The Shape of Water: A Look at the The Most Popular Pool Designs

It can be the hardest part of building a swimming pool. You know what you like, but can’t quite put it into the right words. I mean, you only get one shot at this, so you’d better make it count, right?

I’m talking, of course, about pool design. Before you ever dive in, before you need to know how to maintain the water, before you even sign the contract, you have to decide on a design. And (thank goodness) pool styling has come a long way from the standard “kidney bean” design. Now we have lagoon, modern, Mediterranean, natural, infinity, freeform and on and on. The design of the modern-day pool is limited only by your imagination, style and how many hours you’ve spent on Pinterest.

Now, most of these designs are for the fully custom in-ground pool. There’s only so much design you can play around with when you start talking about drop-in vinyl-lined or above-ground pools. You’re pretty limited there to kidney bean, rectangle or circle.

But if you’re here, chances are you’re not looking into those options anyway. So for the rest of our conversation, we’ll be focusing on custom in-ground pools. Just the way we like it at Radelli.


Modern is a pretty nebulous term, especially when it comes to swimming pools. But a modern pool is typically geometric, with sharp lines and corners and a more minimal feel. If a spa is involved, it can either stand above the pool as a focal point and water feature or it can be tucked under the water as a hidden oasis.

As the name suggests, modern pools are usually made with modern materials. Stained concrete and travertine or light gray/white geometric pavers are hallmarks of a modern pool. Light colors of stone and coping outside contrast with deep blues, greens and grays of tile inside, giving the feel of a white sand beach on a remote Caribbean island.

Any water features are kept to a minimum and are usually left to a spa spillover, maybe some stone or metal scuppers or a water curtain-style waterfall. Save the stone falls for the natural pools, please and thank you.


Much like the Modern pool design, Mediterranean pools are geometric with straight lines, but also have curved or scalloped corners. There is usually more room in the design for fountains and water or fire features. But they still maintain the modern feeling materials while also mixing that old-world Roman bathing pool charm.


A lagoon-style pool has a much more natural feel to it. Usually, it’ll have decorative round rocks instead of square-cut stone, making the pool feel like it was always there instead of something that was built up in your backyard.

Free-flowing edges, beach entry and waterfalls add to the oasis ambiance to the lagoon pool.


Another very popular modern-esque style is the infinity pool. Do you have a view from your pool that you want to keep unspoiled by coping, waterfalls and skimmers? With an infinity edge, your pool is just the middleman to your backyard escape.

While this style isn’t feasible with a lot of yards, if you live on the side of a mountain with plenty of beautiful views and elevation change, it could be the perfect touch to make your pool truly spectacular.


While not the most popular style pool anymore, you can’t get much more bang for your buck than a round pool. The perfect circle gives as much surface area as possible while maintaining as much yard as you can.

Plus, with no pesky corners to contend with, maintenance and cleaning is a breeze. The natural flow of the water is able to sweep mildew and fungus from the walls and floor without back-breaking daily sweeping and vacuum sessions.


For those looking to blend the wavy, rounded styling of a lagoon pool with the clean materials of a modern pool, a freeform design is the perfect choice. Sweeping curves fit into the natural landscape while keeping with a more up-to-date aesthetic.

Sheer water curtains and spa overflows are typically the features of choice, instead of the bulky boulder waterfalls in the lagoon-style pools.

Of course (as with any custom pool design) there’s no end to design flexibility. As long as there’s space and imagination, whatever shape you can dream, you can do!