A Guide to the Most Popular Swimming Pool Designs and Shapes

rectangular pool at night

Rectangular-shaped pool at night.  Astronaut Images/Getty Images

Pictures of Popular Swimming Types: Form Usually Follows Function

Swimming pools come in all shapes, sizes, styles, and designs. Some are used for specific purposes, like lap pools for health and fitness, infinity pools to make a landscape architectural statement, novelty pools to express the owner’s personality or interests, and naturalistic pools that blend in with the landscape.

Things that can dictate the shape of your pool: lot size and available space, lay of the land, budget, meeting safety codes, your home’s architectural style, sun exposure, how you will use the pool and if you want an integrated or separate spa. Discover the basic pool shapes, with variations within each category.

Rectangular and Geometric Swimming Pools

backyard pool bing crosby

Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee lean over the diving board of their back-garden pool. Getty Images

Not counting the ancient pools of a few select kings and rulers in places like Babylon and Rome, the history of residential swimming pools pretty much began in Southern California. Starting in the mid-1930s, newsreels and magazine photos of movie stars posing by their swimming pools sparked a trend, which became more popular during the post-World War II housing boom. By 1947, there were 11,000 pools in the United States.

Rectangular Pools

rectangular swimming pool

Hoxton/Astronaut Images/Getty Images

Most of these early residential swimming pools were created in the classic rectangular form, which was aesthetically pleasing and also practical. As a source of exercise, the long, straight lines of a rectilinear pool made sense for pool owners who wanted to swim laps. Reflection pools have also traditionally been rectilinear or rectangular in shape.

Oval or Round Pool Designs

round swimming pool

Carlos Ciudad Photos/Getty Images

Curvilinear shapes also got their start in the back gardens of Hollywood’s elite. In the 1930s, pool builder-to-the-stars Philip Ilsley created a round-bottomed pool frame that was filled through a hose with concrete. Stars—and later, fans who could afford the pools—loved the deviation from the standard rectilinear shapes. Photos of curvy pools with their famous curvy owners

Kidney-Shaped Pool

the donnell pool

The Donnell Garden pool, designed by renowned landscape architect Thomas Church. Donnell Garden/TCLF

The first kidney-shaped swimming pool was designed by landscape architect Thomas Church with landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in 1948 for the Donnell family’s Midcentury Modern home in Sonoma, California. Up until that time, most swimming pools were rectilinear in shape, for a straightforward lap-swimming experience. Church’s biomorphic design was photographed for many magazines, making the kidney shape a popular choice for residential swimming pools.

The focal point of the Donnell landscape design is a sculpture by Adaline Kent, which serves as an island in the centre of the kidney-shaped pool.

The Figure-8

figure 8 shaped pool

Tom Paiva Photograpy/Getty Imaes

It’s pretty obvious: a figure-8-shaped pool resembles the number 8, with round or circular shapes on the ends and a narrower area in the middle, like an hourglass. The ends of this type of pool do not have to be the exact same size—one can be larger than the other.

A group of natural figure-8-shaped pools is at Sydney’s Royal National Park in Australia. The Figure Eight Pools are located in the southern portion of the park, near Burning Palms Beach. The pools form near-perfect figure 8’s on the coastal rock shelf. Although the platform and pools are hazardous to visit, pictures on social media have made the destination extremely popular. The site is safest to visit during low tide, but even then, there aren’t any lifeguards to make rescues or ensure safety.

Multi-Sided Pools

swimming pool with deck

photog/Getty Images

Swimming pools with multiple straight edges or sides have always been popular and are a variation of a rectangle or oval. To refresh your math skills: hexagonals have eight sides, decagonals have 10, nonagonals have nine, etc.

Novelty or Custom-Shaped Swimming Pool

heart shaped pool jayne mansfield

Philip Ramey Photography, LLC/Getty Images

Pools in the shape of objects or the map of a state are novelty shapes. Obviously, these are custom designs and have personal meaning or are something the owner strongly identifies with, like an instrument (violin or guitar), shamrock, or cat. Singer Engelbert Humperdinck bought the Los Angeles home with the heart-shaped pool once owned by Jayne Mansfield, then auctioned it off on QVC.

L-Shaped Swimming Pool

l-shaped swimming pool

Astronaut Images/Getty Images

There are two types of L-shaped pools: the true-L, which resembles the actual letter “L”, and a lazy L, which suggests the letter and makes a slight angle.

Freeform Shapes

freeform swimming pool

Matt Henry Gunther/Getty Images

As the name implies, a freeform pool is organic in shape and based on curvilinear rather than geometric forms. Other names for freeforms include Oasis, Lagoon, Key West, and Pond.

Classic or Roman-Shaped Pools

roman shaped pool

Steve Sparrow/Cultura/Getty Images

Classic pool shapes are variations of rectangular pools and are often called Grecian and Roman pools. Both are formal in design and based on ancient pools. A Roman-shaped swimming pool has an arch or slight curve at one or both ends of a rectangle and are also considered to be classic-shaped pools. If the arch is on one side it’s a single Roman; on both, it’s a double Roman.

By Lisa Hallett Taylor