Unless you have a huge backyard, significant funds (seriously—thousands or tens of thousands of dollars), and the time to keep it pristine, installing a pool is not achievable. At least, that’s we were told growing up, whenever we’d ask for one—predictably, the requests got louder on a hot summer day. For the pool-less like us however, there were other creative, pack-it-away-when-you’re-done means of keeping cool that were, let’s say, more nostalgic (and fun): slip-n-slides, kiddie pools, the good old sprinkler.
Over the last year, though, everywhere I look, I’ve been seeing another alternative that’s a little closer to the real thing: stock tank pools. First, there was one on the Instagram story of a friend, charmingly set onto a patio with fairy lights strung above. Then a second. And then a tidal wave of ’em.
What were all these stock tank pools, I wondered, and how could I get one?
I did some digging and found that stock tank pools are actually pretty standard farm fixtures. They are made from galvanized metal (sometimes, plastic), are generally round or oval-shaped, and are traditionally used to hold water and feed for livestock. (They’re basically “oversized metal buckets,” as one article puts it.) Thanks to an extended stay-at-home directive, some ennui, and lots of ingenuity, they exploded in popularity as a relatively simple alternative to a pool. Less swimming pool, more plunge or soaking pool (they’re typically only about two feet deep, but can go up to about 10 feet in diameter for round tanks), they have the potential to turn your home into a pretty great vacation spot. And at a fraction of the cost involved in digging up your backyard to build a swimming pool.
They’re also far less tedious to install: All you need is some sturdy and level ground to set it up. However, it’s not as simple as buying one, plopping it down, and filling it up. This site has a pretty good overview of how to go about it. The tutorial reiterates that it’s also equally important to know how to maintain your pool: You need to treat your pool once a week to keep consistent chlorine levels, and replace the filter every couple months.
Stock tank pools are also a lot better looking than their hardy origins suggest. True, they were originally designed for agricultural purposes, not to “look good,” but that’s exactly what I like about them: their simple, minimalist look. Leave them bare-boned, paint them, or build a deck around them—they’ll look pretty good no matter what (and feel even better). If I ever move out of New York City, I just might get one myself.
A corner of designer Bri Moysa’s cement patio becomes a pool deck thanks to a stock tank pool (painted black), accompanied by an umbrella, a woven deck chair, outdoor pillows, and plants (we love that thriving Dracena!). We can’t picture a more perfect summertime spot.
This Instagrammer’s minimal stock tank pool is softened with a couple of potted plants, no involved landscaping needed.
No need to hem yourself in with any one pool vibe, either: Erin Barrett, designer and owner of Charleston-based Sunwoven, paints her stock tank pool every summer, which we think is such a fun idea. We are fans of this year’s choice: a serene pale turquoise, but here are a few shots from summers past.
A deck built around the curve of the 10-foot pool via @stonewayswimclub in Austin is big enough for two loungers and a couple chairs (but also provides a place to sit for those who just want to dangle their feet in). Their trick for keeping that pool so clean? Skimming it everyday, and using chlorine in a floating rubber ducky floaty called Stoneway Steve.
A tiki torch-pathway leads to this hideaway that’s surrounded by banana trees. The best part? The backyard is attached to a rare 1956 midcentury airstream located in Atlanta that’s available to rent.
A bright stock tank setup via Andria Garcia. Word is that the metal keeps water cool, even on summer days. What would keep it ever cooler? A vine-like climbing plant grown to cover that beautiful trellised roof.
This one right here is proof that, sometimes, less is more. This bare-bones-but-far-from-boring desert setup comes via Joshua Tree-based wedding photographer Victoria Bonvicini.
The owner of this enviable pool actually found it on a movie prop sale! Talk about great luck. What also caught our eye? That adorable flamingo beverage cup holder—we could think of a million beverages we’d like to sip as we soak.
This pool setup in a Joshua Tree retreat takes things to the next level. Seemingly everything’s better in Joshua Tree.
Another beauty in Joshua Tree! This one comes with a DIY wooden pool bench around it (feeling crafty? here’s a guide to building one)—for those days when you don’t want to get all the way in, but want your toes wet. The best part? This home is a holiday rental, so this pool can be one of your favorite summer memories this year.
An oasis if there ever was one! We love the styling of this backyard—and have our eye on those comfy-but-stylish outdoor lounge chairs. Safe to say: If this was ours, we’d never leave.
We love everything about this backyard setup, from the pool (duh!) to the pebbled floor, the creamsicle orange door—even those handy towel hooks. And who can ignore the oversized floats!
Look at the Scandi sauna-like vibe on this! And that tiered seating means that you can go from lounging to dipping in literally one step.
We may have left the jaw-dropping stock tank pool makeover for last! These Nashville-based design bloggers (and the gals behind Stock Tank Pool used Plasti Dip, a peel-able, removable specialty rubber coating to paint their pool and then stencil on a Mud Cloth-like pattern to it.
What are you doing to make your backyard an oasis this summer? Tell us in the comments.
This article was updated in June 2021 to underscore just how much we love stock tank pools.