Almost anyone can set a spa in the middle of a deck and call it a day. But for designer Ray Schureman, this project hit closer to home. His home, actually.

About two years ago, the owner of this building firm moved into a new house. Because of persistent back problems — and the therapy that would be required — he was determined to add a spa to the equation.

Paramount for Schureman were space and functionality. The spa had to blend seamlessly into the backyard without compromising comfort or convenience.

The result is a model installation that Schureman now shows to prospective clients for ideas and inspiration.


One of the first considerations was access. The master bedroom, for example, featured a bay window, but no door.

“So we opened it up, adding French doors so we can get to it from inside,” he says.

Schureman no doubt considered climate in his design, allowing for easy access from a cozy bedroom, particularly during the frigid, high-desert winters of northern Utah.

Plus, the new access point fit perfectly with some of the yard’s pre-existing features. The previous owner had installed a pond and waterfall directly across from the spa. As a backyard specialist, Schureman naturally couldn’t help but make some modifications, enlarging both waterfeatures to provide a pleasant view for soakers. In fact, the space has become an oasis of sorts for local mallards, too.

“A beautiful maple tree hangs behind where we built the wall,” Schureman says of the privacy screen that forms the back of the installation. “We were able to incorporate that from where we put the deck because of the bedroom” — thus obtaining the desired effect of the room extending outdoors. The wall is built from redwood and cedar to complement and contrast with the birch color of the spa shell.

Family time

While he was pleased that the aquascape would appeal to local water fowl, Schureman had to take human visitors into account.

So he built a set of fold-out steps leading from the spa down a flagstone foot path to the main backyard. In warmer months, the plantings between the path’s stone create a vibrant green hue.

“I put fragrant thyme in there, and when you brush your feet against it, it stirs up a nice scent,” he says. “It makes my feet happy.”

Bird feeders attract feathered visitors as well, adding to the serenity of the scene.

“The steps themselves have a twofold function,” Schureman adds. “You can pull them out in a matter of seconds for easy equipment access.

“But I really wanted it to be inviting to people who weren’t coming from the master bedroom,” he says. “And it encourages [visitors] to get closer to the house in the wintertime.”

The steps are made from the same synthetic birch material as the deck, which gives them a consistent look and the durability necessary for an area that sees a lot of foot traffic.

Raised panels surround the spa to the left and backside. The back walls insulate Schureman from neighboring yards, and provide an ideal setting for colorful potted plants.

All the surrounding wood and accents were cut from cedar, redwood and a synthetic birch-style material. The various hues offer a pleasing contrast.

In addition, the spa is set off by a light-colored, wood-like shell. This siding inspired Schureman to use the decking and accent shade he chose for the installation, adding further uniformity and bringing a bright, natural look to his backyard.

“It all came together in the space we had,” he says. “The focus of the project was practicality and usability — and making it work with what we had met that goal.”

Ray Schureman