Local Designers Share What’s New in Pools

Naturalistic designs and family-friendly features are among the current trends for backyard oases. 

A BACKYARD POOL is the dream of many, and even more so right now. 

“It’s definitely become a trend,” says Richard Sherer, Deep River Partners founder. “Pre-COVID, we would install two pools at any given time. Right now, we’re working on six. It’s another way to recreate the home.”

But the pools that today’s homeowners are craving are not the turquoise-blue rectangles surrounded by concrete of yesteryear. These days, the look is more natural, with organic-shaped silhouettes that are integrated into the landscape. 

Sherer starts by asking clients just how fun they want their pool to be: Will it be a focal point while entertaining with cocktails? A place to swim laps each morning? An aquatic volleyball court for the kids?



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“Much like the resorts in Mexico, we are selling an experience – how the pool is used, what surrounds it, and how these hardscapes are constructed around the vessel,” says Ken DePratt, owner of KD Poolscapes in Franksville, which installs vinyl-lined, in-ground pools.

Here are trends currently – pardon the pun – making waves.

Vibrant Color Palette

Pool tiles and plaster rarely veered from blue. Now the rainbow’s the limit. For a Fox Point pool (a Deep River Partners project appearing on HGTV’s “Cool Pools”), blue was swapped out for charcoal-black, creating a contemporary look akin to an art gallery, with Chihuly-like glass sculptures overhead (mirrored in the water) and at one end (as a focal point).

Special Effects

“The pool is not only for swimming,” says Sherer. “A water feature or water spillovers create ambient noise or an aesthetic feature, even though nobody’s swimming in the pool.” Other requests include a koi pond or reflecting pool near the swimming pool. For one project, Sherer incorporated waterfalls for a “gentle atmosphere and calmness.”

Varying Depths

Families want a pool that all can enjoy. A gradation from shallow to deep is preferred for that reason. Toddlers and youth can splash in the shallow end while adults swim in the deep end. Pool sports like volleyball and basketball need enough depth (at least 4 feet) to absorb the force of jumping. 

Artful Landscaping

Stone or pavers can frame a pool, sure, but now it’s about fleshing out the area with greenery. “Great designs have an integration of landscape amongst the hardscape of the pool, giving them a sense of nature and connection to the outdoors,” says Sherer.

More Than a Spot to Swim

For an indoor pool featured on HGTV’s “Pool in my House,” Deep River Partners worked with a company that makes Noah’s Ark’s waterslides to install a miniature water park. Popular requests include a bar, BBQ or grill area, pizza oven and big-screen TV. 

Saltwater Pools

Just like many resorts transitioned to saltwater pools, which use less chlorine, so too have homeowners. “It is not a chlorine-free system, as many people believe,” says DePratt. But the benefits are huge: “There’s much less of a chlorine smell and pool burn because we’re using a different process to filter the water,” says Sherer.  


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s July Issue.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.