THE CANVAS: A quiet corner of a modern backyard, broad slabs of coffee-colored decking

THE PALETTE: Maiden and zebra grasses, two-toned paver, colorful trusses of weigela

THE MASTERPIECE: A fully integrated spa and pond scene capturing a Zen aesthetic

Charged with creating an entire outdoor living area in a relatively tight space, Tom Zahos had to shift the project’s focus to the side yard — and needed to clear out 35 trees in the process.

Zahos, vice president of Ridge Pools Inc., originally discussed a pool/spa combination with the homeowners. Eventually, he decided that a separate location would give the hot-water vessel more functionality. The result was a dynamic design.

With this floor plan, the homeowners can use the spa even during the harsh New Jersey winters. “We wanted to provide a year-round atmosphere for the spa, so I pulled it away to create a separate entertaining space,” Zahos says. “They can get more use out of the spa now.”

The new area also enabled Zahos and landscape designer Greg Ryback of G. Ryback Custom Landscaping & Design Inc. to install the spa in a more organic context, which included a koi pond and waterfeature.

An artful afterthought

The project was already under way when the homeowners asked Zahos about incorporating a pond. The area adjacent to the spa originally called for landscaping, but the clients’ request made perfect sense in terms of visibility.

“[There], the homeowners could get extended time watching the koi pond from their spa,” Zahos says.

The gap between the spa and koi pond is deliberately sparse to allow a clear view. However, the rest of the landscaping will eventually thicken around the edges of the house and yard to create a sense of shelter. The perennials and woody plants come out in spring, making the softscape particularly lush.

Ryback used a strong green canvas of weeping Norway spruce, leatherleaf mahonia and Japanese maple to fill out the area around the waterfeature.

Daffodils, day lilies and a vibrant curtain of Wine and Roses (a variety of weigela) give the project a charming set of colors.

Adult swim

Ultimately, by separating the spa from the pool, Zahos formed a more intimate space for the homeowners. The counter and patio chairs were added as a place to enjoy company and overlook the pond.

A two-toned paver covers the spa steps and counter wall. And its earthy colors accentuate the space and tie it into the landscaping. The gray hues blend in with the natural rock on the waterfall, while the beiges match the deck. A large slab of tan stone was used to create the bar.

“The primary patio is around the pool, while the spa is more of a segregated, adult area,” Zahos notes. “It’s a place to have a glass of wine in the evening.”