To be honest, the only reason I have ever any desire to move out of my cosy apartment is to find a place with a garden big enough for a hot tub.
Private swimming pools are often cited as being the ultimate home luxury, but let’s be honest; the average person doesn’t have the space, budget or weather for that here in the UK. Hot tubs, though, offer the same relaxing soak at the end of the week, but need much less time, money and effort to install and run.
Maybe you’re daydreaming about having a hot tub like I am, or are in the jammy position of actually planning your own installation. Either way, I’ve pulled together some tips about hot tub planning, plus a bunch of my favourite garden hot tub ideas in this post.
1. Low-Commitment Garden Hot Tub Ideas
So, you think you want a hot tub, but are waiting to take the plunge (pun intended) because you’re not sure how much you’ll realistically use it.
Did you know there are inflatable hot tubs?
Yes, they kind of look like giant paddling pools for adults… except the water is heated, and bubbly, and filtered. Plus, inflatable hot tubs don’t need any kind of professional installation, so you could literally order one today and be enjoying it next week.
Given that they start at about £350, it’s a significantly smaller investment than getting a permanent hot tub (although you might want to pick up a few essential accessories like steps and a cover, too). Then, when you realise how much you love having a hot tub, you can resell it and upgrade to a fancy one.
2. Sunken Hot Tubs
Sinking a hot tub into decking gives it that custom, millionaire’s mansion vibe. Plus, it keeps the visual design of your garden uncluttered, which is important if you only have a small garden space.
If you decide to build your hot tub into a deck structure, make sure the foundations are strong enough to support the full weight of the tub (literally “full” weight – water is heavy). I’m pretty sure a collapsing tub doesn’t feature in anyone’s dream evening.
3. Freestanding Hot Tubs
The idea of a freestanding hot tub is pretty self-explanatory. Instead of excavating your garden or building a deck around the hot tub, you simply install it as-is. You’ll still need a practical way to get in and out of the hot tub (like steps), but freestanding tubs generally take up the least amount of space.
4. Garden Hot Tub Decking and Steps
Building decking up around your tub serves several purposes. Mostly, having a non-slip surface that absorbs or drains excess water as you’re getting in and out is much safer. Having a hot tub feels swanky, but grazing your knee on your way to the loo is not.
When choosing what shape to have your deck, it generally looks best if it follows the shape of your tub. Geometric squares and rectangles look edgy and modern, while rounded tubs in curved decks tend to take up less space (visually and physically).
If you can, use the deck to not only frame the tub, but provide accessibility in the form of steps, seating and handrails. Just make sure they’re all made from a material that can drain properly and won’t become slippery when wet.
Where there are mature plants and trees in your garden, you might want to build the deck around them and use them as shade for your hot tub. This is a lovely way to blend the tub in with its natural surroundings, but will create a bit of extra cleaning to tidy up fallen leaves and tree debris.
Okay, let’s stop and talk about this patio hot tub in London (above) for a moment! The raised deck gives the illusion of a sunken tub, without the faff of excavation, and the tiers can be used as steps, seats, and somewhere to put your book. I also love the downlighters under the steps, and how the screens and trees provide reasonable privacy without completely obstructing the light.
Here’s another example of decking being built-up around a freestanding hot tub, although this one has a more rustic feel. Again, with the steps going almost to the top of the hot tub and sweeping around one side, it’s the perfect place for non-swimmers to chill out.
Perfecting Your Hot Tub Area
Aside from the tub itself, there are a few ways you can tweak your garden to make it easier to relax in.
5. Garden Hot Tub Ideas: Lighting
Unless you have an inflatable hot tub, most designs tend to have integrated lighting beneath the water, but if you want to use your hot tub all evening, make sure the surrounding area is lit up in a beautiful (and practical) way.
Start by putting solar-powered stake lights along the pathway between your hot tub and your house. Then, add lanterns to nearby seating areas, or hang string lights from your hot tub shelter to create a pretty canopy.
Choosing lamps that are battery-operated or solar-powered are practical for taking in and out, and pose less of a hazard around water (just keep them away from the tub!)
6. Hot Tub Seating
If you live alone, you’re either going to be in your hot tub, or out your hot tub. However, if you’re using it more socially, it’s polite to allow guests the option of sitting near the tub without getting wet.
Building benches around your hot tub is an attractive, practical and affordable way to get that sunken hot tub visual. Benches made from wood or composite-effect wood are both nice to look at and comfortable to walk on and sit on in most weather. Even though they often evoke a kind of traditional Scandi-style, wood can also look clean and modern, depending on the aesthetic you want.
7. Outdoor Drinks Bar
Now we’re talking. Although, I should first point out that it’s very unsafe to mix hot tubbing and alcohol. The heat of the water raises your body temperature and opens your blood vessels – which is also exactly what alcohol does. The combination can quickly cause dehydration and heat exhaustion, especially if you’re tubbing on a hot day. If you do want to have a garden bar, take a look at some of these amazing garden bar ideas.
The most basic of bars can be created using a table and a cool box or ice bucket. Upgrade according to your budget; a permanent counter or cupboard lets you keep cups outside, and a tap makes it easier to rinse whatever you use instead of traipsing it back to the house.
8. Space to Shower and Change
People tend to like their hot tub in one of two places: on the patio immediately by their back door, or at the far end of the garden as physically distant from their house as possible. If you choose the former (or you just have a small garden), well done for being practical, you can skip this section.
If you have the room in your garden, I do appreciate that having a secret hot tub spot away from your house feels more fun and exciting. However, you might also benefit from having somewhere nearby to rinse off, change your clothes and store refreshments.
Building a dedicated shower block might be a bit much for most people, but even adding a cosy shed (that could double as a garden room in summer) could make your hot-tubbing experience more comfortable.
Plants, Decor and Ambience
Plants are the perfect way to blend your hot tub into its surroundings and provide a bit of privacy at the same time. However, it’s also fine to leave the view from your tub relatively unobstructed (especially if you’re proud of your gorgeous garden, or are blessed with spectacular views.
Start by planning where exactly you’re going to put tall or bushy plants to balance privacy and visuals. Trellises create a natural screen if you’re worried about being overlooked while you chill in your tub. Add them to fences or pergolas to make them harder to see through, or plant them in movable pots so that you can adjust your privacy as you like. Bamboo is another way to have a natural privacy screen in your garden. It grows fairly quickly and can be planted in the borders of your garden or in pots.
9. Hot Tub Privacy and Shelter
Whether it’s a case of not flashing the neighbours or simply being able to use your hot tub in the rain, here are some ways you can have privacy and shelter in your hot tub.
The simplest option is probably a gazebo – made all the more convenient by the fact that you can quickly take it down if you change your mind. Tent style gazebos with tie-back curtains or sides also allow you to adjust how sheltered or exposed you are while in your hot tub. Here’s our full guide for setting up a hot tub gazebo and make sure to decorate it for the full experience.
A lattice fence is another inexpensive option for creating privacy and reducing wind – but you will still be open to the rain and it won’t keep much warmth in, even if you have a heater.
A pergola is essentially an airier, more permanent alternative to a gazebo for sheltering your hot tub. They’re fairly straightforward to build, and you can easily attach trellises for climbing plants, and string lights for hot tubbing in the evening.
10. Swedish Inspired Hot Tub Design
Scandinavian culture is often synonymous with immersing yourself in a steaming hot tub of water, a steaming hot natural lake or a steaming hot cabin room. If you want to take inspiration from Swedish-style hot tubs, opt for one made from natural-effect wood, and surround it with a deck in the same material.
Of course, saunas are a big thing in northern Europe, so if you really love the Scandi way of life, you might think about installing one of those in your garden too.
11. Japanese Inspired Hot Tub Design
Onsens are a big part of Japanese culture. Traditional onsens are large communal baths that draw water from a local hot spring, and can be outside, inside or in a kind of half-in-half-out space. Private onsens are a luxury feature in the best hotels and spas, so why not take inspiration from the Japanese version of a hot tub when installing your own?
Prioritise a view of nature, whether it’s a scenic landscape or your best flower bed. The design should be clean, minimalist and geometric to maximise your zen feeling.
Other Swanky Garden Features
Going for a massive garden upgrade? Whether you’re planning a secluded spot or a party place, let me suggest some luxury garden features that work really well with a hot tub.
12. Build a Garden Fire Pit
A fire pit is the key to staying toasty when you’re getting in and out of your hot tub on a cool summer evening. You can buy or build fire pits in just about any style, even incorporating a BBQ grill and integrated seating. Just bear in mind that fire pits can get smoky, so plan a way to shield your tub if the weather gets breezy.
13. Make a DIY Garden Cinema
Can you think of anything better than chilling in a hot tub while watching your favourite movie? Okay, plus snacks. This cosy gravel patio/pergola combo looks like an amazing place to spend a weekend. Take a look at our garden cinema ideas for more inspiration like this.
14. Comfortable Patio Seating
As we’ve mentioned a few times, not everyone is going to want to actually be in the hot tub when you hang out. Don’t ask us why, some people are just strange. In any case, invest in some durable, comfortable patio furniture so the party can extend beyond the tub. Need more inspiration? Keep an eye out for our upcoming post about garden patio ideas!
15. Fountains and Ornamental Pools
Intentional garden design is the best way of giving your outdoor space the “wow” factor, and adding smaller bodies of water around your hot tub is a beautiful way to integrate it with the rest of your garden. Even a simple water feature helps to continue a watery theme throughout your space.
Let us know what you think of these garden hot tub ideas, and tell us about your garden revamp projects! Are there any particular kinds of garden inspiration you’d like us to cover?