Creating an Ideal Outdoor Oasis

By Jessica Riggio | Photo by Holly Leitner

A summer walk along the Shore Path allows everyone to glimpse majestic and incredible homes in a wide range of architectural styles. But, sometimes, even more impressive than the homes themselves are the beautiful outdoor living spaces associated with these homes. From the piers and boathouses to the gardens, patios, decks and outdoor kitchens glimpsed along the Shore Path, there is an abundance of outdoor living inspiration on view, and elements from these luxe properties can be incorporated into any backyard.

Amber Cook, interior designer with Brick & Mortar Home and Outdoor in Lake Geneva helps clients create outdoor spaces that are personalized, unique and functional. “For anyone who appreciates nature and the sun, it’s nice to have an area to gather,” Cook says.

Designing the ideal outdoor living space depends on the features of the property: is there water frontage? Is there a large backyard? Is there a patio? Is there an outdoor entertaining area attached to the main house?

Cook explains that a fundamental step in designing an outdoor living space is to think about how the space will be used and envision what would be most functional. “When it comes to creating outdoor spaces, are you looking at entertaining and dining, or lounging?” Cook asks.

Strategic placement of furniture at different levels can help create that feeling of shared experience by opening lines of sight. One trendy way to achieve this is to incorporate higher dining settings and backyard bar-top experiences — a design option that has been growing in popularity. “It’s great if you’re putting a dining space off a deck or a balcony with rails because if you sit up a little bit higher, you’re looking out over your rails and into the view, versus sitting down lower, looking into the rail,” Cook says.

An outdoor space is also an opportunity to be creative and have fun with your home design and to create a space personalized for relaxation. “Right now, the world of design is very neutral, and the outdoor decor usually flows with your interior decor,” Cook says. “[But] an outdoor space is also a good space to go out of our comfort zone and add a pop of color.”

Landscape designer Corinne Livingston at Creative Edge Landscapes in Twin Lakes agrees, and points out that a pop of color can easily come from strategically placed, low- maintenance annuals like geraniums. “You can have just one small pocket where you put a geranium and you’ll have that pop of color all season long,” Livingston says.

Livingston says that for a bolder look, she’s also seeing increased use of statement plantings alongside bistro-style outdoor settings, usually consisting of a single type of plant. “I’m seeing a lot of hydrangeas — some minimalist-type plantings, and then throw in a hydrangea to make that impact,” Livingston says.

Edible landscaping is another trendy way to enhance outdoor living space and generate ingredients for grilling within arm’s reach. Fruit trees are trending at a higher rate than ornamental trees, and herb gardens are growing in popularity.

While it’s nice to have that herb garden close to the kitchen, Livingston points out it’s important to give plants enough space from the foundation of the house. Allow enough room for the plant to grow to make that investment last a little longer and envision its full size when planting. “Plants grow just like people and pets do, they need space,” Livingston says.

According to Cook and Livingston, easy upkeep is one of the top requests they receive, in everything from potted plants to classic outdoor furniture. In fact, a trending material for classics like Adirondack chairs is recycled plastic, which ensures easy upkeep, versatility and durability.

“They make everything [out of recycled plastic]: deep seating, dining, fire pits — this product will last you a lifetime, it’s very low-maintenance, stain resistant, doesn’t rust and you don’t have to sand it,” Cook explains. “They’re investment pieces that can handle the Midwest weather year-round.”

Of course, true classics never go out of style, and Cook says crisp, white wood Adirondack chairs are still popular for piers, lawns or other outdoor gathering areas. “There’s something special about the pop of white against the natural backdrop,” Cook says. “It’s timeless.”

Sometimes homeowners are looking for a way to increase their privacy, especially for the first 6 to 8 feet outside of the house. In tighter spaces, the solution may be a privacy fence. These fences are usually 12 to 18 feet in length and 6 to 8 feet high, and often double as planters or supports for blooming vines. The effect adds beauty to your space as well as your neighbor’s.

“Some people grow grapes on pergolas, and even half-pergolas are becoming kind of popular,” Livingston explains. “The combination of plants and fencing make it more neighborly.”

Cook concurs; she suggests using natural elements like plants and wooden fencing to create privacy walls. She says it’s also popular to create walls with greenery using planters. “We sell a lot of planters with boxwoods that give you some height and privacy,” Cook says.

Woven fabrics add texture and warmth to the space, Cook adds. Grays and taupe, soft tans and creams are popular for outdoor areas. In the Geneva Lake area, where “lake life” is often the central design focus, accents in navy are dominant as well. “Having so much water around, naturally the nautical theme is very popular,” Cook explains. “If someone is picking an accent, most likely they’re picking navy to play off all the lake homes and water we have.”

Tags from the story
0 replies on “Creating an Ideal Outdoor Oasis”