By Shayna Mace
When the temperatures are up and the sun is out, there’s nothing better than being in your own personal slice of paradise on the lake. And local landscape pros say there’s plenty you can do to further enhance your space utilizing these tips and popular ideas they’re implementing in clients’ yards.
Instead of a standard table-withumbrella setup, outdoor experts are seeing more homeowners spring for permanent structures, like pergolas.
“We have an in-house carpenter that builds pergolas,” explains Tom Auer, owner/designer of The Ground Crafter, a custom landscape design company. “Seventy-five to eighty percent of the [ones we build] are to provide shade, but they also give you an opportunity to hang swings.”
Kyle Kohlmann, landscape architect with Bret Achtenhagen’s Seasonal Services, says his company has also seen an uptick in pergola requests: “We’ve done a couple that utilize retractable shades in the actual structure. It’s kind of like a horizontal roman shade built into the [pergola].”
Although gathering wood and building a campfire is great while camping, many homeowners want the ease and convenience of a campfire— without the work. Enter gas-operated firepits, which turn on with the twist of a knob.
“Outdoor fire features are big. Gas-operated is the most prolific at this point because it’s easy to light, and people tend to use them much more because of the fact they don’t have to gather kindling and wood to get the fire going,” says Auer. “We have spent a lot of time doing gas plumbing and building a fire feature where you just turn a valve on. It’s nice to have a quick glass of wine during the week, and on the weekend, spend more time there.”
“In my opinion, there’s nothing better than a brick patio around a firepit,” says Jerry Wall, co-owner of Landscape Specialists Incorporated, a landscape construction company. Wall is seeing requests increase for not only gas-operated firepits, but built-in grills, too.
Kohlmann echoes that, saying that built-in grills with storage and outdoor kitchen requests are on the rise. Adding in a bar or cabinetry further enhances the indoor living aspect, but custom-built for outside.
By now you’ve likely seen the interior décor trend of natural elements paired with modern pieces—like having a reclaimed barnwood dining table with a marble countertop. And homeowners are doing the same outside, too.
“We’re seeing contemporary materials and design. This year we’ve had numerous people ask about them,” says Kohlmann. “Clean, sleek materials, smooth retaining wall block and plankstyle pavers are popular.”
Natural materials are also popping up in Lannon stone retaining walls and outcropped rock walls, says Wall: “It looks like a big rock wall, but the outcropping stones are massive slabs of stone that are flat and squarish. It gives a jagged, cool look to your wall as opposed to doing straight stacked block.”
Auer is a big fan of making the patio as comfortable as possible using a variety of contemporary and natural materials—like New York bluestone for the flooring and Lannon stone for retaining walls, too.
“In the higher end markets we’re definitely seeing more natural materials to get away from the blocky concrete look. I’m pushing for people to get rid of expensive stacked concrete walls and spend it on comfortable outdoor furniture,” says Auer.
PRO TIP: “I tell my clients it’s nice to be able to move your furniture around. Concrete walls are permanent so you’re forever restrained in how you set up your furniture. It gives you more opportunity for variation if you spend your money on comfortable furniture. Outdoor living should be natural, soothing and enjoyable,” says Auer.
The biggest takeaway? Just think of your backyard as another room in your home: “People are bringing indoor living outside—it’s a natural extension, or another room outside,” says Kohlmann.
The Lakeshore Living publications are published by Nei-Turner Media Group, a full-service agency located in Lake Geneva, WI. Our four publications cover the picturesque lake communities of Lake Geneva, Madison, Lake Country and Northwoods.
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