When I find myself in casual conversations and the topic of “what do you do for a living” comes up, it is always entertaining to see the responses that I receive when I mention that I am a Landscape Architect. People’s minds are immediately flooded with thoughts about their outdated patios and dying plant material, and the questions start to flow. What should I plant in my yard? Should I remove my old, cracked patio? Will this cost a lot of money, or would it be easier if I just move?
Before I dive into any answers, my first response is to tell people to dream. Think about what it is that you like about your home. What makes it personal to you? What do you enjoy? What do you want to change? I can make all sorts of comments and share my opinions, but it is just that —an opinion. The beauty of homeownership is that you can make your own home, well, your own. It’s wholly and completely yours, full of your own lifestyle, desires and dreams.
So why should someone spend their hard-earned money on outdoor spaces? The answer is two-fold. First and foremost is the fact that this is your home, and you want to enjoy the experience of your home to its fullest potential. Life is short, and cultivating high-quality living at the home front is something that needs serious consideration. In this post-COVID world, our homes have become remote workspaces, school classrooms, personal fitness centers, movie theaters and general ‘staycation’ locales of choice (or lack thereof). With the growing amount of time that we spend in our homes, it is imperative to our physical and mental well-being that we create healthy and positive settings to thrive. The second reason to willingly spend money on a landscape project is to increase the value and marketability of the home. A well-executed outdoor space actually carries financial benefit and value to the property. For example, a well-designed series of outdoor rooms can make a 2,500-square foot home look and function like a 3,000+ square foot home. By simply blending the experience between indoor to outdoor living with thoughtfully arranged outdoor gathering spaces, a home can ‘live’ so much larger than the footprint and can accommodate a wider variety of activities and groups.
I challenge people to think about their outdoor spaces as an extension of their home, where the indoor-to- outdoor transition is a seamless experience and the landscape becomes a series of open-air rooms. The next step – how do you wish to live in these rooms? What is your lifestyle – are you active or passive? Do you have a large family with energetic kids or do you prefer an intimate, quiet space to escape? The opportunities are endless, and that is the daunting, yet fantastic opportunity that each homeowner must consider to capture the full benefits and potential of their property. That is where landscape design professionals step in and assist with developing and refining the vision for an outdoor environment.
Regarding what specific landscape amenities people enjoy and request most often, the responses are quite common and predicated around basic human needs and desires for food, fire and water. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the inclusion of a kitchen space in an outdoor environment only makes sense, and that trend has certainly been on the rise in the past decade or more. Creating al fresco dining areas equipped with BBQ grills and other outdoor kitchen amenities have become the staple request for most home landscape renovations and new-built outdoor environments. Additionally, ample-sized patio spaces programmed with fire pits and comfortable seating have become a favorite place for families to gather and enjoy evening drinks or s’mores over the open fire. Finally, the other major item that people gravitate to is water. Whether it is a resort-style swimming pool or small garden water feature, people are attracted to the soothing acoustics and visual aesthetics of water. If you have children (or be honest, still act like a big kid) the draw towards water is powerful and undeniable.
For many of us, our homes have become our refuge and central location where we spend the vast majority of our time. I encourage people to find joy in the creative process as they begin to dream about the possibilities for their outdoor environment. Create places to rest and escape from the frenetic pace and demands of life. Create places to entertain and live in community with others. Be bold; give it a personality that is distinctively yours … and dream.