Emily Henderson Designed Her Portland Farm’s Garden Around a Plunge Pool—Here’s Why
It was all part of a big backyard overhaul.
Yes, a huge, impressive pool can be #backyardgoals, but it might not be the most practical thing, especially when you consider location and how much time and money you want to spend on maintenance. That’s what designer Emily Henderson and her family thought when they were doing a big overhaul of their property in Portland, Oregon—which included shrinking the sports court; adding a pool area, pool house, garden, and flagstone pathway all around the whole property; and putting in a new healthy lawn in the front.
“When we first closed on the farm, the innocent fantasies for the property began. With almost three acres we technically have the land for a big old pool. But living in the Pacific Northwest it doesn’t make as much sense to spend that kind of money or space to stare at a pool cover eight months of the year,” Emily explains. “At the same time, thanks to climate change, the summers are now crazy hot, and while there are rivers and public pools, the heat last summer reignited the pool question with the same ‘it just doesn’t make sense for us’ conclusion.” Emily says she even considered a bio-dynamic swimming pool, but realized that wasn’t quite a fit, either.
The idea was almost a lost cause until she came across Soake Pools and found that one of their plunge pools checked all their boxes and could be used year-round as a hot tub or regular pool. The low-maintenance features of a plunge pool—it costs less to install, heat, and maintain—were convincing factors in their decision, too.
Emily’s vision was to design her garden around the pool. “We wanted the plunge pool to act as a secret surprise water feature surrounded by potted plants, greenery, and a wooden split rail fence—all central to the greenhouse and veggie garden,” she explains. “This way, the pool blends in with the space when not in use. However, it’s still easily accessible and designed using rectangular flagstone for the hardscape, which provides ample space around the pool to play without being pressed right up against the garden.”
Emily worked with landscape designer, Studio Campo, to create “something rustic with splashes of greenery,” and Native Northwest on the pool installation. And the best part? Since she and her family opted to install a pool with a smaller physical footprint (13’ x 7’), they were able to save time and money, which they could use towards landscaping.
The Soake Pools team made sure everything from design to installation went off without a hitch. “We worked closely on all aspects of the project from the pool design and layout, tile choice, cover decisions, and also the logistics of the project,” says Karen Larson, co-founder of Soake Pools. “Our technical team was in touch with their installers and landscape team before, during, and after the project.”
Now the plunge pool is truly the centerpiece of the backyard, both a place to gather or chill after playing on the pickleball court a few steps away. “We love it so much. It’s simply wonderful and so perfect for our needs and wants,” Emily says. “The plunge pool checks more boxes than I thought possible, plus it’s really pretty to look at! It’s such a lovely, enjoyable visual feature and combined with the farm vibe, with the wild grasses and split rail, still feels appropriately understated. Aside from swimming with the kids, it is a perfect hangout and entertaining spot! We have the kids and their friends come over to swim, play pickleball, and relax in nature.”