Good exterior design is a sum of its parts, bringing together disparate elements into one cohesive and balanced design.
Your hot tub or spa is a warm, bubbling respite away from the stress of everyday life. Shouldn’t the surroundings of your spa also create feelings of peace and serenity? I’m not talking about a Zen garden, although if that’s your theme, by all means go ahead – but rather adding design elements that engage the senses, and produce an air of tranquility. Isn’t that what your hot tub is all about?
Put into words, using adjectives – just what is it that a Hot Tub means to you. Not your current hot tub, but your ideal hot tub. What would it look like? Rustic? Elegant? Tropical? Modern? Now how does it make you feel – Chic? Adventurous? Pampered? Relaxed?
Principles of Exterior Design
Balance & Contrast
Exterior Design is not so different from interior design. To make interesting spaces, designers play with balancing and contrasting elements. An element is anything tactile and visual – everything in sight is an element that can be matched or juxtaposed with surrounding surfaces and objects.
Lines: Horizontal or Vertical, diagonal or curved. The visual lines around your hot tub – fence, walls, floors, even the hot tub itself can balance each other in simple or striking ways. Lines can be used to make a space feel taller or more spacious. The type of lines used can evoke very different feelings. Thick or thin, precise or varied, bold or barely there. Wall, ceiling and floor coverings often make use of lines, to bring balance or contrast to the shape of the room, or outdoor space.
Symmetry: Open any book on design and there will be an early chapter on creating symmetry. It’s all around us, and being that our own bodies are symmetrical, we are naturally drawn towards symmetry. In exterior design, you’ll often find landscapes very symmetrical, and the house as well. Symmetry is as natural as bookends, end tables or night stands, but can also be seen as boring by those who prefer to avoid repetition.
Asymmetry: Asymmetrical designs can be just as pleasing, but instead of using repetition, they create balance through contrast. The difference can be with color, size, position, texture, quantity or even empty space. If you want something different, consider radial design, with elements arranged in a concentric fashion around a focal point, like your hot tub!
Scale & Shape
One can do a lot with scale & shape – the size and form of various elements placed around the hot tub, and if space allows, focal points placed further out in the field of vision.
Size: The outdoors allows and begs for a larger scale than what can be done indoors. A few examples of large elements around a hot tub include outdoor fireplaces, overhead pergola or open air gazebos. Large oak leaf and ivy trellises can double as privy fences, and chunky living room style lounges and daybeds, fountains or sculptures can be added to your spa resort.
Form: Shapes are all around us – even the spaces in between ‘things’ have a shape. Shapes need not be 3-dimensional, that is they don’t have to have depth, and so are often added to walls, but can also be creatively used on floors and ceilings.
Landscape: When imagining the landscape around your spa, one way to consider scale and shape is to use a mix of small, medium and large plants (or small trees) to build layers of shapes and sizes. If you love blooms, plan and plant a perennial garden, blooming from early spring to late autumn. Your landscape doesn’t have to match your style completely, but should complement a theme. For instance, hot tub landscaping can be formal or casual, desert or tropical, beach or mountains. It can be inspired by Asian, Mediterranean or Latin landscape gardens. It’s best to consider your growing zone, and choose plants that will thrive in your climate, and with available daily sun exposure. Your local garden center has experts that can help you with plant selection for scale, shape and style.
Colors & Textures
There is a general rule of design that 3 colors is the maximum number of hues that one should use in a space. These are sometimes referred to as the dominant, secondary and accent colors. However, if you want to use more colors, make use of analogous colors, or those that are in the same general spectrum of color, or neighbors on the color wheel. Opposites on the color wheel are often paired together, in a complementary color scheme.
When designers consider a color scheme for a room or outdoor space, they can go in several directions, depending on the primary use of the space, and the wishes of those who will inhabit the space. If you have a theme in mind, or an overall style picked out, it makes it easier to narrow the color choices. Often, certain elements or focal points in the space become the primary inspiration for the color palette. But it doesn’t have to be!
Textures: Everything has a texture, and will fall somewhere on a spectrum of texture from smooth to rough. There are two types of texture – actual texture and simulated texture. Actual texture will have depth and a tactile sensation of texture. Simulated texture is created by duplicating the color value and darkness of the original, but in only two dimensions. It’s best practice to use a combination of surface textures, to suit your style. Generally, the more formal a setting is, the smoother the elements become, while more rustic or outdoorsy style will utilize a great deal more texture. Texture can be overdone however, so use with care, to avoid too many or too few competing textures.
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