Infinity edge private swimming pools have become de rigeur in high-end resorts where privacy is the new luxury. Rebecca Lo looks at how these custom design sanctuaries provide safe havens for the ultimate escape

Infinity edge swimming pools never fail to impress. Most successful when the sightlines are dramatic, such as a city’s skyline from a rooftop hotel or between trees framing a sea view, they magically transform hotel swimmers into marathon athletes with the horizon as their finish line. They provide a tranquil, picturesque place to sunbathe, dine or relax, as the gently lapping waves against the edge is a view in itself.

With increasing competition from luxury resorts hoping to secure an edge – literally – infinity pools have made their way to the private villa. These hideaways, nestled in tropical hillsides of sun and surf destinations such as Phuket and Bali, have gained a strong following with the celebrity crowd.

Whisked from private jet to their secluded villa, celebrities never have to deal with another living soul (or paparazzi) should they choose not to while on holidays. With a private pool for serious laps, there is almost no need to go down to a beach, regardless of how private the property may be.

Montara Hospitality Group’s vice president of business development, Anthony Lark, equates the popularity of private villas with increasingly aggressive paparazzi and their increasingly sophisticated zoom lens. Suddenly, going away to a retreat hotel wasn’t enough anymore – celebrities needed their own residential villa on the property where they didn’t have to stir a single manicured toe outside its boundaries.

“Privacy is the great luxury, and luxury comes out of an experience, not a product,” he states. Trisara, Montara’s flagship property in Phuket, is Lark’s baby: he was its general manager for 10 years before handing over the reigns to current GM Antoine Melon.

Trisara is currently undergoing villa refreshment courtesy of Bangkok-based P49 Deesign; the firm was also responsible for the resort’s original interior design more than a decade ago alongside Bangkok-based landscape architect Bill Bensley. Carl Almeida, partner at P49, is overseeing the upgrades during Phuket’s low season and he has seen infinity edge pools become more ubiquitous over the years.

“It goes without saying these days that at the upper end of the resort market, having your own pool in your own villa is considered the minimal standard,” Almeida states. “Trisara created a benchmark by providing a 10-metre long by four-metre wide infinity edge swimming pool in each of its ocean villas.”

Functional aesthetics

“The more recently opened Pullman Phuket Arcadia pool villas have an infinity edge pool which encompasses the entire 17-metre length of the villa facing the sea. The width across the pool is free-form. While adding a functional element, the pools enhance the overall feeling and aesthetics of the external spaces. They bring reflected light into the villas as well as create endless horizons,” he adds.

“The preference for infinity edge in this respect creates a seamless transfer of views and blurs the difference between pool, landscape and sky.”

Trisara is situated on a western facing headland on the southern extreme of Naithon Beach, about 15 minutes from Phuket International Airport. Pullman Phuket Arcadia, which opened early 2013, is on the northern part of the same beach. Both properties are carved into the hillside, with Bangkok-based Habita Architects responsible for the exteriors and P49 for interiors.

“Bill Bensley and I sat down with a model of the Trisara headland and we placed the villas upon it to make sure each one had a view of the sea and not of its neighbours,” notes Lark. Such careful attention to detail a decade ago meant that each of the 48 ocean facing pool villas offer infinity edge swimming pools with vistas framed by mature foliage. They make guests feel like they are staying in their own little piece of paradise, and come complete with private access to the beach.

“When guests stay at a pool villa, they are expecting to be wowed,” notes Almeida. “They are expecting amazing views but privacy at the same time. Pool design for resort villas is about providing guests with an experience and situation where they do not need to leave their villa.

“The trend, therefore, is for pools to get bigger and more spectacular. Pools are engaging with their surrounding landscape and also with their villa to provide seamless flow from inside to outside, both functionally and visually.”

Despite the obvious lack of lifeguards in private pool villas, the trend is to design them to be as open as possible.

“For families with young children, we can install gates around the pool,” says Trisara’s Melon.

Whether it is a six-bedroom residence for large groups or a one-bedroom honeymoon retreat, Trisara’s villas are all oriented towards the rectangular swimming pool and views out to sea. A generous wooden deck allows for flexible furniture arrangements: sun loungers facing the pool during the day can be moved aside for early morning yoga sessions poolside or evening barbecue dinners.

The pool typically has a deeper section in the middle, while its perimeter is shallower. Stairs leading down to the pool are designed to double as seating.

Pullman offers 277 keys including one or two-bedroom villas, each with free-form, infinity edge swimming pools. The pool takes up a significant portion of the villa’s length, with bathroom, bedroom, pool deck and sala all directly accessible to the swimming pool.

Enhancing the guest experience

“They were designed to be extensions of the entire villa,” explains Almeida. “They are essential to the guest experience.”

Guests jump right in via fully operable sliding glass doors or descend via stairs adjacent to sun loungers. The blue tiles and curvilinear edge of the private pools blend in with the sea and sky’s natural forms, merging the pool with the surrounding landscape effortlessly.

Structurally, infinity edge pools can prove to be challenging.

“The visual benefits of an infinity edge pool versus a traditional one are significant, but come at a cost,” cautions Almeida. “The greater the amount of overflow to create the infinity edge, the greater amount of water tank storage is required, along with pumping that water back into the pool. The overflow detail to catch the water around the perimeter of the pool also adds costs to the overall design.

“In addition, infinity edge pools require a high degree of workmanship so that the overflow edge is perfectly straight and aligned, to avoid a visual break in the sheet of water at the edge. Many projects these days use a mix of traditional edge detail, where the water is contained, and infinity edge, where the view is focused, so that cost versus aesthetics is balanced.”