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 what my parents told me growing up, every time I wished for one 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.
Lately, 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 a third.
What were all these stock tank pools, I wondered, and how could I get one?
Stock tanks, as I discovered, are made from galvanized metal, are round or sometimes oval, and used to hold water for livestock. (They’re basically “oversized metal buckets,” as one article puts it.) But quarantine ingenuity—and the need to make our own backyards our vacation spots, too—has popularized another use for them: as tiny plunge pools. Stock tank pools might seem like outsized blow-up pools (they’re only about two feet deep, so no diving and not a lot of swimming), but there’s still a lot to love. They offer a place to splash, lounge around, float, and cool off for a fraction of the cost and space of a normal pool (they come in sizes from about three feet to six, eight, or even 10 feet across). And they’re a lot easier to install: All you need is some sturdy and level ground to set it. Worried about keeping it clean and inviting? Best to retrofit it with a filter and pump. (This site has a pretty good overview.)
And stock tank pools are a lot better looking than their origins suggest. True, they were originally designed for agricultural reasons, 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. If I ever move permanently 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) and a mini wrap-around deck. Note the hooks on the fence for keeping towels handy.
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 petite deck built around the curve of the pool via @stonewayswimclub in Austin that's just big enough for two loungers (and provides a place to sit for those who just want to dangle their feet in). Or you could have a rubber duck for company.
Stock tank pools can be set in the ground, too, like this mini oasis spotted on Stock Tank Pool Authority. An umbrella, cacti, and lounger complete the picture.
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.
Proof that these pools look pretty darn good left undone: this white one in a super-minimal desert setup via Joshua Tree-based wedding photographer Victoria Bonvicini.
A teeny stock tank pool via Stocktankstore—outfitted with an ad-hoc outdoor shower setup and set in a secluded spot—becomes an extra refreshing place to spend a summer afternoon.