Diving Into Pool House Design

Tray Ling

A pool house is the ultimate design playground. Part utility building, part entertainment pad, the design and functionality can be as basic as a tiny cabana with a shower and a place to change, or as elaborate as an entire dwelling with a bar, lounge, great room, and more. “Having […]

pool house is the ultimate design playground. Part utility building, part
entertainment pad, the design and functionality can be as basic as a tiny
cabana with a shower and a place to change, or as elaborate as an entire
dwelling with a bar, lounge, great room, and more.

“Having a pool house not only serves as a place to
change clothes, house overnight guests, and keep extra storage, it also
dedicates space to entertain and create amazing outdoor-focused experiences.
Think pool parties, al fresco dinners, and ping-pong tournaments,” says Kelly
Bartley, senior designer with short-term rental and hospitality company
AvantStay. “Pool houses are a great opportunity to create a unique detached

By combining the playful party atmosphere of a poolside experience with the comfort of a relaxing living room, the space can feel like a hideaway from home, says Anthony Laney, founder of Laney LA, an architecture and design firm in Los Angeles. “Without a pool house, poolside recreation is often limited to an all-or-nothing decision; you’re either in, or you’re out. But with a pool house, the outdoor experience is extended, given variety, and allows residents and guests to enjoy a vacation mindset.”

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Then there’s the practicality it serves—even just in
terms of logistics. No one wants puddles on the floor of their main home, or
guests coming in and out in wet bathing suits. And, not to mention, it gives
guests the privacy they need.

A pool house is also inherently versatile. “It’s the
perfect indoor-outdoor connection that can serve many functions,” says Adam
Meshberg, founder and CEO of Meshberg Group, a design firm based in Brooklyn.
“It can be an entertaining space with a bar and kitchenette, a guest house, a
living room away from the main house, a fitness studio, a meditation space, and
so much more,” Mr. Laney says.

Decide on the Style

a pool house is considered an extension of the main house, you could either
continue the same vibe, so it feels seamless, or go for a completely different
look and feel. If you take the cohesive
route, “it should have elements that marry the two spaces together,” says Diana
Viera, managing partner of ITALKRAFT, a firm specializing in custom-designed
kitchens, bathrooms, cabinetry and closets.

Sarah Stacey, of Austin, Texas–based Sarah Stacey Interior Design, believes the style should be in the same vein as the main house, but not exactly alike. “For example, if your home is modern, neutral, and minimal, perhaps you can inject a little bit of color. Or if you have a traditional style, consider adding some fun vintage pieces,” she says.

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Mr. Meshberg suggests designing the pool house as a
complementary structure to the main house, such as a colonial-style main home
and a barn-like pool house.

“We believe the pool house functions at its best when
the design is driven by the poolside experience,” Mr. Laney says. “If you copy
the aesthetic of the main house, you may suffer from a space that is too
partitioned or imbalanced.”

It’s also a space where you can be more playful. “The
pool house provides an opportunity to complement your style with something you
can’t necessarily pull off in the main house,” says Eddie Maestri of Maestri
Studio, an architecture and design firm based in Dallas. “I like to think about
the house and yard as a well-tailored suit, and the pool house is the stylish
and fun tie that pulls it all together.”

An AvantStay property in Rancho Cristal, Scottsdale, Arizona, features a pool house centered around indoor-outdoor entertaining.

Kelly Bartley

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Include the Essentials

matters most in a pool house, particularly considering slippage and mildew. Ms.
Viera suggests natural stone, which can be sealed with a matte finish. “This
way it’s not as slippery as polished stone, and it’s still easy to keep clean,”
she says.

Laney prefers slip-resistant porcelain, which “provides safety, water
resistance, and an aesthetic that is fitting,” he says. Hammered granite tile,
with its textured surface, is another option. Just stay away from wood
flooring, which is more vulnerable to water and moist environments, Mr.
Meshberg says.

For walls, moisture-resistant sheetrock is a safe bet,
since pool houses tend to have windows and doors open for long periods of time,
which exposes the space to humidity. By adding a finish to the walls, they are
less likely to grow mold, Mr. Meshberg says.

Eddie Maestri

Beyond walls and flooring, other essential design elements include a kitchen or wet bar, a full bath with access from the outside so guests coming from the pool won’t track water inside, and an HVAC system or ceiling fan, Ms. Viera says. And, of course, a main room in which to entertain.

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A playful pool house, shown above, designed by Eddie Maestri is roomy enough to fit a ping-pong table and features space for entertaining and relaxing.

Jennifer McNeil Baker

Go for Performance Furniture

furniture has to be high-functioning—withstanding wet swimsuits and towels
while maintaining a sense of style. “Outdoor furniture is a great way to go,”
Ms. Viera says. “There are so many outdoor collections that are well-designed.”

Look for mildew-resistant fabrics for upholstery, Ms.
Stacey adds. A performance outdoor fabric by a company like Sunbrella would be
ideal. “It’s meant for water and it cleans very well,” Ms. Viera says.

And make sure you create an indoor-outdoor transition
with your furniture selection, Mr. Meshberg says. “While they don’t have to be
identical, they should be similar in style so the design flows through from the
outdoor area into the indoor area.”

Add accent pieces in metals, ceramics, and glass to complement the larger furniture pieces. Outdoor rugs are another popular trend. They are becoming more stylish and are very easy to clean, Ms. Viera says.

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Connect Inside and Out

the pool house may complement the aesthetic of the main house, it’s the
connection between the indoor and outdoor space that makes the biggest impact,
Mr. Laney says. To maximize the experience, he recommends sliding, pocketing,
or bi-folding glass doors. “The best systems minimize the floor transition from
inside to outside,” he says.

Ms. Stacey suggests using an accordion-door system
like NanaWall. “This way you can just open the entire wall of doors and have
basically an indoor-outdoor space. People can hang out in the pool house as
well as outside, making it feel like one big entertaining space.”

Consider floor-to-ceiling windows, French doors, or
even a fully retractable door, Ms. Bartley says. Just make sure privacy is top
of mind, since this is where guests change. “Adding a dedicated space for
changing, shades, or privacy screens are all good options,” she says.

Incorporate both indoor and outdoor seating areas. “I
like to have an outdoor covered-terrace space act as the primary entertaining
area,” Mr. Meshberg says.

By combining the fun atmosphere of a poolside experience with the comfort of a laid-back living room, this space designed by Anthony Laney can feel like a hideaway from home.

Jess Isaac

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Give it Character

pool house is a perfect canvas to get creative with decor. “Flea-market finds
or a surfboard on the wall will make the space feel fun and inviting,” Ms.
Bartley says. “It’s also a great spot to add design-forward game tables like
ping-pong or shuffleboard.”

“Even adding a cool vintage chair here and there will
infuse a lot of personality. Look to the Italians and French who really did it
right back then,” Ms. Stacey says.

Pool houses can function as second dwellings, like this one at an AvantStay property in Lake Tahoe, California.

Courtesy of AvantStay

Think of what you would want to experience on a vacation by the pool or your favorite getaway, and use it as an opportunity to go bold, Mr. Maestri says. Give the interior pops of colors, and include outdoor drapery and vibrant printed fabrics, he adds. “It should feel like a destination retreat.”

This article first appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.


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