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Not Your Parents’ Backyard: These Hot Trends Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Today it is all about creating outdoor living spaces, like this steep-sloping ravine lot which was transformed into a full lifestyle backyard. Budget is always a factor, yet, for every feature there’s a choice of good, better, or best.

Interior finishes
One of the best advances and biggest trends for pools in Canada is inspired by the availability of new crushed aggregate finishes. Your pool’s plaster can now do more than determine the colour of the water; it can create a stunning visual tapestry of shimmering seashells, quartz, or river pebbles. The benefits are not only esthetic; durability is significantly improved with more resistance to staining, etching, and scratching.

These finishes are more costly, since they use more expensive aggregate in the mix and there’s more labour in manufacturing, but the benefits definitely outweigh the cost. A new and even more expensive finish uses luminescent glass beads set in an aggregate plaster base. It’s the most comfortable underfoot of any interior finish and offers the most dramatic reflective palette.

Specialty tiles
One of the hottest new trends is the use of glass tiles. Glass tiles are a striking way to accentuate special features such as the waterline of your pool or spa, or the exterior surface of your spa, spill wall or tanning shelf. Most are translucent with metallic flecks that twinkle in a myriad of colours in different lights. They can be slippery, so they’re not recommended for flat surfaces where traction underfoot is important. They are mostly used to complement a modern look and are not often found with traditional designs. They can be expensive, although some reasonably priced ones are now available that look quite good. Another trend for waterline tile is the use of black or charcoal-grey tile. These shades are so neutral the eye tends to skip over them and focus on the important colours of the interior plaster or coping. Adding a dark strip along the waterline not only lends a touch of elegance, but also adds dimension to your pool. Perhaps the most important trend is the development of high tech epoxy adhesives and waterproof grouts that make sure tiles stay in place and grout resists staining over the long-term. These significant advancements in durability are probably even bigger news than the design trends.

Best suited to large pools, tanning shelves are shallow underwater ledges where you can lounge in cool comfort. With the water about 305 mm (12 in.) deep, a tanning shelf is the perfect toddler’s play area.

Tanning shelves
Sometimes called a Baja ledge or sun shelf, these shallow ledges are the perfect spot for chaise lounges. Some people find it more relaxing to be stationary than bobbing around getting wet and drifting into the deep end. The trend started about 10 years ago, probably after people discovered them in sunspot resorts. Usually placed in the shallow end, tanning shelves can also make great toddler play areas. Most have a uniform depth of about 305 mm (12 in.), since the marbelite interiors of concrete pools need to be kept underwater, and for winterizing, water levels need to be lowered a few inches. Tanning shelves occupy a lot of space, and given you need about 3 m (9 ft) to walk around a chaise lounge, they are most often found in large pools.

Water features
Water features have changed radically. For years, the trend was to have clumps of rock spilling water into a kidney-shaped pool. This evolved into the full cottage-look backyard, some with massive waterfalls spilling over armour stone walls to simulate a mountain stream. They were very dramatic, but required a lot of real estate to look authentic. Now, with the trend towards rectangular pools, sheer descents with seamless sheets of water create an elegant look, while laminar jets, with concentrated laser-like streams arcing out of the deck into the pool, provide a vibrant Las Vegas touch. A more subtle water feature relies on the flow from a spill-over spa, a great way to add drama using the normal recirculation between your spa and pool. The sounds from water features differ widely: the trickle and splashes from spill-over spas, sheer descents, and laminar jets are quite subtle, while tumbling waterfalls are the most prominent. It’s a matter of personal taste and something important to consider. There are times when some sound is desirable such as to muffle noise from nearby traffic. Some water features have variable-speed pumps so you can vary the amount of flow and sound. If sound is important, you may also want to consider a high-quality outdoor sound system, another growing trend.

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