Monday, May 4, 2009

Landscaping and the Outdoor Room

Two areas are more noticeable today than five years ago. One area of continued interest and excitement is the whole area of water gardening through use of ponds, waterfalls, streams, etc. The other area that continues to surge is the outdoor room. Perhaps this high degree of interest in developing the outdoor room is a result of the economic times in which we find ourselves. Families are spending more time entertaining at home and in the backyard. Also, some people who had plans for building new homes a year ago are now reconsidering their options and instead are remodeling and upgrading their current homes.

The outdoors for many people begins when the patio doors are opened. The space immediately adjacent to the home, whether it be a deck or patio, is a transition zone between the interior of the home and the exterior. Begin by creating a new brick paver patio or a deck constructed with recycled materials. The important thing to remember at this stage is to plan for adequate space for this area. A good practice is to lay out tables and chairs in order to visualize just how much space you will need. Remember to allow for traffic flow around the furniture and consider traffic patterns as you plan.

To maximize the atmosphere in this outdoor room, clients today are asking for many of the conveniences they have inside their home to be brought outside. One of the biggest changes on the outdoor cooking scene is the emergence of the outdoor kitchen. Even smaller decks and patios are sporting stainless steel outdoor barbecues with warming ovens and side-mounted pot burners. The serious homeowners are building grills into brick bays and adding sinks with running water.

In this northern climate, the outdoor living season can be relatively short. The advent of the wood burning fireplace with its free standing chimney creates an opportunity for extended family activities during the cooler spring and fall seasons. The new lines of furniture are an asset to an outdoor room. The over-stuffed, indoor style of furniture is now made for outside and is able to withstand exposure. This makes for a very comfortable sitting environment and puts a beautiful finishing touch on your outdoor room.

Night lighting is also something that you should revisit in your outdoor considerations. While night lighting is not new, the newer lighting systems are more dependable and offer many interesting styles of lights. Also, there are new LED designs that are both energy efficient and include processors that can change colors on demand.

Relaxing in a hot tub continues to be a very poplar and enjoyable family activity. A hot tub addition is especially fun for the smaller backyards where a pool or larger deck/patio is not an option. The well designed smaller space with a hot tub nestled in the corner off of a small sitting patio can be a great outdoor room, and the hot tub can be used especially during the winter months to extend the investment throughout the year. The new hot tubs have more jets and sprays and improved options for lighting, stereos, etc. These models also are built with better insulation to reduce operating costs, and utilize friendly chemicals to simplify maintenance.

Beyond the outdoor room, we see trends that complement family activities and more time spent at home. If you have an existing pool in your yard, look at the pool area with a critical eye. Perhaps an upgrade or expansion to the pool area will bring new life to this area and make it more functional and user friendly. Perhaps the plantings around the pool don’t look that great anymore and could use a makeover. Evergreen trees can screen off an undesirable view or provide privacy. Often these upgrades and renovations breathe new life into the outdoor room.

Also evolving is the installation of sport courts and artificial turf play areas and putting greens. These improve your existing space, provide more entertainment options for your family and make your home the place kids like to spend the afternoon.

At Twin Lakes Nursery, our design team, with over 130 years of combined experience create landscapes that fit our unique west Michigan environment. We work with you to develop plans that fit your unique situations. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your landscape needs. Please call us at 616-949-5230 or visit us online


References cited: “Complete guide to water gardens ponds and fountains” Kathleen Fisher, Hardscape Magazine Sept. 2005 issue “Know your waterfalls” Gary Whittstock

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