Guidelines for Designing a Custom Spa

Options for giving your poolscape the stylish accompaniment it deserves.

Spas are a popular feature to incorporate into pools—or even as a stand-alone feature—and spa design has taken on a critical role in the overall design of poolscapes. The design of a spa, or any body of water, should accomplish something, or be a reflection, as opposed to being its own entity. It belongs to the property and needs to acknowledge the surrounding space or take on a certain aesthetic. A pool or spa is simply a body of water within the larger landscape. Although a spa has certain benefits and features to deliver to the user, its design and appearance has a different master. Generally, the spa (or pool) should do one of the following:

Reflect the character of the natural landscape around it.

Add to the architecture of the home or built space where it resides.

Be sculptural, reflecting the tastes of the clients who have purchased it. It becomes an art piece, set into the land, similar to a sculpture.

Fortunately, I have been commissioned by those who understand this point of view, and embrace it themselves. The spa design has become much more important to overall space, as it is now helping to extend the feeling of the area. Water-in-transit (perimeter overflow, runnels, etc.) has become more popular since the reflection and sound and movement of water brings peace and interest to the experience.

Incorporating Glass Tile

Glass tile delivers a certain depth and beauty that ceramic or stone tile do not have. There is a dimensionality to glass that draws your gaze. This is true whether you’re using a brightly colored, iridescent tile, or a muted or sandblasted tile. Good glass tiles come in various styles or looks that will fill pretty much any design requirement: a handcrafted look (e.g., Oceanside Glasstile), languid and sensual (e.g., Lightstreams), or mosaic art forms (e.g., Sicis).

Glass tile brings the spa to a different level of fit and finish. Lines become purer, edges become straighter. It transforms a spa into an architectural form that is built more precisely. So, tile does not make a spa better—it makes a spa different. I think this is an important realization that it is not clearly understood ahead of time and should be addressed as builders take clients through the thought process.

One other architectural detail shown to me by David Peterson, president of Watershape Consulting, Inc., San Diego, Calif., is a recessed toe kick around the floor perimeter. This allows for suction drains to be hidden and for recessed lighting—very cool!

Photo courtesy of Selective Designs, L.L.C., Peachtree City, GA

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