Laps of Luxury

Swimming Pools and Spas for the Ultimate Staycation

It’s a scorcher of a summer Saturday afternoon. You’ve cut the lawn and cleaned out the garage. And now you’re ready to cool off in your backyard pool.

This is the blissful reward for all your sweat and hard work. You jump in and feel the cooling rush of water as you come back up, then you lounge on a float and drink an ice-cold soda.

Having a gorgeous pool of your own is right up there with the big family vacation to Disneyworld, season tickets to your favourite team and a new Lexus with a bow on top. It’s an oasis on balmy days for a little time to yourself to relax, let the kids splash for hours, or have friends over for a swim and a barbecue.

The best part of the pool experience is that it’s always there – like a mini-vacation from life’s everyday challenges. The major resorts know that the pool is the main draw. For instance, The Beach at Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas: 2,700 tons of sand, a quarter-mile-long lazy river and a 1.6 million gallon wave pool. It also has lounge areas with cabanas, daybeds, private villas and a full complement of shops, bars and restaurants.

Nobody really knows how long the pandemic will last or how long it will be until we can resume our regular lives – or indeed, what ‘regular’ will look like. The uncertainty creates a high level of stress, and the challenge is to find solace at home that works for you.

On that note, U.S. sales of home pools are up anywhere from 25 to 50 percent from last year. For those who don’t want to make the spend, the new Swimply is an app – like Airbnb for pools – that matches swimmers with available neighbourhood swimming pools. The service has taken off with more than 3,000 pools in 26 states and a smaller selection in Canada and Australia. Pool rental averages $45 per hour.

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the main U.S. industry trade group, forecasts a continued rise in revenues this year. “We’re hearing from members that have contracts booked out to late 2021 and even into early 2022,” Sabeena Hickman, the alliance’s president, told Reuters.

It’s a similar situation in Spain where summer temperatures sizzled during one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19. Spain’s Fluidra, one of the world’s largest swimming pool equipment makers, ran out of stock and production capability for its above-ground pools for the year by May. These models go for about US$1,500.

The race is on for industry suppliers and contractors to get on schedule for next year when the demand skyrockets again because of further waves of the virus and further restrictions. Economists say the cocooning effect will continue to offset the economic downturn. So if you’re thinking of taking the plunge for your own back yard, now is the time to start planning.

These days, the options for pools, patios and spas are incredibly impressive – which happens to be a great and timely advantage in the market. As the pandemic has restricted travel and holidays away, people are opting to invest in home improvements and amenities that give them a real sense of comfort and luxury. After all, who wouldn’t want a hot tub soak after the stress of mask-wearing and social distancing beyond your front door? Or perhaps some time in your luxurious swim spa, those small pools that use water jets or propellers to create a current that you can swim against for an effective workout or lazy float.

The idea is, you can better enjoy your time at home if you have some nature and an oasis to escape to in your tricked-out backyard. And it’s a nice bonus that numerous studies have shown that time outdoors in nature and physical exercise like swimming are both tonics for worry and stress. They boost feel-good endorphins and slow the mind’s natural process of rumination where you fret about the future in destructive ways.

In fact, aqua therapy is making a splash, too, as a way to soothe muscles and relieve anxiety. “Water is like medicine for a stressed-out mind – it has an immediate calming effect,” marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols says in Prevention Magazine.

So what’s trending right now for backyard retreats?

Firepits, a sauna, even adding a tennis court, if you have the room, to enrich the pool or hot tub experience. People want to make the most of outdoor spaces for healthy living and socializing. You can add a built-in pool bar just like the couples’ resorts.

Demand is also rising for outdoor kitchens, eating and entertaining areas, and privacy. Plant-filled structures and more greenery offer privacy screening and a feeling of inviting seclusion, even if homes are just a few feet from the neighbours.

As Chicago architect Michael A. Menn tells Forbes, “Being able to spend outdoor time with your family has been an escape – and close to freedom! People are enjoying their outdoor environments more and more,” he says. “I have seen more people ask for outdoor living environments, screened porches, gazebos and decks.”

When it comes to the pool itself, the white rectangular basic model is just a starting point to consider different shapes, sizes and materials. And if you decide to go with custom, freeform curvaceous granite pools can be space-friendly and unique. A kidney-shaped pool, for example, is round on both sides and curves inward on one edge, making it great for water features like waterfalls and grottos – caves for private relaxation. LED lights can be added to encourage more evening swimming, a treat on a hot summer night. Size may matter, depending on your needs. Homeowners are replacing shallow pools for deeper sports pools that can handle family water volleyball tournaments and other activities for fitness benefits.

You can also choose your water. It can be the more traditional freshwater that’s chlorinated for sanitation, or the popular saltwater for a more natural feel that is easier to maintain and gentler on skin and clothing. Consider the color, too. Pools with new, darker hues attract more sunlight so it will cost less to heat the water.

The best pool, of course, is the one that suits you and your budget. So who’s ready to dive in and be dazzled?

November 24, 2020, 8:48 PM EST