Spa Style

Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living Spring 2005
Considering a spa? Here are some ways to make sure it doesn’t become the ugly duckling of your backyard. No matter where you install your hot tub or spa, make sure it works as a getaway, not just a piece of outdoor patio furniture.

Sense of Enclosure
No matter how well it’s landscaped, a spa plopped in the middle of the yard will seem exposed, especially to those using it. Create a sense of enclosure and privacy with a wall — either one attached to a permanent structure or a freestanding one.

Design Tips: Give the wall an antique look by slopping on watered-down latex paint. Use wall art and ornamental containers to carry the theme further.

Added Height
Structures aren’t the only way to give a spa a comfy home. Wise plant selection can also help. Tall plants in particular give a mild sense of enclosure that won’t overpower. Examples here include Russian sage, catmint, canna, Asiatic lily, ornamental grasses, roses, and dill.

Design Tips: Raising a sunken spa slightly, as shown here, keeps pets and careless guests from accidentally falling into the water. Also, the ledge serves as a resting spot for beverages or even guests who opt not to get in the spa.

Featured Act
A spa should be soothing, not headache-inducing. These neutral mosaic tiles are visually tame and match up well with the wood on the planters and lounge chair. Container plants stick with a palette of two colors, keeping the scene from looking busy.

Design Tips: An in-ground spa is more appropriate for a small yard. It’s less imposing and won’t steal attention from the surrounding landscape. It also affords more privacy than an aboveground model, especially when surrounded by a low wall.

Artistic License
A raised surround gives a spa added presence in the landscape, so it’s important to find a material or design that is appealing. This brightly painted cement surround has become a work of art, rather than a utilitarian enclosure.

Design Tips: If you paint a surround, choose a design motif that blends in. Try one that fits your region, such as the Southwestern-inspired mural of quail and cacti seen here. If you’re artistically challenged, try using themed stencils from a crafts store.

Cover Up
Get more use from your spa by enclosing it with a gazebo, covered porch, or three-season sunroom. The idea is to moderate surrounding temperatures and prevent windchill. The best enclosures have high ceilings (to prevent feelings of claustrophobia) and lots of windows (to bring the outdoors in).

Design Tips: Incorporate surrounding walls into the spa decor with paint, tile, and/or artistic elements. Be sure to include boisterous houseplants to bring the garden closer.

Join the Pool
If you’re constructing an in-ground pool, consider integrating a spa. This one blends in with the pool and adds the welcome sound of running water.

Design Tips: Break up large expanses of concrete to make the spa seem more inviting. Potted plants and a chiminea effectively mitigate the stark wall and conceal valves for the spa and pool, while natural stone softens the spa edges.

Enhance Your Spa Retreat

Interested in creating a spa retreat in your backyard? Here are some tips from the National Spa & Pool Institute.

The Right Site:
Always consider accessibility. You’re more likely to use a spa — especially in cold weather — if it’s easily accessible from the house. Aesthetics are important too. Consider how the placement of the spa will affect the look of your landscape.

A Good Foundation:
Whether you set up your spa on an existing patio or deck or want to conquer unexplored terrain, you’ll need a firm, level surface that supports a minimum of 90 pounds per square foot. The size of your spa will dictate the exact amount of space needed. Drainage is also important. Water needs to flow away from your house and any other structures, including your spa.

Landscaping around your spa can complete the transformation of your backyard into a permanent retreat. Choosing the right plants is important. Be aware that the fragrance of some flowers can attract insects. Some plants that tolerate a water environment but don’t attract bugs are ornamental grasses, daylilies, coleus, and caladiums.

When landscaping is not practical, structures such as gazebos, arbors, and built-in planter boxes can help create an inviting atmosphere. Potted plants, hanging baskets, and supplemental water features, such as fountains and waterfalls, can also make the atmosphere around a spa inviting.

Enclosing your spa with a decorative gazebo is a great way to enhance the sense of a getaway, increase privacy, and block wind. Another idea is to use tall evergreens, such as cypress or juniper, to block views toward the spa. Finally, you might simply set the spa where it’s hidden by a structure.

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