7 Patio Design Tips From The Pros
Stylish new offerings for outdoor living have elevated the backyard into a space for resort-level luxury, with water features, fire pits, and convivial dining areas. Homeowners and guests alike feel as if they have arrived at a destination just by walking out the door. We polled three top designers for their insights into not only trends, but also solutions for your garden. Read on for their expert tips.
“Create multiple seating areas for dining, gathering and lounging,” says Erika Floysvik, principal designer for Fia & Company. “I love gathering my friends together for a seasonal meal. A good quality barbecue is a must, as is a large dining table, and shade away from the sun when long days are spent outdoors.”
“Ambience is key to backyard entertaining, and the two best ways to create mood are through lighting and music,” according to Erika. Plan these elements at the onset of your outdoor design. “Lighting is often an afterthought, however it’s one of the most effective elements of any outdoor living space.” Take your backyard from day to night with a combination of overhead lighting (think string lights) and task lighting (lanterns, lit cubes and planters).
“In a smaller space you really notice the details,” notes Kim Price, principal of Kim Price Landscape Design Inc. “Invest in quality. You’ll notice if the surfaces, plants and woodworking are quality, with good workmanship.” As people retire and want to travel, she explains they are gravitating to smaller properties that require little maintenance. There’s also increased demand for multi-purpose gardens with lounge furniture, built in ‘kitchen units’ with grills and fridges, and fire pits.
Though a carpet of well-manicured lawn will always have a place in landscaping, the maintenance required, plus water and pest control, make it less appealing. “Environmentally, it’s not a wise choice. Replacing the lawn with low-maintenance plants that enhance the home plus give interest all year round is becoming more popular.” And consider winter interest. “Winter is long and the leaves are gone for many months, so a design should incorporate winter interest first.”
The demand for plants that don’t need constant pruning to remain their desired height and width is leading the way for more dwarf cultivars. Some favorite recommendations from Kim include:
• ‘Blue Shag’ Eastern White Pine: a rounded form of soft textured needles.
• ‘Stowe Pillar’ Eastern White Pine: narrow habit provides and excellent vertical accent.
• Cedars ‘Linesville’ or ‘Little Giant’: both have compact rounded forms.
• Hemlock ‘Moonfrost’: white new growth is unusual and eye catching.
• Summersweet ‘Sixteen Candles’: upright with glossy green foliage and large fragrant blooms.
• Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee Wee’: abundant white florets aging to green.
• Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’: abundant large cones of white florets.
“The beauty of the night is that your landscape is transformed into a different place full of mystery,” says landscape architect Myke Hodgins of Hodgins and Associates. The focus needs to be on lighting function first — with enough light to get around safely. The second goal is to maximize drama and space through the play of light and shadow. “One of the biggest errors is ‘over-lighting’ a space. The second error is seeing light fixtures dotting the landscape rather than beautifully lit elements and spaces in the garden. We try to downlight to avoid light pollution, especially in the city. It’s not Las Vegas!”
Myke says the topic of storage in the garden is boring, but important. “If storage isn’t easy and integrated, your stuff will be in the way. Cushions will be inside and never used, or you will be running an obstacle course trying to get at your gardening tools.” It’s especially key in a small garden, where he has excavated under decks to create storage areas. “Often we can find unused corners to house your valuable junk that will not interfere with living and play spaces.”