Organic spaces are some of the most warm and accessible areas of
the home, inviting us to connect with nature both inside and
outside of the nest. Creating the perfect oasis can be as simple as
bringing a few plants into the house, or as intricate as rebuilding
a back yard to make it perfectly framed by a kitchen window.
Organic spaces are some of the most warm and accessible areas of the home, inviting us to connect with nature both inside and outside of the nest. Creating the perfect oasis can be as simple as bringing a few plants into the house, or as intricate as rebuilding a back yard to make it perfectly framed by a kitchen window.
Rosemary Bridwell, a Hollister-based landscape designer, suggests imagining a picture frame outside each window and deciding on elements that would work well there.
“By adding a feature – a water feature or having layers of lawn, perennials, evergreens and kind of layering the plant materials – you can create interest,” said Bridwell. “Just so that it’s not like a lawn with a hedge, you could do wider planting areas with an assortment of plant materials that flower year-round.”
Using the interior decorating colors outside the home can also help to tie the spaces together, giving the interior of the home the feel of an expansive outdoor space.
Fountains, dry creeks, dry riverbeds and ponds all help to bring in the look of a lush, organic setting, even if a home is set in an inconvenient spot, like next to a highway or in a tract development with unappealing views.
“Every back yard, every landscape is different,” said David Sowash, president of Oasis Construction in Aromas, which specializes in aquascapes, or landscapes revolving around water features. “Sometimes you may want to take advantage of views, and other views you may want to block.”
When noise is the primary pollutant in the atmosphere of an area, Sowash often advises owners to install water features, that can drown out the jarring sounds of traffic with the soothing melodies of water bubbling in a brook or splashing over stones. But, he said, it’s important to get an contractor with an ear for water sounds. A singular sounds, like water splashing onto a rock, can often be too harsh to be pleasurable, but a multitude of notes can soften the cacophony to a gentle white noise.
From inside the home, a water feature or a plant that moves easily in the afternoon breeze can also add visual interest to a room, said Skip Watts, owner of Skip’s Landscaping in Gilroy.
“Nowadays, the big thing is decorative grasses and boulders in various spots because they move,” said Watts. “If you want to do a scene, I would say you would want to use dwarf plants or dwarf trees like Japanese maples. The way they grow, they lean like they’re in the wind.”
And if rainy, windy or cold weather drives homeowners inside, garden windows can offer a nearly-there experience, said Watts.
“A garden window sticks out and has a bench built inside, so if you plant all around it you feel like you’re sitting right out there with them,” said Watts.
For those who want to take their creature comforts outdoors with them, an outdoor room is the new must-have in a home. Freestanding kitchens, with grills, side burners, refrigerators and granite countertops set out under the stars are the perfect place for entertaining, with ample space for socializing, the homey feel of a campfire and all the creature comforts of an indoor kitchen minus the walls.
“We recently had a couple – married, no kids – who love to entertain, and they basically wanted it all,” said Pete Gluhaich, owner of Greenstreak Landscaping. “They wanted a built-in barbecue, firepit, fireplaces, pool and spa as well as some fountains. Basically, we segmented the outdoors to give them rooms and separate areas for people to congregate. A lot of people go travel to have these different amenities, but they wanted them in their back yard to enjoy with friends.”
Gluhaich, who entertains and has raised children himself, also tries to find innovative ways to combine play areas with the manicured look of his designs.
“Every yard needs a mow strip around it, so I like to suggest sort of widening that and making a track for the kids to ride their bikes on,” said Gluhaich. “I did it with my kids, and what I found was that they’d go around and around and around, stop at the jungle gym, hop on their bikes and do it again. It lets the adults have some peace and some peace of mind when they have company over.”
The outdoors isn’t the only spot for entertaining, though. If a home or apartment offers little other than a parking lot or rooftop to view from the windows, it doesn’t mean that life has to be empty inside, too.
“When you put a plant in a room, it makes that room alive,” said Susan Steele, one third of the design group Trio in Morgan Hill. “You have to be particular about which plant you put in your room though, because plants have themes, too. A lot of people love palms, but those can look too tropical, so you might want a ficus instead.
“It really has to do with balance. You put a big plant in a big corner and a little plant in a little corner. Don’t overpower your room with a plant. It will make the room inviting and alive on its own.”
To complete the outdoorsy feel inside, don’t just think plants, said Bridwell.
“There are lots of garden accent items you could bring into the house, like a wall hanging or garden artwork,” said Bridwell. Garden furniture can even be used to give a room the light, airy look of summer.
Whether your taste is for the forest or a sparse desert, or even a field of silk petunias, finding the bright, vibrant and homey piece you crave could be as close as the local nursery.
For more information on landscape design call Pete from Greenstreak at (408) 848-8446, Skip of Skip’s Landscape at (408) 847-1013, Rosemary Bridwell at (831) 637-1700 or David of Oasis Construction at (831) 726-7033. The interior re-design group Trio can be reached by calling Susan at (408) 921-1485.