Interiors Spring 2012 | Ask The Experts
Taking it Outside
Our panel of experts wax lyrical on the merits of luxurious outdoor living spaces.BY PHI L PICKETT
With the nicer weather finally upon us, our thoughts naturally turn to the outdoors — of those long-awaited lazy days and hot humid nights spent socializing with friends and family. Not surprisingly, the mere mention of warmer weather is enough to get most Canadians heading for the deck, or if you’re lucky enough, dock. But for most of us, it’s the former, which is why more and more Canadians are spending their hard-earned cash on creating luxurious living spaces that not only bring the inside out, but allow us to make the most of the frustratingly brief summer months. Whether it’s sofas and sectionals for luxurious lounging or gorgeous grills and kitted-out kitchens for exquisite entertaining, it’s important to keep in mind that creating a fab outdoor space requires careful consideration and planning. If done well, however, your outdoor living space can dramatically increase the value of your home, and give you a truly sweet retreat to enjoy all summer long (never mind being the envy of your neighbours, who might suddenly try to get on your good side!) With that in mind, Interiors magazine spoke to some of the region’s leading landscape designers and outdoor furnishing retailers about the do’s and don’ts of creating an outdoor living space that is fab, functional and utterly fantastic!
What’s the biggest trend in creating outdoor spaces that are an extension of a client’s home?
Sherry Beaudry, Landscape Designer, Beaudry Group: Outdoorliving and entertainment centres with outdoor kitchens as the focal point. Outdoor kitchens have evolved from the traditional BBQ island to fully functional kitchens equipped with all the necessary amenities to entertain. Today’s outdoor great rooms offer everything from an intimate dining area by the fireplace to sunken living rooms to entertain guests or perhaps to watch the game on your big screen TV. Nowadays, the sky really is the limit and today’s great rooms can be tailored from the simplest amenities to the most extreme.
Leon Denbok, Denbok Landscaping: Although not a “new concept,” the biggest trend we’re seeing today are extensions of the home’s kitchen and living space. More and more clients are requesting elements that are traditionally found in their interior living space, such as outdoor fireplaces (either gas or wood burning). Outdoor furniture is becoming a “must have” in any landscape project with literally dozens of styles to choose from. And we can’t forget outdoor pizza ovens, which are becoming increasingly popular! Clients absolutely love the idea of having kitchens that are fully operational in the backyard. And really, who can blame them?
Nick Di Carlo, with daughter Paola Anzaldi, Lakeshore Living Outdoor Elements: Covered outdoor rooms protect people and furniture from the elements and also provide privacy. Backyards are becoming the space of choice for relaxing and entertaining. Having the same comforts of an indoor room outside is becoming quite popular. Outdoor kitchens, eating areas, comfortable deep seating, fireplace, fire pits and rugs are all important components of an inviting and functional outdoor space.
Mike Haunton, Let’s Landscape Together: We are certainly seeing an increase in outdoor living rooms and kitchens. Outdoor living rooms include sitting areas and firepits/places (if the municipality the homeowner lives in allows it, of course — so check your bylaws!) Outdoor kitchens are starting to incorporate things such as wood ovens, outdoor grills, fridges and sinks with hot and cold running water. As well as solid roof structures complete with ceiling fans, recessed lighting and radiant heaters to extend the client’s outdoor living, and entertaining, season.
Andy Paul, Sun Country Leisure Products: The biggest trend in creating an outdoor space is to create an “outdoor room” containing many of the same elements of an indoor room. These ele-ments might include comfy seating, lots of accessory tables, outdoor lighting, a fire element and maybe even a source of music or even a TV. The “outdoor room” can be defined with a wall or decorative fence, curtains, a gazebo or just a large area rug. An outdoor kitchen/dining area can include a comfortable dining area and a BBQ/kitchen island.
Adrian Bartels, owner, designer at Cedar Springs Landscape Group: Creating outdoor spaces as an extension of the home is the current trend we are seeing. These spaces are increasingly being designed to mirror the interior spaces and they include kitchens, dining rooms and family rooms. More and more backyards are becoming as comfortable, if not more so, than the interior of the home. People are even accessorizing their outdoor space with similar furniture and features, such as outdoor bars, televisions, comfortable sofas and interesting pieces of art.
What’s one important thing our readers should keep in mind when thinking of incorporating an outdoor living space into their back garden?
Lakeshore Living Outdoor Elements: Expand the usability of your backyard area by incorporating lighting for evening gatherings, while a hot tub can give you the privacy you need to feel relaxed, renewed and rejuvenated. Also, a firepit can add warmth to an outdoor living room and make it a great place for conversation or perhaps reading a book.
Denbok Landscaping: When incorporating a living space in any landscape design, the client should determine how they are going to use the space. If entertaining is high on the list, then a built-in BBQ is recommended. Also, keep in mind in what season the space is going to be utilized. If the client still wants to be able to entertain during the cooler fall months, then it’s important that a suitable method of heating be examined; perhaps a fireplace, heating lamps or overhead covered structures.
Sun Country Leisure Products: Determine the main use of the area and set it up appropriately. For example, is the area to be used for entertaining, for children’s use, for family relaxation or for dining? Above all, make it comfortable. Inevitably, the more comfortable your outdoor space is, the more it will be used.
Beaudry Group: Hire a qualified designer. Dependent on the size of your project, a designer can provide anything from a simple sketch, a two-dimensional scale landscape plan to a virtual walk-through of the finished concept.
Let’s Landscape Together: The client should keep in mind that the investment into their property is not only a financial investment but it is also an investment into their well-being and lifestyle.
Cedar Springs Landscape Group: An outdoor living space is an extension of the home and thus, should be designed as such. Just like the interior of the home should be well laid out for maximum functionality, as well as tastefully decorated, so should the backyard.
What’s one thing to avoid in an outdoor living space?
Lakeshore Living Outdoor Elements: One thing to avoid is poor planning. Start with a design to ensure you end up with what you want and need. Ask important questions.
Cedar Springs Landscape Group: Avoid “paving” the entire backyard. Gardens and soft surface areas are crucial to a great backyard and will serve to enhance the appeal of the patio areas.
Beaudry Group: Do your homework. Planning and design are key. Do not rush into something you may end up regretting later on down the road.
Denbok Landscaping: One thing to avoid is trying to incorporate too many elements in the design. It may be cliché , but sometimes less is more!
Let’s Landscape Together: Avoid making it too cramped or too complicated; the areas should flow freely and be comfortable.
Sun Country Leisure Products: Find solutions to avoid, or minimize, the annoying things that may be outdoors. Consider sun and rain exposure, wind, nosey neighbours and mosquitoes.
What sorts of questions do you ask homeowners to get them thinking?
Beaudry Group: What are their goals and do they have a wish list or photos (from magazine articles, etc.) that have inspired their vision. What is their overall budget? And most importantly, does the budget match the vision? What is their lifestyle? Is the function of the space for relaxation and or entertaining? Are there children and/or pets? Who will be maintaining the landscape? How much time per week do they wish to spend maintaining the landscape?
Cedar Springs Landscape Group: What is the space going to be used for? Entertaining? Family fun? Decompressing after a long day/week? Is the backyard going to be used for kids, adults or both?
Sun Country Leisure Products: How would you like to use your space? Who will be using your outdoor space? When will you use it? (i.e., sun or shade issues). How big is the space?
Denbok Landscaping: When dealing with today’s “landscape savvy” client, generally they have a pretty good understanding of what they want. The overall layout of the project and asking them how they will use the space really gets them to start thinking. We also tend to ask if they have put any thought into material choice, either natural stone or man-made.
Let’s Landscape Together: What is it about your yard that you do not enjoy? Is your current backyard appropriate for the types of things you want to use it for? How does your backyard make you feel?
Lakeshore Living Outdoor Elements: How much time do you spend in your backyard? Do you need a dining area? More shade? How often are you entertaining? Do you need a place for your children to play? For you to relax?
Does size really matter? Is it possible to create a luxe, and livable, outdoor space in many of today’s smaller gardens?
Cedar Springs Landscape Group: Size does not matter if your goal is a well-designed living space. When you want large wish list items like a pool, cabana, etc., having a larger space becomes more important. Some of our best designs have been small, intimate outdoor spaces. This can be quite challenging for a designer, but breathtaking when completed. The details in small spaces ultimately become magnified and a lot of emphasis gets placed on accessorizing the space.
Denbok Landscaping: Some of the most innovative and creative designs can come from a residence in which space is scarce to say the least! So ultimately, if the space is well planned, a smaller area can have a much bigger impact.
Sun Country Leisure Products: Today there are lots of smaller scale outdoor furnishings and smaller BBQs, all with high quality and great, modern design. Some items are multi-purpose to save on space. Sectional furniture may be appropriate. Your outdoor furniture retailer can help you with these things.
Beaudry Group: No, size does not matter. With the latest developments in landscape materials, as well as technology, it is possible to create your own personal oasis in even the smallest of spaces.
Let’s Landscape Together: As the cliché says, “size doesn’t matter”….it is how you use the space.
Lakeshore Living Outdoor Elements: Size doesn’t matter, but again planning does matter. It’s absolutely possible to create a backyard paradise to escape to in any size yard. It’s important to take measurements of your space. You need to consider the size of your patio furniture; bistro tables, benches, two patio chairs are ideal for small outdoor spaces. Patio furniture and accessories come in an incredible variety of shapes, sizes and colour. Use of colour and focal points can take your outdoor space to the next level, no matter the size of backyard.
“Hardscaping” seems to be a buzzword you hear often when talking about outdoor spaces. For the uninformed, what is hardscaping and how important is it to designing an outdoor space that works?
Lakeshore Living Outdoor Elements: With “hardscaping” and a little hard work you can really enjoy your outdoor space. You need to start with a solid foundation to build outdoor rooms. It also makes yards more appealing and reduces maintenance. For example, walkways which allow for easy access, retaining walls for privacy, fountains and waterfalls can add beauty and serenity, and other structures like an outdoor kitchen which will make entertaining more enjoyable. “Hardscaping” can also solve design problems and is a great way to extend the seasons.
Let’s Landscape Together: Hardscaping includes things like your patios, stairs, walkways, retaining walls, accent rocks, outdoor counters and woodworking, pretty much any hard surface in your landscape. Hardscaping is the “bones,” or structure, of your living space. Softscape (plantings) are the icing on the cake. Hardscapes set the functionality of the living space and create the flow and atmosphere to meet the specific needs and desires of the client.
Sun Country Leisure Products: Hardscaping refers the floors, walls, ceilings and built-in features of your outdoor space. It includes items such as decks, patio pavers, fences, retaining walls, pergolas, walkways, etc. A landscaping designer can help you with this important step. If you are a confident do-it-yourselfer, there are lots of books and resources online that can help you with your project.
Beaudry Group: Hardscaping by definition is the use of inanimate (non-living) elements in the landscape. When we talk about hardscapes, we are referring to elements such as fences, decks, walkways, retaining walls, patios, water features, rocks, etc. Softscaping is the living, organic element of the landscape. Hardscaping, on the other hand, represents the foundation or the frame of the landscape. Hardscaping can extend your outdoor space and increase the value of your home.
Denbok Landscaping: In the landscape industry, hardscaping is considered anything that is “solid.” This can be anything from stonework to woodworking. “Hardscaping” in the landscape can really make or break an outdoor space and it is easy to differentiate the “pros” from the “do-ityourselfers.” Similar to picking paint colour in your house, it is just as important when choosing things like stone colours or wood stain that will complement the exterior of the client’s house.
Cedar Springs Landscape Group: Landscaping involves both hardscaping and softscaping. These are generic terms relating to the materials used in landscaping. Hardscaping refers primarily to stonework (patios, rocks, walls, etc.) and softscaping refers to soil, mulch and mostly plantings. Designers will typically design the hardscape areas to provide functionality and then soften up the hard surfaces with plantings to add appeal.