Have a plan for making your outdoor spaces livable

  • By Debra Smith / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

Pacific Northwest residents increasingly view their gardens as an extension of their homes.

Homeowners are adding outdoor showers, dining areas, kitchens and covered sleeping porches, landscape designer Janet Hoffman said.

It’s not a new idea, she said. Landscape designer Thomas Church launched the concept in 1955 with the publication of “Gardens are for People.”

Church advocated moving away from the yard as a block of lawn and foundation plants to dividing it into usable spaces: patios, pathways, interesting plantings and shady nooks to hang a hammock, for instance.

Hoffman designs outdoor rooms for the Everett-based landscape design business Naturescapes. She noticed the trend catching on locally about a decade ago, when more people here became interested in gardening.

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Outdoor furniture goes beyond cedar and plastic. This Scho tile table … [ view gallery ]

Anyone can create more usable outdoor living space, she said. She has worked on projects on which clients spent $100,000 but there are plenty of ways to create a functional, attractive space for far less.

She shared some tips:

To save money, look for simpler, stripped-down versions of more expensive items. “I’ve done my own yard on the cheap, and I am quite happy with it,” she said. For instance, she picked up some galvanized metal light fixtures from Smith and Hawkin.

Prioritize what’s important before making any purchases. Some of the most popular features now include water fountains, fire pits, chimineas and freestanding fireplaces. Home improvement stores sell books that can provide ideas.

Consider how many people will be using the space. People commonly underestimate the amount of space they’ll need, she said. A seemingly large deck begins to feel cramped when a table, grill and containers are added.

Create a few mysterious areas so the entire yard isn’t visible. This can be done with hardscape features such as walls, pergolas or trellises or plant large shrubs to create a living screen. “It makes you want to get out into it and see the other side.”

Small touches add ambience. Garden art, water features, planted containers, outdoor lighting and candles can all help create it.

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