key to enjoying the great outdoors just outside one’s back door is
creating the right environment. Just ask John D’Agostino and John
Borchardt, who last year worked with local landscape design firms to
carve out the perfect niche for their respective suburban and urban
D’Agostino wanted to create an
entertainment venue at his home in a subdivision of Menomonee Falls.
He hired Stano Landscaping Inc. of Milwaukee to create a patio and
adjoining fire pit amid a re-landscaped area enhanced by plantings.
"The new area is great," D’Agostino
says, "because we can entertain a lot of people at the patio,
which is just a few steps down from our deck. If one or two people
want to get away from the bigger group and sit back in a cozier spot,
they can just go up to the deck. It works out because now we have a
couple of different areas."
That same versatility is what Borchardt
needed on the side and back of his coach house located in Milwaukee’s
Brewers Hill. Situated between an alley on the east and a neighboring
yard on the west, the outside property was largely uncharted until
assistance came from Hawks Nursery in Wauwatosa. The open space has
been divided into sections including a narrow shaded side yard with a
walk that connects the front and back doors and a patio area that
includes a dining/picnic table. The area is further defined by a wood
fence that runs along the west side of the property, including a
trellis for hanging plants. Small trees and flowering bushes provide
further privacy and visual interest.
"We wanted an enclosed space for
our kids and the dog," Borchardt says. "We wanted to create
a space we could enjoy, a family space that’s separate from the
street, and yet not completely close ourselves off from the
neighborhood. It works well with our family lifestyle."
Local landscape companies have adapted
to the functional tastes of today’s homeowners, giving them guidance
in how to create their own personal outdoor spaces.
"Every lot is different and every
client’s needs are equally different," says Matt Stano,
president of Stano Landscaping. "Understanding their lifestyle is
the most important facet."
Stano and Daniel Norris, a landscape
architect, note that fire pits and fireplaces are an important current
trend, but that lifestyle tools of the landscape profession also
include everything from children’s play structures and children- and
pet-friendly plants to swimming pools, hot tubs, arbors, benches,
gazebos, patios and accent lighting.
Landscape Architect Gary Urban of Hawks
Nursery says weather-friendly furniture that can be left outdoors
helps create conversation areas as well as privacy enclaves.
"You can create a room with tall
arborvitaes (as walls), brick and stone materials (as floors) and
trellises (as ceilings)," Urban says. "This is popular and
something you did not see 10 or 15 years ago. We can pull together
colors that are used inside and outside the home, so that is an
extension of the indoor living space."
Charlie Koch, landscape architect with
Wandsnider Landscape in Menomonee Falls, says it is important to work
with the space, scape and proportions.
"You should create the space as
you would a picture," he says. "Frame it and determine a
focal point. Perhaps it’s a large urn or a piece of art. You let
pathways lead to the focal point.
"You also need to pay attention to
the architectural details of the home," he says. "If the
space is in back of the house, you need to make retaining walls and
other materials reflective of the home. For example, a masonry wall
may tie into the brick and mortar construction of the house."
Koch also notes that a buffer between
the landscaped space and the home is desirable. "It’s important
not to create a patio that comes right up to the back of the
house," he explains. "A buffer, even if it’s only a couple
of feet wide, helps make it an inviting space. Also, think outside the
box when placing furniture in various locations. You can get an
entirely different feeling if you move the furnishings every so often.
It’s like creating a brand new space.
How the space is viewed from other
vantage points is also important, Koch says, adding that looking at a
potential space from a rear window in the house will help guide how it
is shaped. How the space affects neighbors is another consideration.
"If you get along with your
neighbors and you want to keep connected, you have to be careful of
what you build," he says. "You can have privacy and a view
Stano’s Norris recommends homeowners
find a reputable landscape company to create a master design to
identify space utilization, and pull together a design concept to meet
the needs. From there, the company would build retaining walls for
more functional spaces and install plants, hard scape, drainage and
any additional structures. Hawks’ Urban says a landscaper should
interview the homeowners to discover their needs, take photographs,
present a design and help select landscape materials and furnishings.
Homeowners, Norris adds, can install
perennials and annuals, as well as provide the personal touches such
as flowerpots, sculptures, etc.
Koch agrees that homeowners can be
fully engaged in the process. "We work with a questionnaire that
helps us determine how much someone wants to spend, how much they want
to do in keeping up the landscaping and whether they can do that. It
helps to determine if they can afford to not only create the project,
but also maintain it."
Having an expert create the space is
important, says D’Agostino. "I need to have someone tell me the
kind and location of trees and plants on my property. I know what I
like, but I really appreciate when I can get the expertise to assure
that I’m doing the right things."