to a survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects,
the top three most requested outdoor design elements for 2015 were fire
pits, lighting and grills. Other popular choices were pergolas and decks
and spa features like hot tubs, saunas and swimming pools.
Gone are the days
when all a backyard needed was a picnic table and a Weber grill. Today
more people are looking to create outdoor spaces that afford all the
comforts and conveniences of the indoors. "Backyard patio spaces
have become an essential part of our everyday living — a true
extension of our indoor living spaces," says Carl Merisalo of
Century Landscaping. "Today people are looking for an outdoor
living area capable of multiple uses. Yes, built-in grills with counter
space, fire pits, pergolas and hot tubs are all very popular, but the
key is to combine these elements and create subtly distinctive ‘rooms’
David Guthery of LandCrafters says adding a pergola is a great way of
creating the outdoor "room" feel because a "ceiling"
is often put over an outdoor dining or living space. "But right now
more than anything else our clients are asking for fire features,
especially fire pits. Unlike an outdoor fireplace, they allow us to
gather around. By designing an oversize coping, a fire pit can hold
drinks and food or it can be a place to sit and chat. We are social
people, and fire pits encourage or reflect this," he says.
In terms of
materials, Merisalo says his clients are looking more and more to
natural products even though the weather does play a role in determining
the materials used in construction of the space. According to Merisalo,
natural stone and clay brick are at the top of everyone’s list.
"Natural materials are truly timeless and can be used with any
architectural style. The character they give to the space is second to
none," he says.
of LandCrafters Inc.
that most of his clients also prefer using natural materials whenever
possible. "Since we have the weather we do, material choice is a
big deal, he says. Most real stone and brick pavers actually wear better
than artificial ones. They do not fade under the summer sun or need to
be sealed to prevent fracturing during the winter freezes. Today, people
also want real stone and clay bricks for walls, walkways and patios and
patterned bluestone paving and irregular and patterned limestone pavers.
Natural stone walls are popular again, as they often match materials in
the older homes. And bluestone or limestone are often used for a fire
pit or counter top for a grill station. One exception to natural
materials is in decking, where we almost exclusively use a product
called Azek — it’s an artificial material that requires no
maintenance other than an occasional washing."
How easy is it to
take the indoors outside in Wisconsin? "Fire pits, for instance,
get used a lot in fall, but actually our clients report utilizing at
other times, even occasionally in the winter," says Guthery.
"Outdoor kitchens are utilized typically for up to eight months a
year. We have one good client who makes pizzas in their outdoor pizza
oven every Sunday and wanted it included in their landscape because that
was their major family time. We are starting to get more requests for
coverings on pergolas and over outdoor family rooms to shade in the
heat, hold some warmth in the cold, and allow use when it is a bit damp.
We are an outdoor people, and perhaps the fact that we have winter for
four months or so makes us value our outdoor seasons even more. That is
clearly reflected in the way we design our outdoor