Landscape Fun Fact of the Day:
The largest backyard pool in the U.S. holds a whopping 600,000 gallons of water and was built for The Mobley Family at their house in El Campo, TX. It features a 500’ lazy river, 6 waterfalls, a 21’ waterslide, 2 smaller water slides for the kids, a rope swing, a 28-person hot tub, a kitchen /swim-up bar, a fire pit, and more. If you’d like to break the record held by The Mobley Family since 2009, please call me… Immediately… Seriously, right now….
In a previous blog, titled “Come Together”, I offered a quick history and some additional information on what is known in the landscape world as Outdoor Living. What I didn’t get into in that blog, that I’d like to get into now, are the myriad of styles and material options that exist for these projects. Please note that there are so many different factors that lead into this type of work, I’m merely going to cover some of the more popular concepts. If they aren’t what interest you or if you have questions about other styles or options, feel free to let me know or talk with your designer about them before the design work starts.
Outdoor Living could simply be described as the customizable practice of incorporating patios, decks, pools, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, fireplaces, landscape plantings, and many other features into an area on the outside of your house. And it’s my belief that even though you might have a pool or other really neat items, it’s the deck or patio that would be considered the main gathering spot, and thus, the most important; and so, I will review both of those in this blog.
When thinking about your main gathering spot, whether it be a deck or patio (or other), the first thing that I look at are the grades. And the real question that comes of it is how high off the ground am I leaving the house and entering the outdoor living space? If the answer is 6’ or higher, I tend to recommend a deck, since it’s more cost effective to do so. If the answer is 2’- 6’, I might say it’d be nice and simple to have a small deck/landing transition and then step down to a patio. If the answer is 2’ or less, I could suggest that we do a patio all the way up to the door (with a few steps built in as needed). “Does this mean that I can’t have a deck that is at ground level or a patio that’s 10’ off the ground?” No, you can do that. But, we should have a talk about style, materials, and budget, first:
Styles- The first of the two main styles for patios has sharp, hard lined edges. This is for people who like clean, crisp looks. Coincidentally, I’ve found that if you had a parent who was an engineer, you’re more likely to like this style than the next one. The second style would be considered more curvy, natural, and free-flowing. This style tends to be more preferred if you feel one with nature and the raw natural beauty of the world. Just know there is no right or wrong answer; it’s simply a matter of who you are and what you like. If you’re not sure what you like, here is a cheat sheet to help you decide:
- Cottage- You’re probably more into the natural style, but some patios and walkways could end up being strait.
- Japanese- You should consider yourself pretty naturalistic.
- English/ French/ Traditional- Everything is going to be asymmetric and strait, unless you get to a circle, in which case it’s a perfect circle. You like the sharp lines style.
- Colonial- Once again, strong, crisp lines accentuate this style. Landscape plantings could take on more of a natural cottage style, as opposed to the English/French/ Traditional where both the hardscapes and plants would mostly be asymmetric.
- Custom – Hey, mix it up some! This is your dream project and you don’t want to be like everyone else.
I should note that the above-mentioned styles tend to go more with patios and plantings than decks and plantings. Decks can have some style, but 99% of the time, their rectangular in shape with some 45-degree angles because that’s the best way to build a deck.
Deck materials are long removed from the standard natural wood that seemed to be the only option up to a decade or two ago. Now, you can choose from natural wood, composite wood, or natural stone/ tile for your deck surface. Composite wood is far and away the most popular choice because it’s low maintenance, low to moderate cost, and it’s usually under warranty for as long as 25 years. Not to mention there are countless textures and colors to choose from. In addition to the deck surface, material decisions on railings, trim boards, and under the deck will need to be made. If you end up going the route of the deck, I would encourage you to find some pictures of decks you like and present them to your designer. While the deck surface and railing will always come up, trim details and how to treat the area under the deck might get overlooked if they’re not brought up with your designer.
Patio and Hardscape Materials (although there are many types) could reasonably be separated into three areas; Natural stone, concrete, and pavers/ manufactured block. I won’t go into all of the material options (because there are so many), but I will give you a quick rundown of each. Natural Stone for both the patios and walls, is often the most expensive of the three, but people love the look that it affords. And they don’t all have to match. The Flagstone is a popular choice for the patios, while a different type of wall stone can be used when going vertical. Concrete is a very traditional option that lends itself to some styles. Patios can be regular, colored, or stamped concrete. And walls, can be stucco’d (and painted, which was usually the case out in Tucson, where I used to live before coming back home to MD). The pavers/ manufactured block options are the fastest growing sector of all outdoor living related work, and many big companies such as Techo Bloc, Belgard, Nicolock, and Cambridge are fighting tooth and nail to be bigger than the next guy. They all have nice materials options for any style, in any color, and for any application. As always, pictures speak 100 words, so look at pictures online or ask your designer to bring catalogs and/or a portfolio of previous work.
And since this blog entry has gotten pretty long winded, and I’m still not through all of Outdoor Living yet. I’ll go ahead and set up some additional talking points about pools, outdoor kitchens, and fire features in my next blog entry “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”.