Tuesday, 31 May 2016 00:28

Make Room for Outside

Written by  Mary Irene Dolan

Build a room outdoors for the perfect getaway


Fresh water ponds transform your backyard into a tranquil escape.Think about the current state of your backyard. Does it make you want to take the day off and relax in your own personal getaway? Or does it leave you feeling like something is missing? Kind of meh?

An outdoor space that functions as an inviting extension of your home rather than a separate, unused part of your property is what many local landscape designers seek to create. Imagine a space tailored to your needs—small and private or big and open, you decide—one that you’ll want to use year round. Interested? Keep reading …


What’s the Purpose?

Like designing any room in your home, for an outdoor room, you’ll need to think about its intended purpose. This is the first question Randall Spackman at Thornbury Services asks his clients. “Many people think about what looks good versus what will be most useful to them, but it really should be the other way around,” says Spackman,

Start with the key questions—the size of your space and budget, whether you have kids or pets, if you’re more interested in entertaining than relaxing, and if you’ll be using the space year-round.

“We can customize everything based on our clients’ lifestyle and needs,” says Spackman. “From small touches like using stone for kids to draw on with chalk, to creating a grown-up dining area complete with a kitchen and your very own pizza oven, if that’s what you want—and will use!”

When in doubt, he recommends leaving room to expand in the future. “Your needs and tastes may change,” he says, “And it’s much easier to add on than take away.”


Comforts of Inside

Once you decide your room’s purpose, it’s time to start designing! Making the outdoors feel roomier can be accomplished several ways. At Gordon Eadie Landscape and Design, some of the most popular features include outdoor fireplaces and kitchens that can be enjoyed any time.

Fireplaces and pits are great because they provide heat in the colder months and a gathering place in the warmer ones—plus the perfect place for roasting marshmallows safely year-round. With an outdoor kitchen, you not only take the heat out of the house, but also the cook! If you know you love cooking, this is one feature you won’t want to skimp on.

The only limit is your budget—with options for your outdoor kitchen including a stove, grill, mini fridge, wood-burning oven, sink, bar, storage and more.


Build A Wall

You wouldn’t have a room without some type of walls. Having a boundary defining the space between your outdoor room and your lawn creates a comfortable feeling. And walls can be a great help for keeping track of kids and pets outdoors.

Stone walls, like the ones P.S. Davis Stone Masonry specialize in, are a very practical option for enclosing the patio area, plus they double as built-in seating. P.S. Davis also combines stairs, pillars and paved walkways to function as entries and hallways from space to outdoor space.

You can go the traditional route and build a deck with railings and a canopy (ask about low-maintenance materials that prevent mold), allowing for a nice breeze to keep things cool while still defining the space.

Or opt for something a bit more open, like a popular pergola. Typically made of wood, these crosshatched structures both close the space off while leaving parts open to the sunlight and surrounding landscape views.


Then There Was Light

Lighting might not be the first thing you think about, but if you’d like to enjoy your outdoor spaces at night, it’s essential. Luckily, landscape designers don’t forget about this necessity and many come up with interesting ways to incorporate outdoor lighting into their plans.

Jeremy Martin at Willow Gates Landscaping has plenty of ideas about how to get creative with lighting. “In addition to being a necessity, we use lighting mainly to create atmosphere and ambiance,” he says.

Some fun ways to do that? Build lighting into seating walls, highlight unusual architectural details, make a lantern pathway connecting parts of the design, or even create shadow effects with uniquely shaped flowers, bushes and trees.

To save on energy, everything is LED now, and according to Martin, all their bulbs are warm-toned, eliminating that harsh blue light. “If you put the new LED bulbs next to an incandescent bulb, you can’t tell the difference,” he promises. You will, though, notice the difference on your electric bill!


Image of beautiful porch and landscaping.Bring Nature to You

Your backyard oasis wouldn’t be complete without what makes the outdoors the outdoors—nature. Trees, shrubs, flowers, gardens, ponds, streams and more … Use these features to add color, contrast and beauty to your space.

At Shackleford Landscape Group, Kevin Shackleford uses a variety of greenery to enclose his clients’ outdoor rooms in a lush setting. “We like to add flower beds around a patio’s edges for extra color and a sense of seclusion,” he says. He recommends flowers like day lilies for summer through to fall, and shrubs like holly and other evergreens for interest throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option, perennials and flowering bulbs are your best bet. “Perennials come up every year,” Shackleford explains, “and you only have to plant bulbs once a year.” He warns to stay away from things like ornamental grass as it needs trimming every year. “But it gives great privacy and really creates that beach effect,” he notes. “So if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s worth it.”

Another way to include a bit of nature in your space is through water features. Pezzotti Brothers Landscaping & Tree Service builds all types of tranquility-inspiring designs from waterfalls and fountains, to ponds and water gardens. Typically a pond or water garden with its own mini ecosystem—with fish and water plants rather than chemicals like chlorine—is less maintenance because nature regulates and cares for itself. Plus they’re much more eye-catching and interesting!

Now that you’re armed with ideas to create your escape, it’s time to start making that dream a reality this summer!

Local Resources

Thornbury Services
610-793-2933 • ThornburyServices.com

Gordon Eadie Landscape and Design
610-933-4410 • GordonEadie.com

P. S. Davis Stone Masonry
610-827-2225 • StoneWork.org

Willow Gates Landscaping
717-341-0540 • WillowGatesLandscaping.com

Shackleford Landscape Group
484-447-9127 • SLGLandscaping.com

Pezzotti Brothers Landscaping
610-647-1028 • PezzottiBros.com