Sunday, May 31, 2015

Outdoor Living Trends

Have you taken notice of the tiny house movement? Consumers have spoken and bigger is not necessarily better. This is especially true when it comes to our outdoor living environment. Current trends don't point to scale, they point to detail, craftsmanship, comfort, sustainability, and convenience. Even in expansive outdoor landscapes, large spaces are now broken into several intimate areas used for different entertainment and activities. We are getting back to spaces where we can relax and reconnect. The word Staycation is now included by Merriam-Webster as "a vacation spent at home or nearby." The concept has now evolved to the point where we are constructing spaces for a daily retreat, not just a vacation at home.


I have been involved in landscape design and construction for over 25 years now. Through my work experience and education the most exciting and fascinating thing to me in all that time is water. Landscaping is a blend of art and science. To me, water is the perfect representation of this. Scientifically, it is the only natural substance to exist in all three physical states at temperatures that naturally occur on earth. It is the most important resource in the world, sustaining all life. Whether it is a natural lake, small reflecting pool, a decorative fountain, or a pond or pondless waterfall, we are captivated by it. We find solace and healing in the sound of flowing water and by the shimmering surface of our favorite lake shore. Perhaps this is a deep primitive connection as we know we can not survive without it. Or maybe it is simply beautiful. Either way, the incorporation if water into our living environments is becoming more of a necessity than a convenience.

Outdoor fire pits and seat walls became a staple of all well rounded outdoor living environments in the last few years. They provide the perfect evening gathering place for the family. Modular block and fire rated adhesives have now lead us right to the outdoor fireplace. After many years of push back I finally accepted a gas fireplace inside our house. While they are available, you won't find me giving up the smell of a campfire on my outdoor patio for an outdoor gas fireplace. That isn't to say a gas fire bowl is out of the question!

There are a lot of things in my field that excite me, but as I get older there seems to be fewer and fewer innovations that astound me. The Luxor system by FX- Luminaire did just that during the 2014 season. Elegance is the word the comes to mind first. The basics of lighting design remain the same, the difference now is that you can even program and automate alternating lighting design principles as the evening progresses. Light your patio table with an overhead light during dinner at 100%. At 7:00 as the party moves to the fireplace the seat walls and pillar lights increase to 80% and the table light slowly dims. As the party continues all backyards lights dim to 10% and the backdrop splash lighting increases to 60%. When the night is over all lights go dark except the pathway lights to the front gate. Better yet, lets say you came home early and the kids decided to have some uninvited friends over while you were gone. Pull out your smart phone, click your programmed "Party is Over" button and every light beams up to 100%!

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