Once just plopped on the ground in back of the house, hot tubs are now carefully integrated into the architectural design of a property and can be as personalized as backyard furniture.

"Hot tubs have come a long way. They're not like your father's Chevy," said Rosanne Tsantes of Home Escapes in Reston.

Tsantes said Home Escapes does a site preview and works with architects to ensure the hot tub is easy to use, has the right view and matches the home's design. "When possible, tubs are positioned facing west in view of a setting sun," she added.

Tubs often are built halfway into a deck, she said, because ergonomically it is not as comfortable to sink all the way down.

Typically made of a strong plastic fiber composite, a tub can be wrapped with a wood or stone cabinet, and finishes can be subtly altered with stains, so the hot tub is visually compatible with the exterior of the home. There are just as many options for matching it with decking material or outdoor furniture, whether it is walnut, teak, redwood or oak.

"Cabinets can also be wrapped with a rock panel in sandstone, slate or other faces that tie in with your site," Tsantes said. "We work with landscape architects to match the style and decor of your house and outdoor furniture."

One McLean homeowner chose to partially sink her tub into the deck. "Ours is 18 inches up. It's easy to get in and out, but there was the problem of what to put on the sides," she said. "We were going with a deck that was a synthetic composite in a reddish-brown that couldn't be stained. We looked at a lot of wood cabinets, but they didn't go with the deck floor."

She ultimately decided to match the stone on the exterior of the home with a stonescape tub cabinet to make a "nice break from the deck material."

The stone skirt, as it's commonly called, is attractive and inviting, especially at night when the lights are on. "It's kind of unique," she added.

Tub interiors, too, come in multiple colors, from tourmaline and a sparkly mineral white to rosy quartz and sapphire blue.

"I advise clients to make the hot tub area feel like it's a centerpiece in its own 'outdoor room,' " said Brendan Doyle, owner of PLANTERRA Landscape Design and Planning in Washington.

Doyle said once the setting is chosen, use ornamental grasses like feather reed grass, colorful shrubs like Abelia grandiflora or chokecherry, and blooming perennials like black-eyed Susans and daylilies to surround the area and frame views from the hot tub area off into the distance.

Hot tubs can be as nice as pieces of furniture, said Tsantes. "They are really very beautiful when they are integrated into your yard."