Article by Brooklyn Williams We take a look at the considerations that need to be taken into account with backyard designs. We take a great deal of pride and enjoyment from our homes, but the structure itself has some constraints. There are those pesky walls, floors, and roof to deal with, after all. We have the flexibility to do a lot of other amazing things outside the home. Unfortunately, too many people miss the opportunity to build amazing backyard designs. Whether they think they are constrained by money, time, or space, they’re probably wrong. If you have backed off of your aspirations to elevate your backyard to legendary status, revisit your ideas and see if there may be some way to take it beyond simple grass and shade trees.
Let There Be Light A mantra of childhood for many people is to stay outside until it’s dark. But it’s possible to illuminate backyard designs and extend your outdoor hours, or even to make it the place you go after it becomes dark. Many people are comfortable with the cost of light fixtures and even the bulbs, but they balk over the potential increase in their electric bill. In states with deregulated electricity like Texas, the Power to Go plan can get you a much better rate on electricity so that you can enjoy more hours with more lights at a lower cost.So imagine the ways you can use light. Make sure that walkways and steps are well-lit, of course, but don’t do it in the conventional way. Have the light strike from unusual angles or with unique colors, or even with changing colors. Think about using the shade to your advantage. In a matter of fact lighting situation, such as in a parking lot, the idea is to minimize obstructions to light and maximize the amount that hits the ground. But you can break away from that in the landscape. Let that Japanese maple receive some light so that its unique color shines after dark. Situate fixtures so that a culturally-reflective place has a solemn and calm appearance all day and night. Play-Friendly Vegetation That sounds like an oxymoron, but it is possible. When you have kids around the house, it can be very difficult to steer them toward the right places and to keep them away from the fragile elements of the landscape. If you can’t beat them, join them. A mulberry tree is a fast-growing, strong tree that can provide hours of (supervised!) enjoyment for kids. An added bonus: It provides delicious berries that can give kids a healthy snack without going indoors–or even climbing down. Think about your walking surfaces too. Make sure that your most open areas are carpeted with tough grass of some sort; that’s where the kids will choose to congregate for play. The challenge can be to decide what type of grass to use. If the hottest days of summer will see the most activity in your yard, choose a warm-season grass like bermudagrass or zoysia. These species are actively growing during the hottest months, as opposed to fescues and bluegrass, which go dormant (aka: brown and dead-looking) through the summer. Zoned Activity What parent hasn’t warned kids not to stop playing near the tulips? Designing your backyard in zones can help keep this type of conflict to a minimum, whether or not you have kids. Most backyard designs have at least some functional area. There’s a space where you need access into a storage building or to your home’s heat pumps. There may also be other functional components like a pool heater or a home backup generator.
Other Thoughtful Considerations When it Comes to Backyard Designs
Make sure that these elements are given the necessary space. Be careful to make space to allow for repairing equipment like septic tanks and buried or overhead utilities. From there, think about grouping things according to function. Make sure you have a safe, clear path from a pool or hot tub to the warm, dry indoors. Keep the swingset or trampoline near the pool. Place water features like ponds or waterfalls in an area where grass clippings won’t constantly get blown into the water. Be sure that seating area can be accessed in any type of weather. Thinking of sanitation, functionality, and the movement of people will keep backyard designs better organized to reduce costs, inconvenience, and mess. Too many people are content to let their backyards be a big patch of grass that provides little character. With some thought, you can step up the value of your house and your home with a better approach. Go to Comments Recommended Reading:
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Bayer
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
Article by Brooklyn Williams Featured Image: From brewbooks, via Flickr, Licensed under CC 2.0. Photographed at Lotusland Santa Barbara, California USAPublished in