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Landscape Focal Points: Leading Your Eye to a Peaceful 2020

The winter holidays are over. Even if you still have to drag a Christmas tree to the curb, at least the pressure is off. It’s time to appreciate the joys of relaxation. And, even better, to look forward to relaxing outdoors come spring. 

Enjoying Your Landscape's Design

Enjoying Your Landscape’s Design

But even outdoors, there are tricks to making truly restive spaces. The key is to have serene focal points that draw the eye where you sunbathe, enjoy a hot tub, read a book, dine al fresco, or just relax. 

Focal points keep the eye from being confused with too much to take in. They allow your eyes to fix on one spot or item rather than jump from object to object. Resting the eye on an attractive spot encourages muscles to loosen, allows levels of harmful hormones to decline, and, without effort, you breathe out a peaceful “ahhhh.”

“We plan focal points in all our designs,” says Dave Stockwell. “For more substantial projects, like grand swimming pools, the property’s own views can become a natural focal point by adding a vanishing edge to the pool. But sometimes it can be as simple as one beautiful tree, or a garden statue set amid lush plantings. Of course, adding the sights and sound of moving water adds to the restful experience.” 

 

Below we have some Deck and Patio projects that highlight focal points:

Using a Natural View as a Focal Point: One of the many vanishing edge pools we’ve been involved with includes one this one in Cove Neck, NY, where the homeowners had a spectacular water view.

Using a Natural View as a Focal Point: One of the many vanishing edge pools we’ve been involved with includes this one in Cove Neck, NY, where the homeowners had a spectacular water view.

 

Water Features as Focal Point: This captures the view from the homeowners new patio where colorful plantings help create a beautiful setting. But notice how the eye naturally is drawn to the waterfall. In addition, the sounds of moving water adds to an experience of relaxation.

Water Features as Focal Point: This photo captures the view from the homeowners new patio; see how colorful plantings help create a beautiful setting. And notice how the eye naturally is drawn to the waterfall. In addition, the sounds of moving water adds to an experience of relaxation.

 

Deck’s Outdoor Seating Area

Deck’s Outdoor Seating Area

Dining Area of Deck

Dining Area of Deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multiple Focal Points in One Deck Design: We designed the above Timbertech deck in 45-degree angles to orient the different spaces, including positioning the outdoor furniture toward the stunning views. 

 

Stand-Alone Fireplace at Patio’s Edge: Fireplaces can stand on their own and make a dramatic focal point. This custom fireplace by Deck and Patio was added next to a relaxing water feature — a pondless waterfall — at the edge of a new patio which makes the whole experience that more relaxing — and warm, when the weather requires it.

Stand-Alone Fireplace at Patio’s Edge: Fireplaces can stand on their own and make a dramatic focal point. This custom fireplace by Deck and Patio was added next to a relaxing water feature — a pondless waterfall — at the edge of the new patio which makes the whole experience that more relaxing — and warm, when the weather requires it.

 

Dramatic Plants as Focal Points: Here we planted bullrush, horsetail, a rose hybrid water lily — and tall dramatic pink canna lilies that draw the eye naturally.

Dramatic Plants as Focal Points: Here we planted bullrush, horsetail, rose hybrid water lilies — and tall, dramatic pink, canna lilies that draw the eye naturally.

 

Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon Draw the Eye: These beautiful purple flowers (seen in the foreground) are planted in the fall and are one of the many plantings that offer robust color in the summer outdoor season and thrive nicely. We chose them for this design plan for their height as well as their lovely color contrast. They make a great focal point when in the hammock. Whether it’s a tree, plant, waterfall, outdoor fireplace or the property’s own lovely views, focal points in the design aid outdoor relaxation.

Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon Draw the Eye: These beautiful purple flowers (seen in the foreground) are planted in the fall and are one of the many plantings that offer robust color in the summer outdoor season and thrive nicely. We chose them for this design plan for their height as well as their lovely color contrast. They make a great focal point from the hammock.

Whether it’s a tree, plant, waterfall, outdoor fireplace or the property’s own lovely views, focal points in the design aid outdoor relaxation. They are sure to lead your eye to a peaceful 2020!

 

 

How Do I Create a Private Outdoor Space?

As youngsters, we had our bedroom where could hide away from too much family togetherness. And you know, we still need a little space we can call our own— or, at least, use on our own. And having such a space outdoors is perhaps the best escape of all.

That’s true even if we already have a fabulous backyard. For if it wasn’t designed with a view for private time, it can be hard to find quiet: e.g., around an active barbecue, busy outdoor dining table, and especially near a pool.

First, Assess What You Have

The next time you are outdoors, take a quick survey of your property and ask: Where would I love some quiet time? If you can’t point immediately to a ready-made spot — where you sneak away to read or do yoga, perhaps — it’s not all that hard to create such a spot.

Remember that when it calls for it, your getaway can serve double-duty as a gathering place and a spot for solitude. And, no, that’s not a contradiction. If it is going to serve double-duty, all you need is a “do not disturb” sign that the family respects when it’s hanging in an agreed location.

Now for some tips and examples:

Tip # 1

Plan an attractive focal point. One of the enjoyments of an outdoor private space is being close to nature, so a water feature, special planting bed, babbling brook, butterfly garden, etc. are ideal options. These amenities will not only serve your new personal retreat, they can also be shared. A waterfall, or pretty flower bed, by definition can’t help but be enjoyed from a variety of locations in the yard.

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Surrounded by lush landscape, this Deck and Patio waterfall focal point was created near the edge of an existing patio. With the addition of an attractive wood-burning stove and handsome wicker furniture it does double duty — you can escape there for some quiet, or enjoy it with friends. The pre-existing patio foundation is handsome Techo-Bloc (Elena in Earth Brown)

 

Tip # 2 

Create a foundation for a getaway. It can be very easy to extend an existing patio or deck, or add an entirely new area that will offer comfort and permanence underfoot.

Small Patio For Reading or Writing: 

Small Patio For Reading or Writing:

Techo-Bloc pavers were used to make this idyllic small patio sitting area next to the water feature. It’s a great spot to read, while sitting next to a trickling stream and the sounds of waterfalls. Note: The Techo-Bloc patio pavers were engineered in Canada, and they can well handle the freeze/thaw that occurs in our corner of the Northeast.

 

Tip # 3 

Consider your comfort. A few outdoor features such as comfy seating and shade are important. For seating, you might want a footstool (or a way to put your feet up), and a headrest; if you like movement, you might want a rocker or even a swing. If there isn’t a shade tree, outdoor umbrellas, a pergola, trellis, etc. will do the trick.

Your Own Private Space:

Your Own Private Space:

If you are planning a whole new patio, this is a great opportunity to plan ahead for that private space. Choosing a multi-level patio design like this Deck and Patio project makes delineating a private get-away space easy. Here, there’s a charming water feature flowing over moss rock covered in lush green ground cover; tall trees create privacy in the background; it’s snug and well away from other patio areas designed for sunning or sitting near the pool.

 

Tip # 4 

Think both ‘night’ and ‘day.” There’ll be times during the day when you’ll want to sneak away and perhaps read a book, or just listen to birds (and for that you might want to have a bird house or water fountain near your spot); other times you’ll be taking some ‘me’ time after sunset, so a fire pit or campfire will add warmth on cool evenings and offer pleasant lighting when it gets it’s dark.

Customized Gas Campfire:

Customized Gas Campfire:

This is a pleasant example of a space that is great for guests and family as well as for quiet private time. In addition to a beautiful pool with spillover spa and natural-looking waterfalls, the homeowners had room to add an expansive patio with several areas designed for different uses. For their inviting seating area, they wanted a gas fire pit surrounded with natural rock that complemented the look of their pool’s waterfalls. It’s perfect in the evenings, too. 

 

 

Outdoor Living: 5 Tips for Creating Your ‘Quiet Place’

 

As youngsters, we had our bedroom. There, we could hide away from the dictates of too much family togetherness. As adults, we still need a little space we can call our own or, at least, use on our own. Having that quiet nook, and having it outdoors, is perhaps the best escape of all.

However, even when we have a fabulous backyard, fully loaded with amenities, such an escape can still be illusive. It’s hard to find quiet around an always active barbecue and outdoor dining table, or even near a pool that’s frequently being used.

How then do you carve out your own private place?

The next time you are outdoors, take a quick survey of your property and ask: Where would I love some quiet time? If you can’t point immediately to a ready-made spot — where you sneak away to read or do yoga, perhaps — it’s not all that hard to make one.

First, there’s no rule that says, when it calls for it, your getaway can’t serve double-duty as a gathering place when it’s not being used as a place for solitude. And, no, that’s not a contradiction. If it is going to serve double-duty, all you need is a “do not disturb” sign that the family respects when it’s hanging in an agreed spot.

Now for some tips:

Tip # 1

Plan an attractive focal point. One of the enjoyments of an outdoor private space is being close to nature, so a water feature, special planting bed, babbling brook, butterfly garden, etc. are ideal options. These amenities will not only serve your new personal retreat, they can also be shared. A waterfall, or pretty flower bed, by definition can’t help but be enjoyed from a variety of locations in the yard.

Tip # 2

Create a foundation. It can be very easy to extend an existing patio or deck, or add an entirely new area that will offer comfort and permanence underfoot.

Tip # 3

Consider your comfort. A few outdoor features such as comfy seating and shade are important. For seating, you might want a footstool (or a way to put your feet up), and a headrest; if you like movement, you might want a rocker or even a swing. If there isn’t a shade tree, outdoor umbrellas, a pergola, trellis, etc. will do the trick.

Tip # 4

Think both ‘night’ and ‘day.” There’ll be times during the day when you’ll want to sneak away and perhaps read a book, or just listen to birds (and for that you might want to have a bird house or water fountain near your spot); other times you’ll be taking some ‘me’ time after sunset, so a fire pit or campfire will add warmth on cool evenings and offer pleasant lighting when it gets it’s dark.

Tip # 5

Ready-to-Go Basket: Having a private-time-basket that’s always at the ready is a great idea, too. It can be stocked with one or two aromatherapy candles, a favorite cushion, a throw rug for a little spontaneous yoga, ingredients (glass/soda) for your favorite drink, including a corkscrew if it happens to be wine.

 

Here’s some examples of retreat-areas we’ve created for clients:

 

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Surrounded by lush landscape, this ideal waterfall-focal point was created near the edge of an existing patio. With the addition of an attractive wood-burning stove and handsome wicker furniture it does double duty — you can escape there for some quiet, or enjoy it with friends.

For the landscaping – a layering effect was used; in the background, several Norway Spruce provide privacy; a colorful Japanese Maple holds court behind the upper waterfall with the complementing perennial ornamental grass (Japanese Blood Grass) standing tall nearby;  the pre-existing foundation is handsome Techo-Bloc (Elena in Earth Brown).

 

 

Flexible Private Escape:

Flexible Private Escape:

If you have the basics already in place, such as an attractive, well-laid patio or deck with large trees and shrubs on the periphery, simple container gardening allows you to create a flexible quiet spot — on the spot. If the containers are not too large, they can be moved at a moment’s notice. In this case, Deck and Patio’s clients also have an easy-to-move barbecue, and easy-living, yet elegant, outdoor furniture. An intimate spot away from the pool and main patio, it is also perfect for intimate dining.

 

 

Your Own Private Space:

Your Own Private Space:

If you are planning a whole new patio, this is a great opportunity to plan ahead for that private space. Choosing a multi-level patio design, it made delineating a private get-away space easy. For it, there’s a charming water feature flowing over moss rock covered in lush green ground cover; tall trees create privacy in the background; it’s snug and well away from other patio areas designed for sunning or sitting near the pool.

 

 

Quiet Walking Spaces:

Quiet Walking Spaces:

Sometimes all you need are a few quiet moments in the yard. For these clients, we took advantage of the need to create a place to hide their pool equipment, and made a walkthrough private woodland path. The clients can enjoy quiet moments of contemplation when strolling from one area of the backyard retreat to another.

 

 

Small Patio For Reading or Writing:

Small Patio For Reading or Writing:

Techo-Bloc pavers were used to make this idyllic small patio sitting area next to the water feature. It’s a great spot to read, while sitting next to a trickling stream and the sounds of waterfalls. Note: The Techo-Bloc patio pavers were engineered in Canada, and they can well handle the freeze/thaw that occurs in our corner of the Northeast.