More than a place to put a beer fridge and a shower, a pool house can act as a mini vacation spot. Directing the views away from the main house and focusing across the pool toward distant vistas can create the illusion of a retreat within the backyard. These five projects all take advantage of nearby natural assets to generate secluded, exclusive backyard resorts.

  • Credit: Robert Benson Photography

Revival Spirit
This Concord, Mass., pool house consists of a screened-in breezeway between identical shingled pavilions, creating the impression of “two freestanding buildings with the copper roof acting like a tent between them,” says architect John Tittmann. Those lounging within the screen walls or eating al fresco by the built-in grill can gaze across the pool to views of wetlands and the river about 600 feet away. Randomly hewn bluestone pavers flow seamlessly from the pool house floor outside to the pool deck. Low stone walls outline the pool and terrace the gentle slope of this 4-acre site.

Builder: Thoughtforms, Acton, Mass.; Architect: Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, Boston; Landscape architect: Elizabeth Hanna Morss, Concord, Mass.; Photographer: Robert Benson Photography


  • Credit: Dominique Vorillon

Open House

This 680-square-foot pavilion features disappearing glass walls on three sides. “The idea was to do as little enclosure as we could,” explains architect David Montalba. The concrete wall that runs through the pool house acts as a vertical anchor around which the pavilion was built. A 42-foot cambered steel beam gives the gabled roof enough support so that concrete roof tiles don't put pressure on the sliding glass. Gutters concealed behind the first row of roof tiles whisk away water without marring the design's sleek lines. Ashlar-cut sandstone extends beyond the see-through walls to form a roomy terrace with fireplace. Montalba strengthened the bond between pavilion and pool by making them the same size and shape.

Builder: Sarlan Builders, Santa Monica, Calif.; Architect: Montalba Architects, Santa Monica; Lighting consultant: John Brubaker, Los Angeles; Photographer: Dominique Vorillon

  • Credit: Dominique Vorillon

  • Credit: Dominique Vorillon


  • Credit: Ron Papageorge

Shadow Dance
This East Hampton, N.Y., pool house is all about enhancing outdoor spaces. Architect Christopher DiSunno in effect doubled the local building code limit of 250 square feet by elongating the roof overhang, generating a 250-square-foot protected patio. Since the design offers ample shade, DiSunno could face the pool house into the afternoon sun so it wouldn't cast long shadows on the pool. Outdoor showers flank the cedar-shingled building, which houses twin dressing rooms connected by a powder room. For entertaining, an amenity-filled wet bar sits just inside the center doors. The pool house lies perpendicular to the main house, allowing those inside the main house or those enjoying the pool house to look across the 3-acre estate's manicured lawns rather than staring at another building.

Builder: Men at Work Construction, Wainscott, N.Y.; Architect: DiSunno Architecture, East Hampton, N.Y.; Photographer: Ron Papageorge


  • Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

Side Angle
By pulling apart the pool house into twin structures, architect Stephen Vanze created a rectilinear outdoor space within the odd angles of a pie-shaped suburban lot. The pool house protects the yard from the main road about 15 feet beyond and creates a pleasant end view to the long, narrow lot. The 6-by-10-foot buildings appear to be simply placed on top of the low stone wall that encloses the entire rear yard. Water flows over a pile of stones between and just behind the two little buildings. The sound of water masks noisy traffic and humming pool equipment. A pergola connecting the matching buildings casts shadow and light to the spa below and forges an architectural bond with the main house.

Builder: Horizon Builders, Crofton, Md.; Architect: Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, D.C.; Landscape designer: Osamu Shimizu, Glen Echo, Md.; Pool contractor: Alpine Pool, Burke, Va.; Photographer: Hoachlander Davis Photography


  • Jeffrey Jacobs for Esto

    Credit: Jeffrey Jacobs for Esto

    Jeffrey Jacobs for Esto
Nature Preserved

The owners wanted more than just a pool house for their wooded 3.5-acre Memphis property bordering a nature preserve. They also wanted it to be a party place where multiple generations could gather and a comfortable guest house that would take full advantage of their backyard forest. To meet those challenges, architect Todd Walker insisted that everything from foundation materials to tools be carried in by hand so as not to disturb the trees or erode the 13-foot grade. His design faces large expanses of glass due south across the pool to catch the sun without a lot of solar gain. He chose reclaimed cypress shingle siding and trim that will weather to match the bark of adjacent trees. An exaggerated roof pitch is a nod to the traditional main house, but primarily serves as a way to include a play loft.

Builder: Evergreen Construction, Memphis; Architect: Archimania, Memphis; Photographer: Jeffrey Jacobs for Esto