The perfect pool: Design, furniture and the best food for parties
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
- NZ House & Garden