On a hot, humid summer day there are few things more inviting than a backyard pool. But outdoor décor has come so far that the poolside amenities are as apt to beckon as the idea of a quick dip. High-tech add-ons, luxurious conveniences and functional hardscapes have turned the traditional backyard pool area into a true extension of the home—with all of its comforts included.
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At one time, a pool might have been considered the main attraction. But today it’s more likely to serve as a jumping off point for a multi-purpose outdoor living space. “It’s about more than just the pool now,” said Yasser Elroumy of Hampton Hardscapes in Quogue. “Many people on Long Island have pools, but now they’re trying to enhance them by adding bigger patios, pavilions and outdoor kitchen or cooking areas, which allow the pool space to be used into the evening hours or during cooler weather.”
The ultimate goal is to create a living space that functions independent of the home. “Many of our customers don’t want the hassle of having to run between the house and backyard. They are adding all the conveniences they’d have indoors—pergolas for shade, sitting areas with beautiful furniture, a grill, outdoor sinks and refrigerators, bar areas and wine coolers are all standard requests now.” Because building such elaborate spaces requires a sizable investment, Elroumy said more of his clients are also looking for features like fire pits, weatherproof appliances and pizza ovens that stretch the seasonality of their backyards.
Carrie Leopold, owner of Dodds & Eder Home in Oyster Bay and Sag Harbor, specializes in outdoor furniture. She said the desire to extend the outdoor living season has impacted trends in her business too. “We sell fewer coffee tables than we used to because people are replacing them with fire pits to extend the use of the space.”
Weather-resistant furniture is another must. “One of our most popular collections is a fully upholstered lounge sectional done in a Sunbrella rain fabric. A lot of people are familiar with Sunbrella’s water-resistant fabrics, but the rain fabrics are actually waterproof so the insides of the cushions don’t get wet, which makes them even more durable.”
As far as style goes, Leopold claimed most of her clientele is leaning toward contemporary design, opting largely for sleek profiles and neutral colors. But an even bigger trend is toward creating unique and personal outdoor spaces. “People feel like they would never do their whole living room in one style of furniture, why should they do that in their outdoor space? More and more of our customers are mixing materials and textures. Instead of choosing one collection in all teak, or wicker or aluminum, they mix in all three. Plus the outdoor fabric options are endless. People are now using a variety of outdoor throw pillows to add unique style to their solid cushioning.”
A Pool to Dive For
The pool has undergone a reassessment, due to the same demands for functionality and year-round usability. Modern pools and hot tubs serve as exercise equipment, incorporate entertainment systems and create the sense of an endless season.
“One of the most popular options we offer is what’s called the Endless Pool System, which is a blend of a hot tub and pool in one,” said Kristy Verity of Ocean Spray Hot Tubs and Saunas in Westhampton, Melville and Farmingdale.
Among the biggest draws is recreation. The pool system comes standard with a jetted swim current and the option to add in an underwater treadmill. The other main reason Verity said it’s in demand is a matter of usability. “It heats to the same temperature as a hot tub. You can open it up in March and use it until December. It’s a much longer use time than you’d get with a typical backyard swimming pool.”
If both recreation and relaxation are a priority, there’s an option for that. “The Endless Pools start at 12 feet-by-8 feet and go all the way up to 20-feet long. The smaller model is a jetted unit that’s good for swimming and exercising, the larger one includes a swim spa with a hot tub attached to it. You can exercise in the swim spa at 75 degrees and then jump over into the hot tub portion and it’s 105 degrees. It’s the best of both worlds.”
If getting outside once meant escaping technology, it now means embracing it. The latest options in audio, entertainment and connectivity not only rival the quality of indoor versions, they’re every bit as in-demand.
Alex Karoussos of Home Technology Experts (HTE), an outdoor technology company in Southampton, says one of his most popular requests is for Hi-Fi outdoor audio systems—designs that are a far cry from the rock-camouflaged speakers of the not-so-distant past. “Today’s systems often consist of small satellite speakers installed around the property that get paired with a subwoofer buried under the ground. It allows you to achieve top-quality audio outdoors,” he said. For those who don’t mind spending a bit more money for the best technology, there’s a more advanced option. “We work with a company called C-Seed, which makes a system with motorized speakers that automatically rise out of the ground when they’re turned on.”
Speakers aren’t the only AV gadgets going subterranean. C-Seed makes televisions up to 210 inches wide that can be lowered into the ground while not in use. But the wow-factor (and the technology engineered with Porsche), will cost you: “They can be upward of $400,000.”
With the prevalence of smart technology, the final trend Karoussos pointed to can be considered a default: seamless outdoor WiFi. “We now use outdoor access points that extend the reach of indoor WiFi connections. They can be easily mounted behind a bush or within landscaping, and they allow people to seamlessly roam from inside to outside without having to reconnect to a different network.”
Light Up the Night
As homeowners prioritize their outdoor spaces, they’re also putting emphasis on upgrades that extend the use of these areas, like high-quality landscape lighting. “Most people are working long hours even in the summer, and much of the time they have to actually enjoy their pool is during the evening when the sun is down—illumination is key,” said Scott Armusewicz, Jr. of Hamptons Landscape Lighting in Southampton.
One of Armusewicz’s first questions for clients is how they like to enjoy their pool area, since lighting can be tailored accordingly. If the goal is to create a serene place to enjoy romantic dinners or to relax after work, warmer-toned light sources are essential. On the other hand, if the pool is ground-zero for summer parties and get-togethers, Armusewicz suggested cool-toned sources that mimic moonlight or a livelier option that’s growing in popularity: color-changing LED. “You can create a disco-party feel on your pool deck, or even in the pool.” One of the biggest factions opting for this add-on? Sports fans. “A lot of people are now spending time watching TV outdoors. If they’re having friends over to watch a sporting event, they can match the colors of their lighting to their sports team.”
Illumination that mimics ambient light is also in-demand, though Armusewicz’s go-to solution is driven more by old-fashioned creativity than cutting-edge tech. “A lot of pool decks are lit from the ground, but that means light is shining up in people’s eyes when they’re trying to enjoy the space at night. To get a broader light spread, we will uplight white umbrellas that then reflect the light down. It creates a softer illumination, and the end result is beautiful.”