Design Your Yard Around a Hot Tub

Make your spa the centerpiece

There’s no question that a spa engages all of the senses: The feel of hot water against bare skin, the sound of jets, the smell of in-spa aromatherapy and, perhaps, the taste of your favorite drink as you sit, unwind and relax.

The only thing missing from this equation is your sense of sight. While a spa relaxes the body, there’s nothing better for relaxing the mind than surroundings that are pleasant to the eye. And one of the best ways to make your eyes go “aaah” is to dress up your spa’s surroundings by making it an important part of a total environment. With just the right touches, you might even be able to transform your backyard from a pleasant means of escaping reality to the type of resort you’ve always wanted to visit.

The best part is, change doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as adding a few plants or as all-embracing as making the spa the center of a large, natural water feature.

Determining how you want to use your hot tub is the first step. A hot tub built for personal enjoyment will have a substantially different look than one designed for entertaining, after all. Then you have to consider the aesthetics. Do you want it to match the house? Do you like symmetry in your design?


Many people start simply, adding a deck or raised planter around a portable, above-ground spa. Generous, lush helpings of plants and flowers not only create a nice look, they also make the spa appear to be a more permanent feature without requiring all the expense of installing a built-in unit. Another inexpensive option is to add 36-inch tall pots or urns filled with dramatic plants like Japanese Maples, Crepe Myrtles or dwarf citrus.


Gazebos are visually appealing while providing cover from the elements. They are available in a wide variety of prices and materials and range from simple, open frames with covers to more elaborate setups featuring everything from skylights and sliding doors to bars and bar stools. Setting up a prefab pergola can be a launching point for other ideas. Consider taking the gazebo a step further by staining it to match the color of the house trim or draping it with fabric to give it the appearance of a Moroccan tent.

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If outdoor entertaining is important, patio furniture makes the area much more hospitable. For example, a homeowner that may only use his spa in winter, could divide his patio into room-like areas with antique deck chairs near the hot tub and a barbecue and chairs on another section of his deck. The outdoor fireplace near the deck chairs keeps him warm enough to sit and enjoy his surroundings once he emerges from the hot tub, no matter how cold it is outside.

Inside Out

Other spa owners might turn the backyard into what is essentially an outdoor expansion of indoor living space. Some opt for a dining room setting with high-end table and chairs, others see it as an entertainment center complete with television and stereo, while increasingly more people are taking their living rooms outdoors including sofas, ottomans and carpeting. Others are opting to have entire kitchens outside so that entire meal preparation and enjoyment can be conducted outdoors, where everyone prefers to be.

Water All Around

Other homeowners take their hot tubs to extremes and turn them into full-fledged natural-looking water features, such as a water hole, or the base of a waterfall that looks like it’s been there for a million years. Budget needs to be considered for a project like this, which can range from $50,000 to $200,000.

The water features may be impressive, but they aren’t always right for your property. If the project doesn’t fit the surroundings, it can look like it’s stuck in the middle of nowhere. The best approach is to continue interior themes and styles outside. For example, Adirondack chairs are a no-no when your house is done in chrome and leather. Alternatively, if your home is designed in a Tuscan style, adding topiaries hung with grapes and olives retains the integrity of the architecture.

It’s all about integration, making the hot tub an enhancement to the landscape.

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