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Plan Your Backyard Upgrade While Dreaming of Warmer Days

There’s more than a deep chill in the air. It even snowed a little over much of Long Island this week. It may not be officially winter yet, but many of us are already dreaming of warmer days.

So as you gaze out over your yard, here’s some ‘before and after’ Deck and Patio projects that might inspire the perfect upgrade for you — done in plenty of time for next year’s outdoor living season.

 

Backyard Upgrade on a Budget

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Massapequa couple, says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell, hankered to enjoy their backyard more  — which was tidy but not enticing.

Space was also at a premium. And in lieu of a rather more expensive pool, the couple settled on installing a quality hot tub, in-ground.

An in-ground installation makes a portable hot tub appear like it’s a custom-made spa.  Plus it would be easy to get in and out of (see before/after photos above).

However, even though they knew they’d love spending time outdoors in their new hot tub, they also wanted something beautiful to look at while in it. They certainly did not want to be facing their home’s siding, or even just a plain line of healthy evergreens. 

Upshot? The pond with waterfalls, hot tub installation and landscaping were still less expensive than a pool.

 

Large Pond Under Stone Bridge

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after the homeowner purchased his property, he contacted us. An entrance he had to drive over each day, on his way to and from work, had not been kept up for many years.

He asked us to accentuate a beautiful 1880 bridge structure with a man-made reflecting pond.

Our design allowed the pre-existing bridge’s entire stone gazebo to be reflected in the pond water. The water feature we designed and built is more than 240-feet-long and 60-feet-wide, so it also captures the surrounding landscape. Plus, such a wonderful expanse of water made the perfect habitat for koi. 

Our team ensured the pond design included lots of flowing water, with rock overhangs, and plenty of space for pond fish to hide and thrive. Such a design makes it difficult for natural predators to reach the fish.

The stone bridge with turret creates a stunning pond reflection in its crystal clear water, doesn’t it?

 

Pool and Retaining Wall Upgrade

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A family in Dix Hills, NY, called on Deck and Patio when they decided to update their 1980”s backyard pool area. Their old wood deck and red brick patios were small and unusable for parties and entertaining. But they couldn’t come up with a complete plan themselves to transform the space.

“We suggested a unique idea to deal with the large wall behind the pool and small patio spaces,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “The plan was to remove the wood retaining wall, re-grade the slope, and create a large natural waterfall, stream, and woodland garden.”

The plan also called for draining the pool and removing the liner; a poorly built concrete block wall was uncovered and we straightened the wall and filled the block in with concrete and steal rebar for strength. New vinyl-covered stairs were added to the pool, plus new pipes, returns, skimmers, pump, filter and a new liner.

 

New Modern Deck

"Beginning Construction"

“Beginning Construction”

"After Construction"

“Completed Construction”

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Centerport, NY, homeowners were both outdoor enthusiasts with a property that had a nice water view. Their wish list included: an attractive modern-looking deck from where they could best appreciate their view; a deck/railing that did not in any way obstruct the view; and a conveniently placed portable spa.

It was clear a two-story deck was needed. But we realized that the deck also needed to be large enough to allow designated areas for grilling, dining, lounging and hot tubbing. Plus, the railing would need special consideration.

An important choice for this Trex Deck project was the steel cable railing by Feeney does not obstruct the water views from any place on the deck. Deck and Patio built a custom spa “cradle” as a mount for their new hot tub. This positioned the spa so they could enjoy the views when inside the tub.

 

New Backyard ‘Spool’

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio built this backyard ‘spool” (a cross between a spa and pool) several years ago. The homeowners decided on a ‘spool” for their yard  because they didn’t have room for a full-sized pool.

A spool would also allow them to enjoy it year-round. They could opt to run cool water in the spool during warm months, and hot water during cold months and cool evenings.

In addition, the mechanics of a spa provides the benefits of hydrotherapy massage — not to mention the amazing experience of sitting under flowing water from an added waterfall. A new fence was added for contrast and a bit of drama; a rushing stream flows through the large moss rock boulders to become a waterfall flowing into the spa. Lush plantings and a new patio completed their new backyard retreat.

So let it snow or blast cold. You can stay warm while planning your new backyard upgrade. 

Stepping Stone Walkway Ideas

Stepping stones in areas that get heavy foot traffic are an attractive way to protect the lawn. The stones allow grass, or “softscape,” to shine through while still providing the “hardscape” needed.

However. Is this all that stepping stones can do? “By no means,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “While they are very serviceable, they can also contribute to the serenity of a space. They can be a key element of creating ‘contemplation’ spaces, for example.”

Today our blog is showcasing a sampling of stepping stone paths that we have created for clients — ranging from the very practical to the Zen-like in impact.

Practical Pathway

Practical Pathway

 

These clients wanted a footpath leading to their tool shed — a very practical need. But they had a small backyard. We were already installing extensive multi-level paver patios. So it wasn’t surprising they didn’t want more solid brick hardscape on the opposite side of the pool.

Instead, the bluestone stepping stones we installed allowed for greenery to show through. Along with attractive plantings on either side of the pathway, the journey to their shed offers an uplifting experience that’s not just about the tasks at hand.

 

 

 

Stepping Stones and Ponds

Stepping Stones and Ponds

Not all stepping stones are flat bluestone slabs. The Japanese introduced Zen-garden landscape design centuries ago, inspiring the world to place larger stones as stepping stones across ponds and water feature

“The clients’ desire for a natural-scape in this yard helped inspire us,” says Dave.

First: Deck and Patio installed regular flat bluestone stepping stones leading up to a flowing stream water feature we were doing. Then: Larger natural stones were added to walk across the stream. More flat bluestone was positioned on the other side as a walkway up to the clients’ pool area. Finally, we also added moss rock in various places which adds color and texture.

“Our clients even enjoy it in winter when the moss rock boulders around the stream become sparkling ice sculptures,” adds Dave.

 

Stone Island

Stone Island

Speaking of larger natural stones, have you ever considered adding a stone “island” in a pond where you can picnic?

When Deck and patio built this lovely water feature, comprising two separate ponds next to each other, there was room in the larger pond (shown here) to add a sizable stone island.

With smooth natural stones leading to it, the homeowners have a true Zen experience walking across the still pond to their own private island.

The clients placed two Adirondack chairs on the island giving them an escape for extended moments of contemplation. Plus, the wide arms of these chairs allow room for a small lunch and cool drink while they listen to birds and watch koi swim. Surrounded by robust bright plantings, including gorgeous aquatic plants, it’s a delightful escape.

 

Decks and Ponds

Decks and Ponds

A deck can be part of the pond/stepping stone contemplation space, too. This Deck and Patio deck was designed with a viewing platform to enjoy the new pond with waterfalls and beautiful landscaping.

At the bottom of a set of stairs, we placed the first of several large stepping stones leading from the deck, providing a delightful walk across the pond to other viewing areas of the multi-faceted water feature.

 

 

Waterfall Walk

Waterfall Walk

So far we’ve explored stepping stones across ponds, one path leading to a utility shed, and below you’ll see stepping stones to a swimming pool.

But here the bluestone stepping stones we added lead past cascading waterfalls, including a dramatic 7’-high waterfall.

“This is a very special experience for the clients,” says Dave. “Usually waterfalls drop into a pond and you can’t walk close to them. But these do not fall into a pond, but pass through river rock into a ‘pondless’ reservoir instead.”

In the underground Aquascape Inc. reservoir, the water is filtered and then recirculated so it operates as a self-sustaining system that remains clean and clear. The different rocks used here include river rock, moss rock, spill rocks and, of course, bluestone stepping stones. They all contribute to a footpath experience one might only hope to get on a mountain trek.

 

Stepping Stone Path

Stepping Stone Path

We placed these bluestone stepping stones so they almost skim across the backyard sod. The path connects the clients’ pool patio to a Trex deck and second Cambridge patio located near the house.

This area is also home to a new outdoor kitchen area, complete with barbecue and refrigerator.

 

 

Backyard Nature Walk

Backyard Nature Walk

How’s this for one last example of the serenity that comes from simply adding bluestone stepping stones.

The stones make a special walking area for the homeowners as they move around their larger backyard retreat.

“While this kind of space is ideal on its own,” says Dave, “the idea came to us when we were looking for a creative way to hide their new swimming pool equipment.

“We decided to create this wilderness area with plantings etc. in a way that offered contemplation moments while at the same time finding a creative way to hide their pool equipment.”

 

 

 

 

Backyard Pond: A Place of Reflection

Water Gardens in Giverny, France

Water Gardens in Giverny, France

The famed impressionist, Claude Monet, loved painting the water gardens in his home in Giverny, France. His paintings capture the trees, clouds, and sky reflected in the lily ponds at various times of day, in very different light — in the pre-dawn, the brightness of noonday, at sunset.

Each example allows the viewer to reflect on the differing views of beauty created by the pond’s stillness. 

We may not all be painters. But we all love to stop and reflect when we see the sky and other objects captured in still waters. 

Consider the happy owners of the following Deck and Patio vanishing edge (infinity) swimming pond. Our own Dave Stockwell explains that water features such as this project’s two man-made ponds, when correctly designed, positioned, and constructed, can provide a transforming experience in one’s life. 

 

 

Deck and Patio Vanishing edge swimming pond capturing a pink sunset

Deck and Patio Vanishing edge swimming pond capturing a pink sunset

 

The same swimming pond at 4 a.m.

The same swimming pond at 4 a.m.

 

The vanishing edge pond in fall

The vanishing edge pond in fall

 

Catching the reflections of twisted trees

Catching the reflections of twisted trees

 

“As you can see from the next photo of this pond, sunset is a magnificent time to mediate on the illusions created by the reflecting pond’s placid water,” says Dave. “The water mirrors its surroundings so perfectly, it can be a challenge to tell the real sky, ocean, and landscape from their images on the water.”

 

Vanishing Edge Pond at Sunset:

Vanishing Edge Pond at Sunset

 

The entire project was actually two ponds. The first larger pond shown in the above photos is the vanishing edge swimming pond. The smaller of the two ponds, below, is just steps outside the homeowners’ back door. Note how beautiful the back of the house is captured in the pond and reflected back. 

 

Smaller of Two Backyard Ponds

Smaller of Two Backyard Ponds

 

Landscape design is an essential element in bringing about beautiful reflections and peaceful scenes. “Our designers used Mother Nature’s own creations — plants, moss rocks, and the water itself, to design a true mystical experience,” adds Dave. 

To learn more about these two ponds and their natural biological filtration systems, read here. 

 

 

Landscaping Trends: No Exercise Required When ‘Forest Bathing’

We’re happy to say that in a blog early last year entitled, 2018 Landscaping Trends: ‘Forest Bathing’ on Long Island, NY, we shared with our Long Island neighbors the nascent landscaping trend of ‘forest bathing.’

Well, just this week, The Daily Beast reported how broad this tend has become of late in states like Colorado. But before we get into that, let’s get clear again on what ‘forest bathing’ is and is not.   

Bathing in the Beauty of a Wooded Area

Bathing in the Beauty of a Wooded Area

Forest bathing is a Japanese landscaping trend that does not require a bathing suit — or wild evening romps in the moonlight.

It simply means bathing yourself in the beauty of a wooded area via a nature walk. The idea is to allow your inner spirit time to breathe — and any inner tensions to find release.

And as the Daily Beast pointed out, this is not about trekking, mountain biking, or strenuous exercise. It’s quite the opposite. Indeed, ‘no exercise required.’ Just moments of peaceful introspection in a natural outdoor haven. 

Deck and Patio has found that all this comes natural to Long Islanders. In our years of collaboration with many nature-loving clients, we’ve been designing such restful woodland backyard escapes for many years.

Here are a few examples of how Deck and Patio-landscaped just such ‘forest bathing’ areas for a few of our clients.

 

'Forest Bathing' Opportunity on Long Island, NY:

‘Forest Bathing’ Opportunity on Long Island, NY:

This is a great example of a pre-existing wooded area on a local property. Within this already beautiful setting, we added stone steps, streams and waterfalls. The clients already had a bridge so we designed water features and stepping areas to fit around it.

We also added additional plantings and lots of green ground cover. It’s the perfect space for them to bathe in natural beauty before they start their day and when they return home.

 

Forest Bathing Offers Great Escape (Long Island/NY):

Forest Bathing Offers Great Escape (Long Island/NY):

 

 

The key to forest bathing is to create or update spaces as they appear in nature — and add only amenities that fit naturally in that environment.

In this case, Deck and Patio added a bridge, water feature, imported boulders and rocks and landscaped it with robust plantings.

It feels like you are in upstate New York, in the mountains. Yet, it’s right in our clients’ backyard.

 

 

 

 

Protecting Woodlands on Long Island/NY:

Protecting Woodlands on Long Island/NY:

As you can see from this Deck and Patio-designed backyard refuge, we were careful to safeguard the existing woodland areas.

Extending out from the parkland areas, the new water feature was brought forward to the entertaining areas through the addition of a pondless waterfall. 

The new multi-level patios were carefully designed so that each patio space had a specific use. The complete project was a perfect blend of softscapes with hardscapes.

 

 Long Island/NY Backyard Nature Walk:

Long Island/NY Backyard Nature Walk:

Many believe that walking in natural surroundings is not only peaceful, but by providing moments of peaceful contemplation, such walks can have a healing effect.

For this space, we took advantage of the family’s desire to hide their pool equipment by creating a private woodland path. We brought in bushes and plantings and fit them among existing old-growth trees. Adding bluestone stepping stones that lead to a larger woodland area contributes to an extended nature walk that is perfect for forest bathing.

This uplifting experience of forest bathing might also include spiritual moments of divine worship. But the essential key is to just give one’s technology-driven life a break, and leave the barbells behind. No place offers a better space for that than a quiet woodland area.

Forest bathing, by the way, is a translation of the Japanese term “shinrin-yoku” — a new philosophy that began in Japan in the 1980s and has been growing as fast as, well, a bamboo forest.

 

 

 

Here’s two quotes to, once again, leave you with:

“Wilderness is a necessity”

— John Muir, environmental philosopher

“Look deep into nature, and then you will  understand everything better.”

— Albert Einstein

 

 

Happy forest bathing!