THE CANVAS: A secluded space, densely wooded backdrop

THE PALETTE: Wild flowing grasses, a graded barrier of flat-top boulders, weathered cedar decking

THE MASTERPIECE: A pastoral retreat, shady hideaway, a high-tech haven

One powerful advantage of spas is that they can be easily integrated into the surrounding environs, creating a soothing reservoir of bubbling, hot water.

That was the goal of this Canadian project. “The homeowners wanted the hot tub to blend in with the landscape,” says Jay Middleton, head designer at Gib-San Pools Ltd.

He handily accomplished this goal, thanks to a keen eye for materials and a canvas of free-flowing foliage that answers the clients’ request for a natural setting. “Even the cover was incorporated with an organic brown color,” Middleton says.

Wild things

The project’s landscaping is a blend of long grasses and shrubbery, stoic rock forms and young conifers, all of which create a lush, unadulterated feel to the deck edges. Middleton purposely avoided the conventions of a formal garden.

“The foliage was left to be a little more free-form and a little less symmetrical,” he says. “The grasses were meant to give the project motion.”

Middleton also tried to mix colors to create a less manicured look. The landscape’s yellows, reds and purples are subtle and random. The many perennials around the deck allow the setting to transform with the seasons.

The cedar deck’s unique treatment — or lack thereof — helped it fit in with the yard’s lighter colors. The wood was left to weather, similar to unoiled teak furniture, giving the design some age. “The deck and finish bring out a country cottage feel, which is what the homeowners were after,” Middleton says.

However — at least in one sense — the boulders are the project’s centerpiece. Because natural stone only comes in so many colors, the rest of the space had to be color-coordinated with the rock. These indigenous boulders help tie together the off-white and beige tones in the spa shell, deck and umbrella.

Only at night, when the spa generates a colorful lighting display, does this design distinguish itself from Mother Nature.