THE CANVAS: Empty space, flat surface, a yard without access from inside

THE PALETTE: The contrast of Ipe and redwood, a touch of copper

THE MASTERPIECE:A tropical nook nestled in a private corner, a yard spilling out of the home, a place to soak under the night sky

Before Tim and Lisa Goodman got their hands on this project, anyone heading outdoors via the living room would have fallen 6 feet to the ground. The house had been remodeled, leaving an altered access to the backyard.

“They needed a usable space off the second floor,” says Lisa Goodman, a partner at Goodman Landscape Design. But the yard was connected to the basement. The area needed not only a face-lift, but also had to be made functional.

The homeowners wanted a comfortable deck to serve as an extension of their main living space. The project also had to include an item they had long coveted — a spa.

Hit the deck

The deck incorporates a number of materials. The base is constructed of concrete cinder block, and covered in stucco painted the same reddish hue as the house.

The goal for the deck was to create a craftsman style that would blend naturally with the home’s architecture. The floor is made of Ipe, a sturdy hardwood, while the benches and railings, are redwood. “We felt that everything vertical above the Ipe decking should be a different material and also remain consistent,” Goodman says.

An additional copper railing was added behind the benches to protect the clients’ 3-year-old daughter. To bring the garden closer to the house, the Goodmans placed a wisteria planter in the heart of the deck.

But perhaps the best thing about this deck is its multiple levels. The owners emerge from the house, take a few steps to a landing and then continue down another stairway to arrive at the garden.

“We terraced the deck for multilevels,” Goodman says. “We felt that it was smarter to dip down a little bit and then drop again to create multiple rooms.

“It brings the architecture of the house right into the garden,” she adds.

A magical place

As for the spa, the Goodmans elevated an area to form yet another level. “It created an architectural structure that makes a garden sing,” Goodman says. First, a concrete base was laid down for the spa, then pressure-treated wood was added.

Seventeen plant species accent the vessel. Each serves a specific purpose, such as color, fragrance and architectural impact. The yellow, trumpetlike Brugmansia “Charles Grimaldi” is fragrant and pleasing to the eye. Cyperus papyrus was selected for the way its long, green stalks stand out against the water.

“We wanted to contrast one leaf structure next to the other,” Goodman says.

The green barrier behind the spa also serves as the neighbor’s garage. Instead of worrying about an unsightly blemish, the Goodmans received permission to paint it a lush green, which ties in with the trim of the house and produces a glowing effect when touched by the lights in the evening.

Access to the spa is gained from the front and side. The steps on both entries are smooth, river-washed stones, which feel nice under bare feet. In addition, the Goodmans put in darker moss rocks to create a contrast with the steps.

“The clients love the multiple levels, and it made a flat space dynamic,” she says.