The advent of spring propels most of us outdoors at least a little more, but many homeowners may have an additional itch as the weather grows warmer — the urge to build up their backyards with amenities that will make spending time there more comfortable, even when the mercury soars.
It’s a good inclination to follow. Real estate experts will tell you that outdoor living areas will increase your home’s resale value, should you ever put it on the market, and anyone who has taken this particular plunge can attest that it will greatly improve your quality of life while you’re living there yourself.
Going big or going home isn’t a precept that has to apply to yard makeovers, fortunately. A variety of options for outdoor living space improvement exist, across a wide spectrum of design choices, price points and time frames.
Once the decision has been made to start improving outdoor space, it can take time to bring a full vision to fruition. A good plan of action is to think in terms of stages of development if you’re looking at a large scale re-do, or if it’s something that needs to be budgeted for in the long term.
Mike Lindsey is the owner of Scapes Inc., a Mustang-based landscape design company, and has helped create outdoor remodeling and construction plans for homeowners in diverse stages of ability and desire.
“I’ll develop a master plan with a client and we can implement it a project at a time,” Lindsey says. “Not everyone can afford to do a dream remodel all at once.”
An overall plan is essential for coordinating various aspects of outdoor living areas; putting in a pool may seem like a simple matter of deciding on a location, but making sure that things such as outdoor kitchens and lounge areas are placed to advantage is key, as is choosing features to enhance both the aesthetic and practical wishes of everyone involved. This is where having someone overseeing the “big picture” is helpful.
Lindsey has a certified landscape architect on staff — an important distinction when employing experts to advise on the best use of space and materials that will connect all the various elements of your outdoor living area. More than simply choosing plants, a landscape architect helps achieve balance between the natural and built environments in your yard.
“We talk with the homeowner and decide what the best use of the property is,” Lindsey says. “We act as general contractors. We do the stonework, the landscaping — also water features such as waterfalls if those are desired — we’ll draw up a plan and then meet with the concrete people, the outdoor kitchen people, so that we’re on track for everything working together.”
Customization Is Key Once your plan is in place, mindfully considering options for materials is the next big decision, if your vision includes furniture or structures such as cabanas or pergolas.
As a venerable champion for vinyl, Gwynn McDowell, president of Midland Vinyl Products Inc., has a list of reasons why it can be a great investment for both structures and customized outdoor furniture.
“The great thing about vinyl is that it will not warp, splinter, rot, peel or be subjected to termites,” McDowell says. “Any dirt, mud or spills from drinks or food can easily be wiped away.”
If white vinyl doesn’t suit your tastes, rejoice: There are plenty of choices that will give you the durability and easy upkeep while blending in with your desired decor. Midland offers tan, black, EcoStone and a Woodgrain series that has 11 colors with seven stain blends.
“Vinyl will stand up to the harsh weather that Oklahoma has each year,” McDowell says. “All items we make are also heavily reinforced with internal galvanized steel, for rust-free support.”
Outdoor kitchens are becoming more commonplace, as homeowners realize that bringing food prep outdoors extends entertaining and ensures that the chef isn’t left out of the party. Being able to enjoy company and the fresh air while cooking can actually make it more fun, and when you have a full kitchen at your disposal, the menu opens up beyond simple grilling.
“There isn’t any aspect of an indoor kitchen that we can’t duplicate outdoors,” says Claude Rappaport, of OKC’s Culinary Kitchen. “We’ve got pizza ovens, ranges, fireplaces that use ethanol, ovens — you name it, we can achieve it. One of my favorite innovations is The Galley: It’s extremely practical because it’s a sink, but it’s also got insert pieces to make it into extra space for serving food, so you get double duty.”
Whether it’s a simple setup or more extravagantly equipped, Culinary Kitchen’s expert designers and builders can help clients create an outdoor kitchen that will truly enhance open-air recreation. Once considered an extreme luxury, an outdoor kitchen is slowly being recognized as a practical expenditure that can yield a great return in terms of relaxation — if you’re putting effort into your outdoor space and want to use it for dining, a kitchen maximizes your time spent there.
“The idea is to make it an extension of your home,” Rappaport says. “All of what we offer at Culinary Kitchen is American made, and designed to last for 20 years or more.”
While there are do-it-yourself options that you can put together over a weekend to make the occasional barbeque a little more comfortable, changing the face of your yard to become a true living space is usually an investment of both time and resources.
But making it easier to spend time outdoors, in what John Muir called the “Grand Show,” has a payoff that will add value to much more than just your property.
Perfect Plants for a Verdant Backyard Haven
Whether it’s resiliency against poolside splashing or the stamina to provide adequate shade for a full Oklahoma summer, your backyard landscaping requires some planning, especially if it needs to complement structures and you have a lot of space to fill.
Landscape designer Mike Lindsey is brutally honest about the conditions in our state, with its notoriously fickle weather.
“Nothing in Oklahoma, landscaping-wise, is easy,” he says.
While there’s a spectrum of choices that range from high-maintenance to almost fuss-free, Lindsey warns that keeping yards pleasant here will cost you, one way or another. Changing out soil, finding plants that will thrive, making sure there’s sufficient water if you’ve chosen to go way beyond what our temps and rainfall will support … there’s a price to pay if you want an Eden outside your back door.
The landscaping bottom line isn’t all bad, though; choosing the right trees now might actually save you money — and headaches — in the future.
Proper placement of trees can accomplish more than just shading the pool. Eventually, they can provide wind protection (a big plus in Oklahoma) and if you’ve chosen well, certain trees will add unique character and beauty to your home, as well. Expert guidance about sizing and future growth is helpful, however, for minimizing things such as power line interference and storm damage.