What distinguishes a natural swimming pool from a traditional one? The main difference lies in natural pools' independence from artificial filtration. That doesn't mean jumping into a natural pool leaves you with a mouth full of algae. On the contrary, plants and other biological agents maintain the water quality, leaving the swimmer to enjoy a chlorine-free experience. Rather than obstruct the swimming area, the plants are focused in what's known as the regeneration zone, either directly adjacent to—or completely separate from—the swim basin.

  2. Traditional Take

    Double Backyard Pool

    If you're not crazy about the idea of commingling plants and pool, this modern variation may be more to your liking. The swimming and regeneration zones are kept separate; the result is a swimming pool that to the casual glance, looks wholly traditional.

  3. Keep It Rustic

    Eco-Friendly Pool

    A seamless integration with the surrounding field—and a wonderful complement to the rustic cabin seen through the trees—this pool truly looks like a naturally occurring watering hole.

  4. The Traditional Conversion

    Pool with Plants

    Adding a shallow plant area to the perimeter of an existing pool makes it a more eco-friendly place to cool off. Having made the switch, these homeowners were able to eliminate a number of costs from their summer budget, including the electricity required to run the filter system.

  5. Super Simple

    Simple Backyard Pool

    Though compact, this natural pool takes center stage in a well-planned backyard, providing just enough room for a dip without overwhelming the manicured surroundings.

  6. Sleekly Modern

    Modern Swimming Pool

    This natural swimming pool positively radiates with modern chic. A separate regeneration zone is responsible for maintaining water quality, leaving the swimming area to delight, with its appealingly clean lines and jaw-dropping sculptural quality.

  7. Two Become One

    Landscaped Poolside

    When looked at from a distance, it's hard to see the division between the swimming and regeneration zones in this eco pool. As you approach, however, concrete steps, rock work, and some carefully positioned outdoor pillows guide you directly into the basin.

  8. Backyard Retreat

    Natural Rock Pool

    Extensive landscaping completely disguises the manmade origins of this natural pool, whose surrounding rocks not only contribute to the movement of water, but also to the swimmer's experience.

  9. Light It Up

    Pool Lighting

    Why not borrow what we do like from the design of traditional pools—namely, submerged lights? In this natural pool, a set of lights gives off a welcoming glow, inviting its owners to dive on for a dip after dark.

  10. Tropical Paradise

    Tropical Pool

    Palm trees, palm huts, stone paths and a bridge—indeed, with the right touches, you can trick yourself into thinking you're on an exotic vacation each and every time you step into your backyard. Add a piña colada, and you're good to go!

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