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Freeform Swimming Pools: What You Should Know

Imagine a swimming pool. What does that mental picture look like? If you thought of a long, blue rectangle, you’re probably in good company. Classic rectangular, or “geometric” pool shapes have always been and still remain a leading design choice when building a pool. But, if you imagined something a little more organic, with irregular curves and smoothed edges, you’re probably a fan of the style of freeform swimming pools.

Created in the early 1900’s, free form swimming pools gained traction into the middle part of the century thanks to visionary designers such as Phillip Isley and Thomas Church, pictured below.

What is a freeform pool?

A “freeform” swimming pool refers to the design style or shape of the pool . You can spot a freeform swimming pool by looking for a pool with natural, organic, or irregular shape. The edges will be curving, smooth, and may be unpredictable. Done correctly, contemporary freeform pools create a seamless integration with the space around them, feeling at home in the landscape.

Freeform pools can be made in many different ways. Vinyl liner pools, fiberglass pools, and gunite pools can all take on a freeform shape. Combine freeform design with featured poolside landscaping, and your dream pool oasis will come to life.

The Kidney Shaped Pool

While a characteristic of a freeform shaped swimming pool is their malleability, some freeform shapes are still more popular than others. For example, the kidney bean shaped pool, made popular by builder Thomas Church, has remained a popular freeform pool design for decades.

This design is in direct contrast to a traditional, or geometric design. Rectangular, or classically shaped pools contain hard angles, and call back to specific shapes. They appear more utilitarian, and are generally built to a set of standardized measurements. You will be hard pressed to find an angle present in a freeform pool installation.

Freeform Pools vs Natural Swimming Pools

As people begin to explore more in their backyard pool design, the conversation about what can be done with your standard swimming pool has expanded. In the last decade, talk of installation of natural pools has increased. And with it, confusion around what that moniker means. A natural swimming pool is vastly different from a freeform pool, and the two terms are not interchangeable.

Natural Swimming Pool

A natural swimming pool is a pool that uses no traditional pool chemicals such as chlorine. Instead, it is filled and filtered by specific plants and biological filters to prevent the growth of bacteria. The water is always moving. In some situations, you may feel more like you’re diving into a beautiful natural pond than a backyard pool. In other words- it’s all-natural.

Freeform Swimming Pools

On the other hand, freeform pools simply refer to the shape of the pool at hand. A freeform style pool can be natural or traditionally filtered. Additionally, while many natural pools opt for more organic shapes and nature oriented landscaping, not all natural pools invoke freeform style. A natural pool can be designed geometrically, depending on the style and design wishes of the homeowner.

Benefits of a Freeform Pool

There are definitely benefits to installing a freeform swimming pool vs a geometric pool design. If flexibility and an organic feel are priorities in your outdoor design journey, freeform pools just makes sense.

Mold to Your Landscape

Your outdoor space is far from geometric. Hills and slopes, non-linear planting beds, and curving patio edges all reflect the private natural world that is your backyard. So for many, incorporating a stark, rectangular pool design can feel hugely out of place.

Freeform pools are at an advantage here. Because their freeform shapes create malleable, flowing lines, they can be accommodated to fit your existing outdoor space. Instead of prioritizing the existence of the pool, you can focus on how it fits into your yard, and how it interacts with the elements and features around it.

Work With The Existing Space

Still, this isn’t to say that geometric pool shapes are doomed to look out of place in your space. Rather, it means that the adjustability of freeform pools conveniently allow the line of the existing space to set the tone, and the pool design to follow suit.

Work In Smaller Spaces

Expanding on how freeform pools fit into your landscape, another huge benefit to this design choice becomes prevalent when dealing with a smaller yard. For those of us with limited outdoor square footage, fitting a typical, geometric pool design into the area may just be impossible. When designing in a small space, the more flexible your options are, the easier they will be to integrate.

This is why freeform pools often thrive in backyard spaces with little to no breathing room. Whether you’re fitting your pool into a corner, or nestling it away amid your landscaping, the organic lines of a freeform pool make minimal impact possible. For many families, this reduced spatial impact is more than preferred- it’s necessary to make living in their backyard possible.

Room for Features

More than any pool shape, the freeform pool lends itself to playing with extra design elements. Waterfall features, beach entries, tanning ledges or baja shelves, and even elements such as pool grottos. Incorporate rock features, or stone decking into the flowing edges of freeform pool designs with ease. Done right, you can make your pool fit the natural style and relaxing atmosphere of the landscape while maximizing its functionality.

The Drawbacks of Free Form Swimming Pools

There are many upsides to a freeform pool design. Still, they aren’t for everybody. There is a good reason that rectangular inground pools have dominated residential pool design for years.

First of all, not everyone’s design sensibilities emphasize the same things. While one homeowner may love the look of curving edges, another may find it too soft or impractical. For example, if you are installing a pool to create a place for you to exercise from home, freeform designs may not be for you.

Geometric pools accommodate activities such as lap swimming more easily, and can feel more appropriate for families where this is the focus. Additionally, some freeform pool designs have the potential to look outdated after time has passed. Rectangular pool styles may not always be the most exciting, but they have always been present in the pool design scene and likely always will.

Is a freeform swimming pool right for my yard?

As always, the right pool design is the one that delivers on what you need. If maximizing space, and cohesivity with your backyard landscape take priority, a freeform swimming pool just makes sense. If you’re looking to swim methodic laps each morning, you’ll likely be happier with a geometric construction. Thankfully, no matter what your vision is for your space, a great pool contractor or landscape designer can help it come to life.

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