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The Art of the Outdoors


Create Elegant Ambiance With Water, Fire, Sculpture And Lighting

By Merry Wise

Adding art to your outdoor space can take your home to a whole new level of elegance. Consider adding the elements of water and fire and an interesting sculpture, and turn your whole creation into a wonderland with light at night.

Swimming pools, spas, and water features are a fabulous environment to add artistic elements to, adding to their value as a fun place for you and the kids to swim and exercise, and a great place to entertain. Most importantly, the pool and artistic elements should blend with the style of the home.


Water Features

For many years, the natural rock waterfall lagoon-style pools have been popular, and they can be the right style for a more rustic home. However, you want to avoid the appearance of a “polar bear habitat” that an overdone rock pool can create with a home that doesn’t blend. This look, though, can be very effective when softened with lush landscaping, fire and multiple smaller water weeping rocks rather than just one huge waterfall. Tiki huts and cabana outdoor living areas also can make this look transform the yard into a resort, if that is the plan.

For ultra-contemporary homes, in recent years the clean, zen look has been very effective in adding a water sculpture look to the yard, especially when designed with negative edge water features, spas that appear to “float” within a pool and perimeter overflow of water completely surrounding the pool, or flush with the deck. This type of pool particularly lends itself to a very simple black and white or charcoal color scheme.

Water features for pools, spas and fountains have become extremely varied and popular to elevate the art of water. Swimming pools have evolved into “watershapes,” and one reason is the availability of these elements. Sheer descent waterfalls, bubblers, fountains, and laminars — which are a thin stream of water often shooting from the four corners of a pool into the center — create artistic interest for even the simplest pool. And adding the element of lighting to the feature within the water itself turns it into an even more vibrant effect when the sun goes down.


The Excitement of Fire

Fire is another exciting way to create a more elegant effect outdoors. Fire as a decorative feature on pools and spas has taken them to a more dramatic level, and fire pits, fire tables and fire incorporated into waterfalls also are effective, as well as fire bowls of all descriptions.



An unexpected surprise that can upgrade an outdoor project for a home is sculpture. Most of us are used to seeing sculpture in public spaces, but it is also a great pleasure when incorporated properly into the home outdoor environment. It can even be used as part of a swimming pool or spas as well as a stand-alone feature in the landscape or hardscape.



Don’t overlook the role proper lighting can play in creating drama in the outdoor areas around a home. Effective lighting can transform a swimming pool, spa or fountain and the surrounding area from a cement pond into a fabulous feature within the landscape. Many new options in lighting can dramatize everything from trees and plants to a body of water itself, including the color-changing lighting now available for pools and spas.

Lighting is especially fun for entertaining, and many lighting packages offer seasonal options to observe holidays. They also are controlled electronically, and many even have an option to be controlled from a cellphone for ultimate convenience. There are red, white, and blue settings for the Fourth of July, for example, or a green option for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There are even other intriguing subject categories such as “romance” for lighting up a couple’s “getaway” vacation right at home!

Today, many builders and designers opt to design the exterior of a project first, giving the art of the outdoors special priority in the creation of the space. Elevating it with the many elements available surrounds the home with the ambiance of a work of art inside and out for a unique living experience.


Merry Wise spent more than 40 years as a swimming pool pro and is the author of Cruising Through Pool Care The Wise Way, a basic pool care guide for pool owners.


These sculptural elements add a whimsical look to the swimming pool while incorporating art to the whole outdoor setting.

These sculptural elements add a whimsical look to the swimming pool while incorporating art to the whole outdoor setting.

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