Tag : amazing-front-yards
Tag : amazing-front-yards
Like a hallway that connects the different rooms of your house, a path through the landscape links the different destinations on your property.
A formal entry walkway leads from the sidewalk to the front door; a semiformal cut-stone path joins your dining terrace to the grill area; an informal stepping-stone path links your gardens while keeping your feet dry and out of the mud; and a soft footpath defines the welltraveled route from the kitchen to the compost bin. Depending upon its purpose, a path can be wide or narrow, straight or meandering, ramped or stepped, long or short.
What’s important is to make the journey through your property as interesting as the destination itself.
above • A brick and concrete path winds its way through a sprightly garden to the front door. The picket fence divides the deep front yard into two, making the garden journey feel longer and more interesting.
left • A path of flat fieldstones provides an easy-care route to the back door for a young family.
above • Brick pavers link driveway to front entryway through a welcoming gardenscape. Despite a thick wall and privacy hedge, the open gate beckons a visitor to enter.
Without a paved walkway underfoot, we would track mud and debris right into the house. Choosing a walkway surface that is durable, not slippery, and easy to maintain (and shovel in northern climes) is essential to moving between the parts of our property that should be easily accessible throughout the year. A formal path delineates the best route to our front, back, side, garage, or shed door. Often built wide enough for two people to walk side by side, a front walk can be curving or straight, depending upon aesthetic preferences and the destinations that need to be linked.
Natural cut stone, brick, poured concrete, or concrete pavers are just a few of the possibilities available to homeowners when they seek to build a formal path.
The choice of material can either match or contrast with the materials of the house with the former, a sense of continuity is established and with the latter, a more dynamic landscape is created. Planting shrubs and ground covers along the sides of a formal path can soften its edges and create a lovely garden experience along the way.
top right • This poured concrete walkway edged in brick provides a fully accessible walkway that is easily shoveled in winter. Plants spilling across its surface make it look less like a sidewalk when used in a home landscape.
bottom right • Dimensional concrete pavers, available in a wide range of colors, sizes, and textures, create an inexpensive and attractive entry path to this inset front door. Edges look aged because we have tumbled this paver.
Semiformal paths are useful when we want to keep our feet dry but don’t need a continuous surface underfoot to do so.
Cut stone or dimensional concrete pavers, separated by gravel, plantings, or grass, offer a less formal way to link house to garden or different parts of the garden to each other and can be fun to design and to use.
Depending upon your manner of walking, you might choose bigger or smaller stones and then space them so that it’s easy to walk at a normal gait.
Because the pavers are cut (usually into a square or rectangular shape), make sure that you place them so that they visually relate to the geometry of the main house.
top right • Square pavers zigzag through a leafy shade garden to meet a back porch.
bottom right • A simple, shingled house looks just right with a curving semiformal path to its front door.
above • The kitchen entrance of this contemporary concrete house is reached by a handsome path of cut bluestone rectangles, punctuated with squares placed point to point like a diamond. Lush plantings, including grapeleaf anemone (Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’) and coral bells (Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ and H. ‘Citronelle’) flourish.
Sometimes we want a simple way to move from one place to the other that offers an individual contemplative experience as we do so. Stepping stones, like natural-cleft flat fieldstones or quarried granite or limestone, are easy to assemble and fun to follow. Spaced several inches apart, and often sized to fit an average foot, each stepping stone should be placed the way you walk: right foot/left foot/right foot/pause. For ease of maintenance, sink each stone into a low ground cover or a lawn, so that a machine can easily mow right over them.
above • A carpet of pink ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’) makes this stepping stone path experience special. One rule is to space 18-in. stones about 2 in. to 3 in. apart in a slightly staggered pattern to make strolling easy.
right • Both the natural and quarried version of Pennsylvania bluestone are used to handsome effect in this garden. The cut bluestone walkway edged by granite gives way to a flat fieldstone path.
This informal path of Vermont schist links driveway to house through a river-like lawn. Intersperse smaller stones with large ones to enable people to plant both feet, pause, and look ahead to their destination.
Sometimes merely mowing a way through a wildflower meadow or repeatedly tramping a trail through the woods is enough to link areas of our landscape. A soft path offers an inexpensive, easy-care choice for busy homeowners on properties large and small. Good alternatives include grass, bark mulch, pine needles, stabilized soil, and pea gravel. New “steppable” ground covers are also available, but for occasional use only.
top right • In this tropical wonderland, gravel paths unite outdoor rooms into a cohesive design. The tall plants make the paths feel almost like corridors.
bottom right • Stone steps create a narrow trail through a hillside of ground covers.
below • Crunchy gravel underfoot makes for an inexpensive and permeable path material. Make sure to install a filter fabric under the gravel to keep weeds down.
right • A meditative labyrinth is createdby using a ground-covering Sedum, river stones, and tamped, raked earth.
below • A mown path curves through a wildflower meadow of daisies and coreopsis, enticing us to sit awhile before
Like a molding strip or a border on a wooden floor, creating a frame around a space, however subtle, brings it into focus.
You can make an edging using a border of boxwood or other low hedge, cobblestone or brick, pressuretreated lumber set lengthwise, roofing tile, plastic edging, or even just by spading an edge to separate bed from lawn creating a continuous and distinctive line around a pool of space.
right • A “river” of lawn edged by cobblestones is reinforced by a band of double white New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri).
left • A stone retaining wall acts as an edging between a hillside of roses and a sidewalk. An errant rose bough cascades down to the street level, bringing a delightful blurring to the border.
above • Extruded concrete curbing creates a clean, flowing edge for this stabilized soil walkway. Concrete is fed into an extruding machine, then compacted and fed out through the chosen mold with control joints cut every 3 ft.
Just as piping or a band of grosgrain ribbon provides a clean finish to a seam on a dress, so an edge in a garden acts as a way to detail a design.
• A spaded edge is the least expensive and often the most satisfying option you have for outlining your garden bed or lawn.
• Respade your edge as necessary to keep it looking perfect.
• Many stone edgings work best when built with a deep, long footing that keeps them from moving during winter’s freeze and thaw cycles.
• You can set them deeper by placing them on edge.
• A low boxwood hedge edges a formal garden, underscored by the strip of flat fieldstone at its base.
• Cut stone curbing marks a clear separation between the lawn and a hedge of geranium in flower.
A gateway marks an opening in an enclosure and a threshold into the landscape. Designed thoughtfully,it can beckon to a stroller to enter the realm within.
Sometimes gates are designed to look continuous with their neighboring fence, built of the same materials and patterns in order to blend in with the surroundings. Piers, special columns, or a change in height, style, or color are all ways to turn a break in a wall or fence into the highlight of an enclosure.
Building a pergola or trellis overhead can also help distinguish an opening from its surroundings. Also when planted with a flowering vine that tendrils above, a gateway provides visitors with a delightful garden experience.
right • Handsome finialtopped wooden posts interrupt this continuous line of pointed pickets. Diagonal bracing keeps a gate’s frame square to the post so it’s easy to open.
A subtle but important detail is to place a large threshold stone under the gateway opening to indicate that this is a place to pause and appreciate the landscape ahead.
In addition when possible, locate any steps away from the gateway opening since stepping up or down while operating a gate can be tricky.
right • An inexpensive splitrail fence backed with welded wire fabric provides a clean enclosure for this horse paddock.
right • The handsome wooden gate marks the entry to a stone staircase. The retaining walls are made of rough stone that contrasts well with the smooth painted finish of the gate.
below • The patterning of this fence and gate provide the structure for growing hops vines (Humulus lupulus). The path material flows out below the gate, indicating where to enter.
Finally, Fences need many posts in order to support them and keep them standing (especially when on a curve, as in the example shown).
Why not have them do double duty and use one, or even many, of them as a birdhouse as well?
They are particularly important as handholds in periods of inclement weather and as we age. They can help lead a visitor physically and
visually into a landscape, or can seem to disappear to allow us to appreciate the view beyond.
Railings can complement adjacent gardens. When painted a similar color to the house body or trim, they extend its presence into the landscape. When stained a natural color, they tend to blend in more with their surroundings.
right • This wooden railing meets the building code while allowing a view of the landscape beyond.
This handsome painted handrail is angled so that one can easily slide a hand along it down the long flight of stairs. With stairs, steps, or other level changes, the design of the handrails should follow the slope at a consistent height from the ground or staircase. The vertical rhythm of the railing contrasts with the horizontal lines of the stone wall and stairs beyond. This creates a sense of cohesion between the different materials, without too much repetition.
below • These stainless steel railings seem to disappear into the landscape. Contemporary cable systems have changed the way we enjoy our decks.
Railings often are designed with a pattern or repeating rhythm that can be a strong element in the landscape. When surrounding a deck, many railings interrupt our view of the world beyond. However, new stainless steel or cable systems provide enclosure while seeming to disappear from view. Always check local building codes to learn the particular conditions height, opening size, and materials for which a railing can be installed.
right • A painted wooden handrail helps people navigate this angular walk down the stairs. A closet pole or dowel attached on the inside offers a handhold along the way and gives the clematis vine a little more room to grow.
Fences have distinct personalities of their own, whether they are mainly functional or more decorative. When a property needs a fence, it can be an opportunity to make it a feature something special in the landscape.
An open patterned fence is often used when separation is needed but privacy is not. Picket and split rail fences are light and delicate. Solid fences provide privacy and security. These no-nonsense enclosures don’t need to be plain; there are many materials, colors, patterns, and finish details for added interest.
Fences often emphasize straight lines vertically and horizontally in the landscape. Yet a fence needs to address the slope of the ground. Sections of fencing can either step up or down or slope to follow the grade.
Following a curve, like along a road, the sections can zigzag perpendicular to each other, for a crisp look. Fences with curved sections must be custom designed, and they add a tailored look to any landscape.
Patterns in fences vary, from the spindles of a wrought-iron fence to the tops of pickets to the toppers of stockade fences. Lattice, cutouts, or custom patterning in the topmost section of a fence can bring a decorative element to a landscape. A good rule is to have the top pattern be no more than one-third of the overall height of the fence
above • Add some bright colors to a simple pine board fence and you create an exuberant backyard that draws you outside while providing privacy from neighbors’ eyes.
left • This board fence moves down the slope in repeating steps, while the location of the decorative Chinese-style panel stays the same.
right • Wooden fencing steps up a sloping sidewalk in regular increments. Each panel is protected by a small roof over an openwork topper. Spacers between the boards allow air to circulate into the garden. A handsome gate, halfway up the hill announces the entry.
First of all you can add a living layer to your fence by planting a vine nearby that can twine its way across it. Also grape and hops vines are vigorous growers, as are flowering favorites like clematis, trumpet vines, and wisteria. When you plant climbers on a solid board fence, you’ll need to provide small nails or screws for twining; on an openwork screen, the vines will usually weave through openings on their own.
Another way to veil a tall fence is to plant an espalier often a fruit tree that’s been trained to a flat plane in front of it.
right • This fence, made of woven steel, emphasizes the horizontal and provides structure for climbing vines.
above • Grapevine, a vigorous grower, tendrils up this slatted fence. The crisp white posts bring a clean contrast to the 3-in. boards set ½ in.
Finally This espaliered tree is composed of different apple stock grafted onto a main stem. Over time, each branch can be trained to grow along the wooden fence, bringing beauty and delight to its owner.
Wall define a space. Whether they are freestanding, to screen or divide a space, or retaining, to create levels in your garden, in addition walls make landscapes more interesting and dynamic. You can sit on them, install plants that will climb up them, or create curves and angles with them. There are a multitude of contemporary and traditional products to choose from. Use a licensed contractor to install walls that are higher than 24 in.
• Available in an array of earth tones, also with textured, flat, or curved face
• Easy, modular installation
• Maintenance free
• Capstone necessary
• Clean, contemporary look and virtually any color possible
• Concrete block or poured internal wall requires professional installation
• Stucco mustreapplied over time
• Timeless appeal and colors are limited to clay and gray tones but don’t fade
• Create a variety of patterns like running bond and basketweave, or jack-on-jack
• Taller walls should be installed by a professional
• Thin stone installed onto concrete base gives the look of natural stone, but is easier to install and less expensive
• Capstone necessary
• Variations in size, coloring, and stacking styles
• May require professional installation
installed with or without cap, with or without mortar
An enclosure, like a wall, fence, screen, or hedge, designates and defines an outside area as special. Such boundaries have always played an important functional role in the landscape: to keep livestock in and intruders out. These days, an enclosure can also be used to mark property lines, close in a hazard like a swimming pool, and provide privacy. An enclosure also acts to extend the walls of the house out into the landscape. It’s strange but true: an enclosed space feels larger than a similar area lacking such definition. Perhaps it’s because a fenced yard seems like it’s marked out as special, with its clear edges and entrance gate.
Wooden, steel, or bamboo fences sit more lightly on the land and are less expensive to erect but don’t last as long as their masonry counterparts. Hedges are the least expensive means of enclosing a landscape. Evergreen or deciduous, tall or low, hedges can be effective living screens for a variety of settings. Gateways, as breaks in an enclosure, allow passage into the delineated realm. Railings are low post and rail structures designed to keep people from falling over an edge, especially on stairways or around high decks. The simplest kind of enclosure—edging—separates plants or garden beds from pathways or lawns in a useful and attractive way.
top right • An ornate wrought-iron gateway, in line with an elegant double staircase leading into the house, links lawn areas separated by stone walls and hedges.
right • Dry-laid stone walls are an ancient form of enclosure, built originally to use up excess material, delineate boundaries, and keep in livestock. These days, we enjoy them for their beauty and sense of history.
above • A wrought-iron handrail softened by a leafy vine embraces this outdoor living room.
right • This 7-ft.-high fence is made of a series of concrete-block piers and wire mesh panels that keep animals out, allow air circulation through, and provide views into the forest beyond.
Walls are powerful visual extensions of the architecture of your house into the landscape. They can be structural or ornamental and can serve different purposes in the landscape. These can provide backdrops to gardens, define the edge of the property, create a sense of privacy, or frame an opening for a driveway or path.
An interesting form can give walls greater character. Straight walls are practical, direct, and efficient. Curved walls, with their softer flow, can be playful, meandering, or sensuous. Tall walls that you can’t see over or where a lot of soil is being retained can be intimidating.
A friendly height for a wall is one that allows a neighborly view between houses. Materials and finish details can make all the difference. Whether stucco or stone, mortared or dry stacked, round or square stone, natural or cut stone cap, stucco texture and color, there are countless details that you can use to give a wall your own personal touch.
top right • Concrete walls that are plastered or stuccoed can resemble traditional hand-molded adobe or mud walls. Vivid colors satisfy in this tropical setting.
bottom right • Irregular blocks of limestone are stacked to form a low planter wall. Use local stone wherever possible.
above • These walls retain a steep slope, creating terraced spaces for trees and large shrubs. Make sure to include weep holes behind the walls to allow water to drain through.
right • This wall is built of concrete faced with stone and capped with a contrasting material, in this case, bluestone. A slightly higher square pier provides a clear end to the wall, marks the top landing for the steps, and provides a base for the Arts and Crafts lantern that lights the way.
Many of us are lucky to live where natural stone is plentiful. Whether flat or rounded, granite, sandstone, or limestone, a stone wall made out of what’s local looks great because it is in keeping with the natural landscape. And there are many ways to build with stone. You can use round or flat fieldstones to face a wall or to create a built-up surface. Joints between stones can be fully mortared, partially mortared (hidden joints), or dry-laid (where no mortar is used at all). Make sure you employ an experienced mason to get the best results.
right • This arching picket fence sits directly on a concrete wall faced with a thin veneer of fieldstone.
above • This dry stone wall was built without mortar. At its end, a ruin-like window seems to erupt from a sea of plantings.
above • A steeply sloping hillside can be held back by building stone retaining walls. Properly engineered, they act as beautifully planted terraces that create more usable living space.
right • Wide stone walls curve between upper and lower lawn areas. Flat fieldstones are secured in place using a dark-tinted mortar instead of a cap.
A recent Boston-area JMMDS project aimed to turn a high retaining wall along a tight entry space into a lovely vertical garden. To do this, we proposed transforming one side of this shady driveway into a living wall.
A steel frame made of cells to hold soil was bolted into a 7-ft.-high, curving concrete retaining wall and then filled with a palette of predominantly native and shade-loving perennials.
Now this north-facing space functions as an outdoor entryway, a driveway turnaround or parking spot, a protected place to read a book, and also a living work of garden art that greets the homeowners whenever they come home.
above • Ferns (both Christmas and autumn), Solomon seal (Polygonatum commutatum), woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis), fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia), and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) grace this north-facing green wall.
For those who live in southern climes, the bright sun and warm weather offer opportunities to bring color into your open-air rooms.
Artfully designed tiled walls can act as vertical focal points with their planes of smooth, colorful finishes that catch the light and make for an easy-to-clean, moisture-proof surface. Tile can be laid out as a background that highlights a fountain or sculpture or as a focal point in itself.
Colorful tiles made of glass, ceramic, or natural stone are all available in a wide range of sizes and finishes. You can even design your own tile pattern, putting your personal stamp on your backyard.
top right • Large squares of blue tile are used to face an exterior planter wall filled with native plantings, enclosing an ipé deck.
right • Vivid colors stand out in bright light. Flanked by fig trees and agaves, the tile pattern on this wall acts like a hearth in a living room, creating a central focal point around which to place the furniture.
A seating wall is a masonry wall built at a height and depth to provide a place to sit. Retaining and freestanding walls alike can deliver a solid bench for sitting. Since stone can be hard to sit on and cold to the touch, seat walls can be made more comfortable by the addition of a wooden seat or cushions, or when painted in light colors or softened by cascading plants. Typical seat heights can be as low as 12 in. and as high as 30 in. (more of a leaning height), with the usual height being 18 in. or so from the ground.
above • A low concrete wall whose limestone cap doubles as a circular seat retains this island planting and breaks up the expanse of a large concrete driveway.
left • A skilled mason fashioned a built-in seat out of a retaining wall, complete with a side table for setting drinks or containers of plants.
below • An exedra—a semicircular bench—fits perfectly around a firepit that also functions as a coffee table. The thick pillows made of outdoor fabric bring the feeling of inside out. Notice the handsome bevel formed along the inside edge of the bench.
Shed are little houses that serve a needed function in our backyard landscapes. Tool sheds, chicken houses, gazebos, meditation huts, even an outdoor workroom are
all typical uses of a shed. Often designed to be a mini-version of the larger residence, a shed can be located near the main house or at a remote corner of the property. When that happens, it functions as an eye-catcher as well as a destination that draws people into the landscape.
right • Linked to the main house by a shade structure, this tiny shed might function as a tool shed, a writer’s cottage, or a changing room. The rocking chair, hammock, and dining set all suggest that it’s a home away from home.
bottom right • A hidden door in a fence is the only giveaway that there’s a utility shed behind it. We all possess things to store outside but rarely do it so elegantly.
above top • Climbing hydrangea vine has overtaken this tool shed, showing the horticultural bias of its owner.
above bottom • This little shed was designed to be a mini version of its parent the main house. Sheds and little houses look best when something, whether trim or body color, roof pitch, or detailing, relates back to a larger structure nearby.
top right • A classical Greek garden house is an eyecatcher with columns, pediment, and windows; an elegant focal point in the middle of this veget
able garden of raised beds.
bottom right • Some people live or work in their sheds. This Japanesque structure, set in a forest, could function as a summer pavilion, meditation hut, or picnic destination.
As our globe continues to heat up and more and more people face drought conditions, regulating the light overhead in our open-air rooms is vital to our comfort while outdoors and to our overall enjoyment of nature.
For one thing, creating a “ceiling” for our outdoor rooms limits and defines the vast space above and creates a sense of intimacy below.
Retractable awnings allow homeowners to protect what’s beneath from the sun and when necessary from the rain; openwork pergolas baffle and break up the sun’s rays, while letting weather and cooling breezes through. Practical issues aside, there are plenty of aesthetic reasons to use overhead enclosures. Handsome patterns of dappled light are cast upon the furniture and floor below; when combined with leafy climbing vines, an overhead garden or orchard is created. Place your dining table underneath a grape arbor, and pluck away.
right • Although this pergola sits high above the tile-topped table, the close spacing of the boards overhead helps cast a deep shade over the whole.
bottom right • A shade structure can be made into a weather-resistant outdoor room by placing translucent fiberglass panels overhead.
below • Without this pergola made of cedar poles that rest atop stone piers, this high-walled outdoor room would be too hot for sitting.
This northern California landscape represents innovative design on a realistic budget. The owner wanted clean, simple lines in keeping with the modern Asian-inspired design of his remodeled ranch home. Landscape designer Patricia St. John created a sustainable, elegant retreat perfect for the client’s aesthetic sensibilities and love of entertaining. Creatively recycling materials from the existing deck, she flipped over boards to build a smaller deck, stained a warm, rich hue.
The concrete patio was sawn into strips and laid out in a geometric design of raked sand, black La Paz rock, and decorative stone mulch. Nylon “sails” overhead provide shade with dramatic flair, at a minimal cost.
At the back of the property, framed openings were cut in the back fence to provide a view of the creek beyond and to visually expand the space. Grasses were a natural choice as plant material: elegant, low-maintenance, and drought-tolerant.
top right • Strung from the posts of an old arbor, the “sails” can be retracted when more sun is wanted or when the portable firepit is in use. The steps are recycled rafters from the arbor.
bottom right • The open design is highly conducive to entertaining; the interior designer put wheels on the dining room table so that it could be moved outside for al fresco dining. The fence openings have 3-in. x 3-in.
wire inset for security while allowing views of the creek and vegetation beyond the yard.
A thirsty, high-maintenance lawn was eliminated, replaced by a geometric design of concrete, sand, and stone, punctuated by ceramic balls and plantings of cape rushes (Chondropetalum tectorum), Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa), and other grasses.
When designed thoughtfully, your lawn can function as an open-air room that works as well for lounging and entertaining as it does for play. Grassy areas are a place where kids can kick a ball around, play tag, make a fort, or do somersaults. As with a glade in a forest, a lawn also serves to bring light and air into the property. Design your lawn as a “pool of space”– a continuous surface that is framed, like a swimming pool, by a clear edge. This will turn what seemed like leftover space into a handsome focal area of your landscape.
above • When crisply defined by a path, curb, or metal edging, a panel of lawn creates a geometric open space that provides a handsome frame for the house and a place to play in the front yard.
right • Grass underfoot can serve as a verdant terrace for garden furniture and al fresco dining.
above • A grass bocce court edged in boxwood serves both as playspace and verdant corridor terminated by a handsome Chippendale bench.
This grassy oval acts as a visual relief space in the midst of abundant plantings.
A swimming pool can be designed as a handsome horizontal focal point around which the surrounding spaces are organized. Most pools are formed from concrete shells topped by stone coping that acts as a frame for the water. If the pool is painted a dark color, like gray or black, the water reflects the sky; if painted turquoise to match the sky, then the two can seem to meld together as one. Both are attractive effects. These days, pools are usually formed using a concrete Gunite® method that allows different shapes and edgings to be created. Another important development in pool design is the automatic pool cover that works on a rectangular-shaped pool to keep children safe, intruders out, and evaporation to a minimum. Shallow wading pools and swim spas bring the right amount of water into small backyards.
Because chlorine by-products have been linked to higher incidences of asthma, miscarriages, and cancer, new greener methods of disinfecting pools are also changing the way people swim. Ozonators combined with in-floor cleaners keep water clean with a minimum of chemical treatment. Saltwater pools are also popular, designed to reduce micro-organisms to a safe level. Ultraviolet disinfection systems add a layer of protection by oxidizing organic contaminants.
Swim spas are small pools built for exercising against an artificially generated current. This pool is set into a freestanding limestone wall that supports a small raised terrace area.
right • With the press of a button, an automatic pool cover glides into action tion. Not only is increased safety a big benefit,but limiting evaporation also means water is conserved. Using less energy to run the circulation system and reducing overall maintenance are also pluses.
below • This swimming pool is designed to look like a natural pond. A hillside of shrubs and trees, with abundant plantings in poolside pockets, transforms this space into a verdant oasis.
For those living in northern climates, a hot tub is one of the best ways to relax in the out-of-doors, especially in the dead of winter. Others tout the therapeutic benefits from the spray jets that can be set to massage different parts of the body. With temperatures as high as 105°F, these small pools can be built of wood with staves (like a barrel), concrete Gunite, or one-piece stainless steel or acrylic and are powered by wood, gas, or electricity.
Solar hot water systems are also possible in certain climates. Whatever style hot tub you select, make sure to locate it close to an area in your house with a bath or changing room. While some people prefer to place it under cover of a roof or pergola, others like to use it as a nighttime retreat under the stars. When easily reached, a hot tub acts as a warm and comfortable “away room,” even in the most inclement weather.
The path to a spa should be easily maintained and shoveled. Putting hooks nearby for robes or towels is a small but important detail. It’s also a wonderful viewing position to look out on the rest of your landscape, so installing night lighting can enhance your hot tub experience.
top right • This in-ground spa, complete with automatic cover, incorporates hydrojets that ease back and neck pain. This mini-pool is also the focal point of a hedged garden room.
bottom right • Portable home spas are easily available and quickly installed onsite. Measuring about 71 ⁄2 ft. square, they can be eyesores in a landscape if not thoughtfully designed. This hot tub sits adjacent to the house on a throne-like deck and terrace.
There is a freedom that comes from showering in the out-of-doors. For those lucky enough to have a pool or pond on their property or a beach nearby, it’s helpful to have access to an outdoor area to clean or towel off before setting foot inside. A simple showerhead, some paving underfoot, a way to drain the water, and a screen or fence for privacy that allows air to circulate easily are just about all you need.
right • Placing an outdoor shower right under a porch ceiling and on an exterior wall is a great way to use leftover space while ensuring privacy, whatever the time of day.
botoom right • This charming spiral shower shields the body while allowing views out. And it looks like fun.
below • Air circulation is always important to consider when installing an outdoor shower. Slats break up one’s view while allowing cooling breezes within.
While an outdoor room can be just about anywhere on your property, the most traditional is an attached porch. As a part of the house itself, a porch usually sits under an extension of the roof and is well protected from the elements. It abuts at least one wall of the house and is often built at the same floor level as inside, so it’s easy to transition in and out.
A porch can sit on the front, side, or back of the house, be narrow or wide, and be open or screened to keep out insects. This is the place where you can really live in the out-of-doors, where comfortable wicker or teak furniture with overstuffed pillows draws you out to a cool shady spot.
Unless protected by an awning or shade structure, a deck or patio sits out under the sky. Constructed of wood, steel, or recycled materials, a deck is an extension of the house that can be built on top of a roof, to the side of a building, or even on the ground as a low platform. A patio is usually a level piece of ground on which a paved surface sits. It can extend the inside of a house out into the landscape as a large area for seating or act like a floating island in the midst of plantings or lawn. Paving options are plentiful.
left • A roofed deck adds expansive living and dining space outside the walls of this house. Hinged panels of glass open wide to let in light and air, making for an easy passage between inside and out.
below • Floor-to-ceiling screened frames open up views from porch to garden, just like a Japanese screen.
Open-air rooms can also be constructed around swimming pools, hot tubs, and even outdoor showers anywhere water can be enjoyed. A hard surface underfoot usually helps to keep wet feet from tracking dirt or grass clippings everywhere. But sometimes you might prefer an outdoor room with a verdant soft carpet underfoot a well-clipped lawn or mossy glade offers a spot for picnicking or leisurely lounging on the grass. These days, sheds are used for tool and garden equipment storage, animal shelter, or even as a get-away space for work or for play. These mini-houses, when well designed, draw the eye and the foot, attracting children and the child in all of us to snuggle in for awhile.
A porch feels simultaneously like a part of the house and a part of the landscape: a place perched somewhere in between. You can entertain, dine, and even sleep out on a porch, feeling close to the elements while in a protected place.
Because most porches are not closed-in structures that are built to keep out all kinds of weather, materials need to be weather-resistant, thoughtfully detailed and built to last.
Since rain and snow can accumulate on its roof, a porch needs to adhere to appropriate moisture-proofing, flashing, and guttering standards to keep water where it belongs: outside the structure.
Rain chains and gutters can deposit water into rain gardens, but choosing local hardwoods like cedar or exotic woods like ipé and finishing them with a moisture-proof stain will help maintain the structure, no matter the weather event.
Caulking joints to keep water from getting inside any structure is imperative in an indoor/outdoor environment.
Similarly, you need to think about moisture issues as you choose your porch flooring. Mortared stone or brick works well outside, as does stained concrete. Wood finished with either a clear stain or a deck paint can hold up under rigorous weather conditions; with proper maintenance you’ll enjoy your porch for years to come.
right • This colorfully painted porch is a true open-air room: It’s built into the structure of the house with only some posts and a railing separating it from the garden level below.
right • Where to put the grill? Two steps bring you down to the outdoor kitchen where the griller can talk with guests while attending to the tasks at hand.
below • The girth of these columns and the maturity of the plantings create the that you’re inside a giant terrarium.
On a hot summer’s day, who wouldn’t love curling up with a good book and a cold beverage on an old settee in a screened porch with an overhead fan moving the air around, just right, protected from the elements and marauding insects as you look out onto your landscape through a shimmering screen.
It’s hard to imagine a more relaxing scenario. A well-designed screened porch can serve as protected outdoor dining, living, and play space, or even as a sleeping room.
With a solid roof overhead, either floor-to-ceiling screens or screens over well-caulked half-walls, and stone or wood flooring underfoot (important tip: make sure to screen the space between the floorboards to keep the mosquitoes out), a screened porch lets you live in the out-of-doors from late spring through early fall.
top right • People with screened porches often move in for the summer. Being so close to nature while the weather’s good is like camping, except with a full kitchen and other amenities close at hand.
bottom right • Supporting posts help to frame distant views, breaking the landscape into parts the way a delicate folding screen does. The stone floor is an extension of the patio outside the screens.
below • So many places to sit, so little time! Depending on the season, you can dine outside beneath the pergola or lounge inside the screened porch.
Categories: Open Air-Rooms