Swimming pools may be a favorite spot to cool off, but their surrounding terraces and decks have become increasingly inviting outdoor spaces to relax, socialize and work. Cushioned chaise lounges, all-weather woven furniture, plush round sunbeds and sectional sofas provide ample seating options for socializing, entertaining, relaxing or simply taking a nap alfresco. “With people spending more time at home this year, backyard design becomes more integral to the enjoyment of your space,” says New York City-based interior designer Elizabeth Muraro Hague. “In the last decade, home design has trended toward bringing the outside indoors by creating generous walls of windows and doors.”
Designers have noted seeing slatted wood poolside cabanas and comfy day beds with retractable canopies from luxury hotels to private residences. Some of the newest contoured loungers even rest in a few inches of water on resort-style Baja shelves for those who just don’t want to be far from the water. “I almost always make sure to add umbrella anchors to the bottom of my clients’ pools,” suggests Muraro Hague. “In the south, where the pools get used year-round, my clients are able to pop open umbrellas in the shallower sun shelf areas of their pools and never have to leave.”
Other daybeds float across pools—it’s a brave new world. A cabana island with comfy seating occupies the center of the circular pool at the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and round daybeds dot a circular deck. “Things have definitely changed,” says Lindsay Foster, senior director of merchandising for outdoor furniture at Frontgate. “Even 10 years ago, outdoor living was not for everyone. Now, the pool is a design space all its own.” Top luxury outdoor furniture brands like Brown Jordan, Manutti and Janus et Cie offer spacious outdoor couches and curvaceous plush seating that provide practical comfort. “There are so many companies out there who make beautiful backyard seating,” says Muraro Hague. “I love pieces from the Virginia-based Kingsley Bate. Their furniture is incredibly well-made.” Their social responsibility is appealing to their customers, as they work hand-in-hand with the governments in Java and Burma to responsibly forest the teak used in their products.
“People are investing in cantilevered umbrellas that go over the pool, so you can be both in the pool and in the shade,” says Foster. For those seeking shade, Jardinico’s sleek, rotating outdoor parasols provide solace for the sun-shy. “Tuuci makes my favorite umbrellas for the backyard,” says Muraro Hague. “With sun protection on the forefront of everyone’s minds these days, I have more clients requesting cabanas like the ones from Tuuci or larger cantilevered umbrellas to make sure they can have enough shady areas.” Sun- and water-safe fabrics are also now ubiquitous, and some floats, like Frontgate’s Soleil water lounger, can remain safely in the pool even on hot summer days. More functionality is being incorporated into poolside furnishings, too, with side tables containing built-in coolers for ice and beverages and seating clusters for cocktails. “It is about creating different moments by the pool and different uses throughout the day,” says Foster. In the pool, floating cabanas, foam chaises with cupholders, drifting bean bag chairs and buoyant mesh easy chairs will make it very unlikely you’ll venture far from the water.
At Arte by Antonio Citterio, a new ultra-luxury beachfront condominium development in Miami, a private spa area with an indoor pool leads to an outside pool area with teak sun loungers and an adjacent meditation pond lined with cabanas. Mixing textures like wood with woven and natural materials like wicker and rattan is a nice way to mix up outdoor furniture so it’s not too heavy or monotonous. “Kingsley Bate also makes weather-resistant woven resin, wicker and rattan,” says Muraro Hague. “I love mixing their teak and woven furniture together to create a warmer, more curated backyard space.” In Los Angeles, architects like Tom Kundig are finding that clients want outdoor spaces and pool areas that are “less fussy.” California is all about healthful living. “People want balance, meditative spaces and gardens and pools that give people a place to retreat to and allow them to connect with the natural landscape,” says Kundig. Now that we’re spending a lot more time at home, these calm, natural spaces provide a place to feel comforted and safe.