No one will deny that it takes a lot of time and work to create and maintain a beautiful, inviting lawn. It also takes water, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. As the interest in sustainability and green living grows, some homeowners are considering just how vast an expanse of green lawn they really need or want. Many are deciding that their goal was to enjoy, relax, and play in their lawns and outdoor living spaces, not constantly work in them. So, those large lawns are shrinking, and homeowners are looking for substitutes and alternatives. While it may take a while to introduce a new look to your landscaping as you wait for new plants to grow and develop, you can change your hardscaping more quickly and use it to set the tone for the changes you are making. Here are some of the new trends for 2017 to create a fresh new look for your outdoor space.
Larger Patios and Larger Decks With Multiple Levels
Those in areas where there are planting restrictions due to the potential for wildfires have long known that hardscaping is an attractive alternative. So, as homeowners shrink their lawns, some are expanding their decks and patios. Patios are popular because family, friends, and guests can join a conversation on the lawn and then return to the patio without having to navigate a flight of stairs while carrying a plate of food and a drink. Decks, though, have been redesigned to eliminate flights of stairs with multiple levels and a low step up or down between the levels.
Shaped, Low-Maintenance Decks
Another advantage that patios once had over decks is that the concrete, bricks, or pavers laid out to create the deck didn’t have to be laid out in a square or rectangle. They could be laid out in a variety of geometric or even freeform shapes. It’s more difficult to create anything beyond angular shapes with planks of wood.
More and more, though decks are being constructed using composite materials made of plastic or recycled plastic and wood fibers. For added durability, composite materials can be capped with a protective coating. Composite decks don’t suffer from mold, mildew, or insect invasions, and they don’t need to be sanded, stained, and sealed. They also don’t scratch, and spills wipe up without staining. That means composite decks require less work than wood decks. Manufacturers are becoming better at duplicating natural wood grains, and those are the most popular choices, although composite decking materials are also available in solid colors. Because these materials are made of plastic, they are more versatile than wood. The planks can be heated and molded into any shape. A deck of composite materials can be any shape that you could imagine for a patio, even a rounded one.
Deck and Patio Living
Treating patios and decks as an additional room has been an ongoing trend for awhile. The idea keeps expanding. More homeowners are installing outdoor kitchens on decks as well as patios. Just keep in mind that to support the weight of even a small outdoor kitchen, your deck should be reinforced beneath the area where you plan to place the kitchen.
More homeowners are also installing outdoor fireplaces. A gas burning fireplace won’t throw sparks and might be safe on a wood deck. Ask your hardscaping contractor for advice on that question. Wood burning fireplaces and fire pits are definite fire hazards on wood decks and should not be used there.
Any form of entertainment in the open air, especially under the stars, has a special atmosphere. Some homeowners are capturing that by installing an entertainment system on their decks that is complete with a large screen TV. Cabinets built into the deck, like built-in bookcases, protect the elements of the entertainment system from the elements outdoors. You also could take a new idea from kitchen design and have built in cabinets to protect the appliances in your outdoor kitchen as well.
Built-ins actually are a new trend for decks and patios. You may not have enough individual pieces of outdoor furniture for everyone at a large cookout or family reunion, but built-in seating around the edge of your patio or deck can solve the problem. Use brick or stone for the base of the seating around a patio, and it will look like a low wall. Wider railing on decks provides a space where guests can sit their food and drinks while they talk.
Built-in planters are another current trend. Use them to accent the stairs or levels on decks, the end of a railing, or the ends of a section of built-in seating.
Another trend that continues to be popular is the idea of creating a sheltered area on your deck or patio. A sheltered area extends the use of your patio or deck; if it starts to rain, you can enter the sheltered area instead of having to run inside. You can install an awning, one or more sails, or a pergola. Leave the pergola open, give it a roof of thatch; install removable panels of rip stop nylon for a colorful, sail-like look; or reinforce it and place planters or an upper-level seating area on top of it.
If you live in a condo or an area where houses practically sit on top of each other, a stone or brick wall is an attractive way of providing your patio or deck with some privacy. Low walls have always been used as retainers for slopes in a yard, but they can also be used to divide sections of the yard, such as protectively dividing a vegetable or herb garden from a party or play area. A low wall can divide sections of your yard without cutting off the view and making your yard feel claustrophobically small. Walls are also another way of reducing the amount of lawn that needs to be fertilized, fed, watered, and mowed.
The retro look of 1960s color blocking resurfacing in women’s fashion has moved outdoors to hardscaping design. Use the idea to highlight different features or areas of your outdoor space.
The simplest application is to paint a square or rectangular area behind a plant shelf or hanging plant in a color that contrasts with the rest of the wall or fence behind it. Be sure to use painter’s tape to keep your edges straight and to keep the paint where you want it. To add more dimension, paint panels in one or more colors that contrast with the wall, securely attach the panels to the wall, and then hang the plant or the shelf.
If you are having a brick or stone wall built, you can use different colors of bricks or stones to create the color block look. You can also use color blocking to define different areas of your patio or deck, just as you might use stone, tile, and wood or carpeting to differentiate areas of the great room inside your home. To mark different areas of your patio, have the bricks or wood or composite planks laid out to form different patterns with a border around the area or use different colors of bricks, pavers, or concrete. For your deck, use different types of wood or, in the case of composite materials, different wood grains or colors. Outline the area around your fire pit or outdoor kitchen, for example, or create a meditation area around a fountain.
Textures are another borrowed trend, this time from interior design rather than fashion design. Contrasting textures not only add visual interest but also involve the sense of touch. Contrast a wood fence with a brick or stone patio, or contrast brick, stone, concrete, and wood. Create a pathway of stone pavers surrounded by gravel. Take another cue from indoor décor and bring the gleam of warm-colored metals – gold, bronze, or brass – into your outdoor space.
Mix Modern and Traditional Elements
Outdoor hardscaping elements are moving away from the hard-edged, geometric, minimalist look. As with the indoors, mixing that sleek look with a traditional one has become popular. A geometric table might sit beside flower beds delineated by DIY railroad ties or a geometric outdoor fireplace might be surrounded by Adirondack chairs, swing seating, or wicker furniture.
Rocks, Boulders, and Rockeries
With weather seeming to become warmer and droughts becoming more frequent and longer lasting, homeowners are taking a cue from California, where drought and wildfire prevention have long been a concern in landscaping and hardscaping. Rockeries are taking their place in flowerbeds that were dominated by thirsty plants. Single rocks are being used as accents in flowerbeds in place of plaster figurines to create a more natural look, and interesting boulders are being used in place of status. The use of rocks and boulders continues the trend of contrasting textures in hardscaping and landscaping.
Creating pathways is another way of adding interest to your lawn while also shrinking it. Pathways can lead to a quiet nook for relaxing, a patio that’s ready for a party or a romantic evening, a flower garden, or a play area.
Creating a pathway doesn’t necessarily mean pouring a concrete sidewalk. In fact, permeable walkway materials that allow rain water to pass through and soak back into the ground are also a popular trend. You can choose brick laid out in an intriguing pattern, flagstones, concrete pavers with molded in designs, or flagstones or pavers surrounded by gravel. The Japanese use white gravel to symbolize a river or stream running through the garden. With that concept, the stones or pavers are like stepping stones in the water.
Locally Sourced Materials
In landscaping, the trend is to use locally-sourced plants that have developed the traits to best survive in a specific area. Local sourcing can come down to a very narrowly defined area. For example, a plant that is native to a sheltered California canyon would not have the characteristics for survival on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. A plant native to a rocky area might not have the characteristics needed to survive in a meadow-like area.
While the ability survival isn’t an issue with hardscaping materials, homeowners are beginning to ask for woods and stones that reflect the specific area in which they live. Using locally sourced materials cuts down on both the cost and the environmental impact of transporting hardscaping materials. It also reduces the demand for exotic woods that may be causing habitat destruction in other parts of the world.
Entertainment Areas, Adult Areas, Kids Play Areas, Pet Play Areas
Continuing the trend of moving the indoors outdoors, homeowners have begun sectioning yards off into “rooms” and creating the landscaping and hardscaping best suited for that area. Creating “rooms”, creates spaces in the yard that kids, pets, the family, and their guests feel free to use. No one needs to worry about tearing up the grass or damaging a rose bush or flower bed.
A pet play area confines clean-up to that area and allows dogs a place to be dogs and dig to their heart’s content. Kid’s play areas don’t necessarily contain sandboxes, wooden structures for climbing, or swing sets. Parents have begun creating areas where kids can be creative or build things. Active adult and family play areas may feature courts for Bocce, corn hole, or other games, and they may contain artificial turf. Adult areas may contain hammocks, a sauna, or a hot tub for relaxing after work or a romantic dining area.
With these eleven trends in hardscaping, your lawn can become a place where you can spend more time relaxing and playing and less time working.
Contact Pebble Creek Landscaping for hardscape installation and design consulting. The best way to reach us is to call (615) 581-2045.
We look forward to hearing from you!