Hot Tub . . . where does it go?

posted, 09/26/06
This is the existing landscape

I was asked to come up with an idea for a designed space where the seating area was extended out onto the existing lawn, a perennial/cutting garden above the wall, and find a place for a hot-tub.

It made sense to tie the hot-tub into the deck space so there would be good solid footing to get to the tub from the house, and at the same time keep it fairly close to the house and yet be in its own space. While not infringing the patio/entertaining space.

My Version of New Landscape

Designing hot-tubs into these spaces, heck designing hot-tubs into almost any backyard . . . is tough. They are big clunky boxes, even the best designed ones are big clunky boxes. Add in the logistical requirements needed to run hot-tubs. The electrical, plumbing, servicing, etc.

Whats even worse is most designers don’t even try to add in the hot-tub in a harmonious way. Homeowners . . . forget about it, just drop the box on the patio.

The real problem is that this is usually considered something needed for a private space, but almost always is sited in the most public of spaces, sometimes right next to the picnic table or grill . . . how romantic!!! Which is the context in which most homeowners ask me to find a space for the hot-tub . . . a clam, quiet, romantic place for the husband-wife.

Where space considerations are a factor usually the best we can do is place the tub in a corner of the patio. The corner chosen should be the one where there will be the least amount of traffic or commotion. Away form the back and forth of people. Hopefully the patio will be large enough to allow for furniture and other stuff to be placed on the opposite end. Add to that landscaping that will compliment the space, and compliment the mood of the space.

A Conceptual Plan View of the Landscape Design

This is a plan view drawing of the same space shown in the rendering above. These conceptual drawings work together to tell the story of where this space could go.

I have spoken about this before, the plan-view drawing is how most designers/contractors present their solutions to homeowners-it doesn’t work. Most Americans can’t read a road map, and most people are not good at visualization. The plan-view drawing helps solve neither of these issues. Where the rendering does solve those problems.

The solution is right in front of them, it’s like the story of a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Well then, what’s a rendering worth? To the homeowner? To the contractor?

The rendering shows the potential of the space, and the plan-view drawing shows the scale of the impacted space. Together they present the entire story of the space’s potential.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. 6 comments:

    Gary said…

    Nice, very nice.

    Just out of interest, what kind of people are your clients ?

    Obviously they have money, but I’m looking at those photos and comparing to the situation here in the UK those clients would be quite wealthy – living in what appears to be a good sized detached bungalow with a large amount of garden space backing onto woods – that sort of dwelling where I live would be a £500,000 upwards sort of house.

    I only ask because hot tubs are getting popular here but with our climate tend to be installed into log cabins, again you need a lot of garden space for that and space is something that 99% of our housing stock doesn’t have, land is very expensive here and developers will often provide only 20 foot or so of back yard on a £300,000 house – you need to go to custom build before you get a decent plot.
    2:26 PM
    Anonymous said…

    Very nice blog. Keep it up! Glad I found you.
    9:42 PM
    joanne said…

    After looking your site over, I see we are in the same location. I am actually in Lexington. Great blog! Please keep posting.
    10:16 PM
    Rick Anderson said…

    Gary, it’s a upper-class neighborhood but not way up there, I think they had abour a acre or so. I am finding that more people are wanting the spa like effect to hopefully lower the stress level of their lives.

    Most suburban neighborhoods have the space, but there can be a privacy issue. especially in mid-level income neighborhoods.

    Anon, glad you made it.

    Joanne, do you mean SC? I used to live in Columbia, but now it’s Ohio.
    1:23 AM
    Joanne said…

    Yes, I mean SC. Sorry about that! Thanks for the great blog.
    12:52 PM
    Rick Anderson said…

    Thanks Joanne, eat some Maurices’ for me.

  2. I’m sorry to say that I think that you too fell into the “plop in down” syndrone.
    I don’t see how this hot tub is intergrated in any way except to be plopped down on top of a square of hard surface and surrounded by a few shrubberies.

    There are far better solutions to this dilemma, such as partially sinking the hot tub into the landscape and or sculpting the hardscape into the tub and softening it with a plantscape.

    Your illustration is nice, but I think you missed a great opportunity and fell victim to your own challenge.

    Yep; I lost here. The client did not have much of a budget to work with, and this was the round and round issue. I actually felt kind of lucky to get it off the main usage area and down onto it’s own separate “area”. I don’t like it all. I think the worst part of my job is deciding what/how to deal with these tubs.btw, I’ve seen your site-the work is very nice. A great climate to work in and you take advantage of it.

  3. Rick,
    I totally commiserate with you in regards to doing the no-so merry go round with clients who have unrealistic ideas vs. their budget.
    I live in Marin County CA, which has the infamous reputation of the hot tub capitol of the world.
    Even George Bush the elder made a snide comment about those liberal ‘marin hot tubbers’.
    After 20 some odd years of designing decks and patios around spas I think I have got the hang of it.
    Of course, if your client doesn’t have an appropriate budget for the full integration of the tub into the landscape then it can become quite a challenge, one that doesn’t always get won.

    best regards,

    Thanks Michelle;
    I appreciate the thought. Hadn’t seen that 41 remark-funny stuff.

  4. my name is jorge andres i live in Chile,way,way south, a magical land, where whales and volcanoes pop when less expected. today i start my first landscaping project and though i found myself a bit complicated, i have ended up in your website. Thank you for your texts, your points of view,technical,financial issues. Just wanted to say hi.

    Hi Jorges:
    Thanks for stopping in and I’m glad to help you with my information. Hope you keeping stopping by. If I ever get that way you can buy breakfast and show us around 🙂

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