Gardens & Landscape

Creating Kansas City’s Cool Pools

Some of the area’s top professionals tell us what’s new in swimming pool trends.

Admit it: Every summer when the temperatures soar, you think about putting a pool in your backyard for a place to cool off with family and friends. In addition to being an investment in your lifestyle, an attractive and well-maintained pool can add to the resale value of your home.

Swimming pools have come a long way in the last few years—the old standard rectangular pool surrounded by white concrete is making way for a more organic-looking swimming environment, combining natural stones and other elements with resort-style features.

Roger Banks of Banks Pool & Spa in Overland Park is seeing the current pool trend include more amenities for a total outdoor lifestyle. “We’re creating patios that can be used for family events and entertaining for all four seasons,” Banks says. “The projects we’re doing these days incorporate fireplaces, fire features, hot tubs, outdoor kitchens and planned shade areas.”

A Place to Perch

When it comes to relaxing by the pool, today’s designs allow for much more than just a few lounge chairs by the water’s edge.

A pool Banks Pool and Spa built incorporates a water slide atop a stone grotto, which hides the pool’s pump.

“The biggest trend we’re seeing is that everyone wants a sun ledge,” says Kyle Yeo, who operates Kansas City-based Precision Pools and Patios  with his brother Travis Yeo. Sun ledges—a wide shallow surface usually about 14 to 16 inches under the water—offer a place to pull up a lounge chair for sunbathing where it’s easy to dip a toe in or splash a little water on to cool off.

Zero-entry designs, which have a gradual, sloped entry into the water, like at a beach, also provide this convenience. Yeo says he likes to incorporate flagstone into the pool floor for these features because they are easier to maintain long-term than plain concrete floors, which are prone to cracks as the ground beneath the pool settles over time. “It gives it a cooler look too,” adds Yeo.

Swim-up bars are another of Precision’s most-requested features, according to Yeo. “Pools are as much for the grown-ups as they are for the kids these days,” he says. “And they don’t necessarily want to swim or splash around, they want to chill out. Underwater bar stools offer a place to gather.”

Overland Park-based Lorax Design Group recently incorporated another of today’s favorite backyard staples—the fire pit—into a pool the company built at a Loch Lloyd residence. The design includes a custom-designed fire feature as the focus of an integrated seating area that matches the naturalistic hardscaping around the free-form pool. “Unlike a traditional fire pit, the custom fire feature adds a dynamic and surprising element to the environment,” says Lorax president, Kurt Kraisinger.

A custom-designed fire feature adds an unexpected element in this pool created by Lorax Design Group.

Back to Nature

A very different trend that’s been catching on in the last decade is natural swimming pools. Popular in Europe since the 1980s, natural swimming pools are a chemical-free, low-maintenance alternative to traditional pools, which use chlorine to kill off bacteria. In natural pools, the water is filtered—and kept crystal clear—naturally using a built-in biological filter, which consists of beneficial bacteria and plants to manage the harmful bacteria, and shale, which absorbs the phosphates that algae feed on.

One of the foremost builders of natural swimming pools in the United States, Total Habitat, has completed projects all over the country but just happens to be based nearby in Bonner Springs. The company has engineered a system that is effective in a wide range of climates and is able to withstand our area’s temperature extremes, from hot summers to icy cold winters.

Chemical-free natural swimming pools are becoming more sought-after, and one of the country’s best builders, Total Habitat, is based in the metro area.

Like traditional pools, the natural versions can be heated for optimum swimming temperature using a conventional pool heater. However, Mick Hilleary, president of Total Habitat, says solar heaters are an effective and efficient alternative. Come winter, natural pools have another advantage: They can be used for ice skating, if the climate is right. “Not only is the water quality fabulous and healthy, you can enjoy a natural swimming pool all year round,” says Hilleary. “It can be the centerpiece of your private paradise.”