Creating Outdoor Spaces
Homeowners today are looking to their backyards to be a haven from the rest of the world, a place to unwind from the stresses of life.
“Most of my clients want to relax on their properties,” says Karen Ryan, owner of Oakleaf Landscape Design in Wonder Lake. “They are busy with their work, kids and traveling. They want to come home and not take so much time maintaining everything. They want it to look good, too.”
When Ryan designs a client’s outdoor spaces, she considers their lifestyles, their wishes and their budget. She usually starts out with a base such as a patio or deck.
“There’s something out there for every budget in clay pavers or other materials,” she says. “Quite a few of my clients want some sort of water feature, especially a pool if they have children. They want it to be a fun place outdoors.
“We also install ponds and waterfalls,” she continues. “The sound and the view of water are very serene, beautiful and comforting.”
Many homeowners want walls and ceilings in their outdoor spaces just like inside their home.
To create an outdoor setting that feels like an actual room, homeowners typically create enclosures with a sitting wall of stone, containers filled with flowers or shrubs for borders.
The ceiling, meanwhile, could be made by building a pergola, draping material, using a retractable awning or planting a shade tree off the patio.
“Pergolas can be very full and elaborate or as simple as creating a little shade,” Ryan says. “We can grow vines on it, too, to add to the coolness.
“As for the sitting walls, they can serve as extra seating, places to put flower pots on or a place to put serving trays or food on,” she continues. “We can also build columns on them to add height and interest.”
It’s also trendy to have an entire outdoor kitchen with countertops, refrigerators, stoves, sinks and many of the amenities that mimic the ones inside the house, Ryan says. People then prefer seating — perhaps around a bar surrounding the cooking area — which allows guests to hang out while someone is grilling.
“Manufacturers are coming out with more and more kitchen installations that are more affordable to medium-income families,” Ryan says.
“The beauty is that they can be added on to. You can start with your grilling area with a small, built-in refrigerator and sink, and then build from there year by year.”
Going Green & Durable
Homeowners are becoming more savvy about the impact their own property can have on the planet. Often, they turn to more eco-friendly composite building materials such as Trex Transcends for their decks, railings, screened-rooms and pergolas.
Trex makes its alternative materials — available in seven colors — from 99 percent recycled products and has a 25-year warranty for stains and fading.
“The majority of people are not choosing wood decks anymore, but an upgraded composite like Trex,” says Anna Wuchter, co-owner of Rock Solid Builders in McHenry.
“It’s really popular with baby boomers and retirees who are staying put on their property, and they are making improvements that won’t require a lot of work or maintenance.”
An average 350-square-foot deck built with treated lumber could cost about $6,000, while a deck built out of cedar would be $8,000, Wuchter says. Using Trex Transcend would cost approximately $13,000.
However, Trex materials are nearly maintenance-free.
“You just rinse it off with a hose and maybe soap if it needs it,” Wuchter says. “That’s it.”
Customers also have asked for bench seats, planter boxes and more built with Trex material, she says.
Rock Solid Builders creates custom decks, gazebos, screen rooms — especially under decks — and other outdoor structures.
Wuchter has found that personal budgets and space dictate the size of a deck people decide to build. But lately, people have spent more on house updates instead of traveling.
“Our winters can sometimes be long,” Wuchter says. “Families aren’t taking as many vacations anymore because of the economy, but they want to enjoy their homes. They aren’t moving, so they are upgrading and putting money back into homes and their outside spaces.”
One of the ways people are changing their homes is by creating more space.
“Another trend is under-deck drainage systems for elevated decks,” she says. “It turns the underside of a deck into usable space. It collects the water when it rains, and then you can screen in the bottom part of the deck and have usable space.”
Wuchter’s company builds pergolas as well, some of which are installed over patios and decks, while others are free-standing.
“We’ve done them for … purely [decoration], as an accent for a garden or for shade,” Wuchter says.
“You can do different things to the top such as shading that opens and closes or put lattice up there. Lattice gives a unique shadow during the day.”
Any positive change can add to the living space of a house and add value to the home, she says.
This ongoing Home Design series is dedicated to inspiring McHenry County residents to rethink, redesign and renovate their homes one room at a time.
April: Home builders/contractors
May: Outdoor spaces/patios