Building or resurfacing your pool is a wonderful opportunity to create an aquatic environment that reflects your style and personality. You are able to create a space that utilises colour and form and is as enjoyable to behold as it is to swim in.

Most interior and landscape designers agree that colour is a vital element of design and it is helpful to understand the impact that the surrounding environment, tile colours, contrasting textures, ambient lighting, body shape and location will have on the colour of your pool. It’s also good to be aware of the impact a large volume of richly toned water will have on its surroundings as well. A crystal-clear pool colour may evoke a clean, fresh open atmosphere, whereas a vibrant blue suggests island vacations and rock pools.

The challenge with pool design and colour choice is understanding the nature of light and colour. Your final water tones may appear quite different to your neighbour’s even when you use the same base colour. This is for many reasons.

What is colour?

The different colours we see are the result of variation in light wave frequency. Your pool will receive light radiated from the sun, however as the waves either reflect off, or travel through particles, the waves change in frequency which results in the spectrum of colours we are familiar with. By the time sunlight bounces off your pool, it’s already been influenced by the earth’s atmosphere, clouds and the colours and shadows of surrounding trees and structures. Once it enters the water, it will deviate in direction and move slower in what is referred to as refraction. Refraction also influences colour – it is the reason rainbows appear when it rains. Water droplets interfere with light waves. To add to the equation, light will also be reflected in some areas by the shiny surface of the water if it hits at the right angle. That is why rippling water shimmers – some of the light travels through the water at certain angles of entry, while others bounce off and dazzle the eye.

Aspect

In Australia southern light provides softer cooler, consistent colours than from the north which tends to be harsh and more intense. The southern light does not create dramatic contrasts or dazzling glare. Light from directly overhead is always the purest, with less atmosphere to impede it and has the least amount of colouration. As the sun goes down in the evening and rises in the morning the atmosphere plays a larger role, impeding light waves, and the colours tend to become warmer and softer. As a rule of thumb, light from the east and west will produce warm reds and golds, light from the south is cooler, and light from the north is harsh and highly reflective.

Pool placement

You may not have an opportunity to choose the placement of your pool, however, if you do have that choice, ensuring the pool is on the southern side of your house will bathe it in cool blues and greens, and result in a comfortable glow without direct glare from the sun.

Alternatively, you can create an environment where the sun sparkles intensely off the pool at certain times of day and you may wish to position it to the east or west side of your property. An eastern pool will be bathed in early morning light, and become full of blue shadows by dusk. A west- facing pool will be cool and quiet in the morning, and golden and bright by sunset.

Finally, a pool placed in northern light will have a similar consistency to southern light, but with a slightly warmer, more golden character.

Choosing surrounding colours

Contrasting colours can highlight the intensity of the blues in your pool. But don’t forget they will also reflect and influence the way light behaves as well as change the ambiance of your pool area. Your choice of pool edging tiles and your house colour can either contrast with your pool interior and highlight shapes and edges, or complement and intensify the richness of your blues.

Strong contrasts can energise an area. For example, a bright orange toned house sitting next to a pool using cerulean blue waterline tiles coupled with a lighter blue for the pool interior creates a dramatic contrast. On the other hand the same house using softer sandstone-coloured waterline tiles would result in a more subdued and elegant effect providing a gentle transition between the house colour and pool colour.

Sometimes using contrasting neutrals, such as black and white can create an interesting transition between colours without being excessively vibrant.

Design and colour considerations

When choosing your pool interior colour, you need to be aware of your surrounding environment. You will need to consider the following:

  • What colour is the house, fencing/gating, decking, roof, and any other exterior features?
  • Will there be waterline tile? If so, what colour will the waterline tile be? Will there be a design, or a solid block of colour?
  • What colour is the landscaping and garden?
  • Should there be interior lighting?

A light pool colour will make the water appear brighter and cleaner, but may show wear more easily, whereas a richer colour may make the pool appear to be deeper. If lighting is installed in the pool, lighter colours will increase the extent of the light range, whereas darker colours can create intriguing pockets of light for night swimming.

Waterline tiles are an excellent way to tie colour from the surroundings to the pool area. For example, capturing the colours of plants or features around the pool and using small highlights in the same colour interspersed with more neutral tones can draw the eye from the pool to the surroundings and create an interesting transition.

Lighting

When choosing lighting for in and around your pool, you will need to consider whether you would prefer a warm or cool coloured light. Generally, you should try to choose a lighting hue that will harmonise with the main colour in your pool environment.

Lighting can intensify colours, so after safety concerns are taken care of, focus on areas that call for additional drama. Not only do underwater lights provide illumination when swimming, but they will also make your pool glow in the evenings.

Light fixtures can be placed high above in trees and aimed downward, creating a soft, romantic glow. Brighter spotlights can be placed at gates and points of entry to make access to the pool easier. Additional low lighting points offer a relaxed and inviting environment that reduces the harshness of spot lights.

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