Photo by John Hong

Because even odd-shaped backyards with slopes and concrete walls can be formed into aquatic retreats. Because the yard’s dominant element — a concrete wall —was smoothed into a sleek waterfeature with an L-shaped pond, which wraps around the northwest corner. Because submersible lights in the pond make the water glitter at night as it flows down the wall. Because the warm, bubbly hot tub was tucked into its own private corner. Because the space is as pleasing at night as it is during the day, thanks to indirectly lit corners and uplights accentuating the large trees. Because the space’s various levels offer plenty of entertaining choices. Because the design is both handsome and maintenance-free.

Rick Knight and Ariel Asturias aren’t shy about talking clients out of what they consider to be bad ideas. They say most people usually aren’t selective enough about where they place their portable spas.

“Nine times out of 10, when we get to the job, no matter if the customers just want a slab or the whole yard done, they really haven’t thought out how they want the tub oriented, where they want to sit in the tub, what kind of view they want, who can see them,” says Knight, co-owner of Urban Refinements in Seattle. “We make them think a little bit, and invariably the location of the hot tub changes.”

For this Queen Anne Hill project, the design partners knew immediately when they entered the backyard where the spa should not go. The homeowners hired Knight and Asturias to pour the concrete slab for their hot tub, which they wanted to place on top of their garage.

“The concrete garage looked like a World War II ammo bunker,” Knight says. “But it wouldn’t have supported the weight of a hot tub without major reinforcement. And we didn’t think it was the best place for it anyway because they would be on display.”

Instead, Knight and Asturias immediately noticed that the garage sat catty-corner to a large cement retaining wall — an ugly arrangement to have in the backyard by anyone else’s standards. To the designers, though, it seemed a natural spot to tuck the spa and to include a soothing waterfeature.

“The idea really happened in an instant,” says Asturias, the other company owner. “Having lived in the city in very tight spaces and backyards, I’m a little bit more at home with an overimposing concrete wall.”

Photo by John Hong