The perfect pool: Design, furniture and the best food for parties

A little pool house provides a focal point at night and a handy spot to get changed or stash pool paraphernalia.
TESSA CHRISP

A little pool house provides a focal point at night and a handy spot to get changed or stash pool paraphernalia.

The best pools are guest magnets – cleverly designed for effortless summer entertaining.

SETTING THE SCENE

A pool sets the scene for summer entertaining – creating comfortable surrounding areas for chatting, sharing a cocktail or enjoying a long, lazy lunch will mean you'll use it even more. 

The best pool landscaping complements the architecture of the home; the bronze urn at the end of this pool matches the ...
Jane Ussher

The best pool landscaping complements the architecture of the home; the bronze urn at the end of this pool matches the classical style of the home.

Setting the party mood: If you're building a pool house or cabana to enhance your outdoor entertaining area, think about lighting, heating and built-in entertainment systems – all elements that will help you create a party atmosphere. Spending a bit extra on these items can make all the difference, says Mark Read of Natural Habitats. 

READ MORE:
*How to plan your outdoor living space
*Outdoor furniture trends for summer
*Build a DIY outdoor shower

 
Even the simplest pool house built from inexpensive materials will provide protection from the elements and a place to ...
GUY FREDERICK

Even the simplest pool house built from inexpensive materials will provide protection from the elements and a place to laze and read or socialise with a glass of wine.

Comfort matters: No one wants to bake, so a shade sail or a sturdy umbrella that won't flip in the wind will make the area usable even on the hottest days. And when buying outdoor furniture, make sure the seating is comfortable enough; plenty of cushions in outdoor fabrics will mean you'll lounge for longer. 

POOL HOUSES

Landscape designer Mark Read, of Natural Habitats, has designed pool houses for more than 25 years. First of all, he says, you need to ask what you want to use it for. Will you host a 21st birthday there, or is it just a space to shelter from the sun? Tie the design into the architecture of the house and consider whether you need open sides or walls. (A 20sqm structure with open sides can be built without a permit.) 

Ficus provides a more attractive backdrop than a plain fence for a Tauranga plunge pool.
SALLY TAGG

Ficus provides a more attractive backdrop than a plain fence for a Tauranga plunge pool.

Consider the wind. "I personally don't favour plastic drop-down sides as they flap around in the breeze," says Mark. Instead he uses windbreak mesh fabrics. "They're showerproof and more stylish and you can even put them on motorised runners." Louvre screens that slide away can also be a good option. 

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While thatched roofs may look romantic, Mark advises that they can be impractical in the New Zealand climate and will need to be relaid every five or 10 years. Flooring should also be durable and work with the materials around the pool. The best option can be to continue the pool tile into the pool house, he says. 

FOOD FOR POOL PARTIES

Summer entertaining is all about ease and creating a holiday vibe. NZ House & Garden food editor Sally Butters says anything on a skewer works well for a poolside party: marinated garlicky prawns; lamb kebabs served with pita bread and yoghurt sauce… food on a stick just seems more fun. Pinwheel sandwiches are perfect for lunch by the pool (no plates!) or try sliders filled with prawns, thousand island mayonnaise and crunchy iceberg lettuce. When it comes to dessert, fruit kebabs with the odd marshmallow sandwiched between strawberries and slices of stone fruit make a kid-friendly treat.

Create your own elegant ice blocks  – or just whizz up watermelon flesh with lime juice and freeze. Dish up fancy ice creams with the cones lined with melted chocolate. Big jugs of icy drinks won't get too diluted if you add icy frozen fruit juice cubes. Or freeze bits of fruit to float in the drink. 

FIRE & FOLIAGE 

Masses of jasmine provide a sweetly scented backdrop to this Gisborne pool.
PAUL MCCREDIE

Masses of jasmine provide a sweetly scented backdrop to this Gisborne pool.

To add impact and personality to a pool area, planting, sculpture or a fireplace are good options. Fences covered in a climber or disguised by lush green hedging create a softer feel. Look for plants that won't drop too many leaves in the pool.

A water feature at one end of the pool, a magnificent potted palm or an outdoor sculpture can also add appeal.

To encourage people to stay long into the night chatting, add a fireplace – either wood-burning or gas. Fire pits have the advantage of 360-degree sociability: everyone gets their fair share of the heat and, as with a circular dining table, it's possible to chat to those across from you. They can be relatively inexpensive – you can buy semi-mobile vessels to place on the patio or create a fire pit from a recycled find, such as a steel barrel or a concrete pipe. If you opt for a built-in version, use the same stone or tile as the pool to tie the two together.

Taranaki designer Michael Mansvelt used concrete planters for the poolside flaming torches he designed, and Living Flame ...
JANE USSHER

Taranaki designer Michael Mansvelt used concrete planters for the poolside flaming torches he designed, and Living Flame in Auckland made the gas flare mechanism.

Palms are perfect in this resort-like Whangarei pool area, which shows a strong Balinese influence.
TESSA CHRISP

Palms are perfect in this resort-like Whangarei pool area, which shows a strong Balinese influence.

 - NZ House & Garden

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