How to design the perfect pool house

A pool house can be a multi-functional space and act as useful extra accommodation all year round.


Set in the walled garden of a Grade I-listed 17th-century manor house in Gloucestershire, this pool house was designed by Alex Michaelis (020–7221 1237;, one half of the Notting Hill-based architecture practice Michaelis Boyd, whose work includes London’s Soho House, Babington Hotel in Somerset and, more recently, the apartments in Battersea Power Station in SW8. The exterior is clad in a silvery wood and at either end are walls of exposed brick. Vast floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open on both sides, leading in one direction to the pool area and to the tennis courts in the other.

Interior designer Rose Uniacke (020–7730 7050; was commissioned to decorate the interiors. An antique dealer and furniture designer with premises on London’s Pimlico Road, she’s known for her ability to combine the old with the new to create a light, relaxed feel.

The owners commissioned Rose to create a harmonious interior within the context of the contemporary structure. The room offers a family living space and kitchen as well as a changing area, spa and sauna. Reclaimed wood was used extensively to accentuate a seamless blend with the outdoors. It was also important for the space to function independently of the pool and tennis court and that it could be used all year round.

Ask the expert

perfect pool house

An indoor pool designed by John Evans

Designer John Evans (; 0121–233 9041) suggests ways to create the perfect indoor pool

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What are the current trends?

We’re increasingly seeing more interest in indoor pool rooms—unless climate change makes a big difference in this country, it makes more sense to invest in something that you can use year round. No project is the same as another, of course: some people’s plans are quite straightforward and traditional in their design, but those of some clients are more complex. Almost all indoor pool rooms will include an element of other leisure facilities besides swimming—a spa area or a gym are pretty standard, but it can get more complicated.

What’s the most elaborate design?

We’re currently going through the planning process for a very unusual project that involves building down two levels under a large conservatory that is part of a listed house. As well as a bowling alley, cinema room and games room, there will be a swimming lane that, subject to permission coming through, will connect with an indoor pool situated in a separate pool house.

perfect pool house

Furniture by McKinnon & Harris (020–7349 9085,

What are the main challenges?

Humidity is a big factor in indoor pool houses and it’s crucial to consider the finishes of everything from the flooring to the joinery and the furniture to ensure they’ll be able to withstand variations in temperature. A lot of interior designers don’t like taking on such projects because of this, but we’ve been doing them for a long time and know which materials will work in the environment.

Stone or wood?

We favour natural stone both indoors and outdoors, but our tip is to have it bush-hammered to give it a rough, non-slip finish. It also creates a seamless effect between the pool room and the terrace as it’s hardy enough to cope with the worst winter frosts. Artisans of Devizes ( has a travertine and limestone we like.

Bar or kitchen?

Twenty years ago, it was standard to have perhaps a sink and drinks fridge in a pool, but, today, we’re putting in a lot more fully equipped outdoor kitchens with extra elements, such as pizza ovens. When they first started appearing, the choice in finishes was rather limited, but, these days, it’s pretty much endless. The classic combination of teak against stainless steel works well, but there’s also a fashion for copper or brass plating.

Any furniture tips?

perfect pool house

Ginestra table, £5,830, by B&B Italia (020–7591 8111;

I like Summit’s ( teak loungers and have used them successfully for a large outdoor pool area, where they weathered beautifully into a silver colour. B&B Italia ( also makes a lovely range of outdoor furniture, which has a wonderful lightness to it. For a more traditional look, I’m very taken with the quality and style of McKinnon and Harris (

Any other decorative tips?

For outdoor fabrics, we use Perennials ( and Sunbrella ( and I’m really taken by the range of indoor/outdoor rugs from Dash & Albert ( We use many different lighting manufacturers, but Hunza ( is
a really good range that’s suitable for both exterior use and damp, interior conditions.

To pool or not to pool?

Hurrah—it’s July and the summer holidays are in sight, but, given Britain’s unpredictable weather, what’s the appetite these days for