Just four weeks ago, as the trees were beginning to bud and the grass to green up, and well before it stopped regularly freezing at night, I set up The Spa for the third consecutive spring.
I consider a good hot bath one of the greatest luxuries life has to offer, and in the fairylike setting of a cedar forest, with an antique clawfoot tub, hand-hewn sapling frame, and tulle netting draped over all to exclude mosquitoes and allow stargazing, must be one of the most luxurious of baths.
Three years ago, I started experimenting with the idea,and came up with this design. It's remarkably easy, and if you have the good fortune to have access to a clawfoot tub or other soaking receptacle, I can't recommend that you try this highly enough!
.:. Setting up an Outdoor Spa .:.
1) First, find a good location - a wooded spot is ideal, but if you don't have even a small stand of trees, anywhere semi-private will do!
2) Bring the tub onsite. Make sure it is level and has space to drain properly (without flooding the rest of your space!).
3) Decide on what kind of flooring you would like to have. I used a wooden ramp we built years ago to get the pony up into the back of our truck - but anything will do! A level patch of grass or even dirt would work, but it is so nice to have a little spot of flooring to help create that spa-like atmosphere. Paving tiles, a large space rug - get creative with what you have!
4) Decide on what you want to use for your privacy screen. I cut saplings to length and lashed them together with twine to make an Adirondack-style frame, about 9'x10'. I then took some fabric (actually, the same that I used on my porch to keep my wood dry all winter!) and stapled it to the frame from the ground to above eye level. I then took two lengths of netting and draped it over the whole, basting it in place with a needle and thread to keep out any and all insects (wishful thinking here, but it really, really helps:)
You could also use something as simple as stakes, a clothesline, and sheets, depending on the location and materials you have to work with.
5) Now it's time to add hot water! Investing in a portable tankless water heater is a fabulous option, and I absolutely love ours. However, this is our only bath and shower supply from April to well into October, so the purchase is justifiable. Unless you plan to use your spa a great deal, or go camping/other outdoor activities a lot, this might not be as practicable for you. Another option is displayed in MaryJanes Butter's lifebook, where she shares how to set up a simple propane cookstove underneath the bath, filled with a garden hose, and heat it like a giant iron pot.
One caution of you go with the tankless heater - if the temperatures drop below freezing at night, and you have the heater connected to the garden hose and propane, it will freeze solid inside the unit, and may be damaged permanently. If you plan to have your spa set up over a period of time and there is the slightest chance of freezing, be sure to disconnect the heater for the night! We know this from experience...
6) Decorate! Get creative with an old, rustic ladder for shelving, add a nice chair to sit in, and baskets to hold soaps and shampoos. This is your luxury spa, and every little detail adds to make the experience more perfect. I tumbled some of my favorite bathtime accessories into a bundle and used them as props to get you started... except the heels. Those were a random and entirely unaccountable addition. :)
However, an mp3 player and speakers, fresh flowers, your favorite fancy soaps and bath concoctions (how I love those!), a vintage washcloth, excellent chocolate to nibble on and something cold in a mason jar to sip, and something light and delightful to peruse (Georgette Heyer is perfection for a bathtime read!) are my favorite spa picks. Oh, and a Dietz lantern is a must for after dark - the effect is magical! Candles are lovely, too.
There you have it - now you can discover for yourself my everlasting devotion to outdoor baths. Once you've tried it, you'll be spoiled forever!
Someday, I have all kinds of plans for the bath of my dreams, to be situated in my house of dreams, naturally.
But for now, I ask for no greater delight than this little homemade spa in the woods.