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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!

 

 

Backyard Upgrade Ideas: Don’t Forget the Focal Point

A backyard focal point could be a tree that’s beautiful all year, a butterfly garden that includes late blooming plants, or a garden bench set amid wispy ornamental grasses and trees with bright fall foliage. Or, like in the backyard upgrade we’re highlighting here, what catches your eye (and ear) when you walk outdoors can be an inspiring water feature.

In the end, the focal point is simply what you are emphasizing. You can have more than one if your yard is large enough, but it should be done in a way so that various points do not compete with each other.

When these clients approached us for a full backyard upgrade, they wanted several elements:  a two-level patio, fire pit, hot tub, fresh landscaping, and an outdoor kitchen. They also wanted a special water feature that could be enjoyed wherever you are in the yard — or a main focal point that wasn’t static but a “living landscape.”

Water Feature

The completed water feature consists of a “pond-less” waterfall and stream — and, of course, it was all strategically placed so as to be viewed from both the main kitchen window, the new two-level patio, and the hot tub.

An added benefit is the feature was made with all Aquascape Inc. components, so it is eco-friendly: the water is kept clean and healthy without the use of any chemicals.

Patio and Outdoor Kitchen/Bar

To support the water feature’s natural appeal, the two-level patio was made with a Techo-Bloc paver that gives the suggestion of natural wood and the fire pit and outdoor kitchen facade were made of natural stone. Despite the height of the outdoor kitchen, and the impressive patio pattern, the water feature’s size, movement, and drama means it is never outshone.

That does not mean, however, that the other elements aren’t beautiful and significant. Indeed, everything should work together as one harmonious whole.

 

 Backyard Focal Points:

Backyard Focal Points:

Moving water is delightful to listen to as well as watch. This pond-less stream and waterfalls were positioned so as to catch the eye immediately when stepping outside; it can also be enjoyed from the kitchen window.

 

 

Backyard Focal Points:

Backyard Focal Points:

The stream and waterfalls flow next to the clients’ new Bullfrog Spas’ hot tub — adding another layer of relaxation to the spa experience.

 

 

Techo-Bloc “Borealis”

Techo-Bloc “Borealis”

By providing the rich look of wood flooring, Techo-Bloc Borealis’ modular 5”-and-10”-wide slabs have been called trompe l’oeil by industry professionals. Offering such a natural wood look, it was the perfect choice for a patio that sits beside a flowing stream with waterfalls.

 

 

Outdoor Kitchen:

Outdoor Kitchen:

The clients’ new outdoor kitchen/eating bar was set on the lower-level of their new patio — just next to the end of the waterfall/stream. An ideal place for gathering for drinks before dinner is made all the better with the sounds and movements of an adjacent water feature.

 

 

Outdoor Kitchens and Fire Pits:

Outdoor Kitchens and Fire Pits:

The mechanics of the fire pit and outdoor kitchen are hidden within stone facades. The outdoor kitchen’s barbecue cabinet has a built-in stainless steel grill, an ample work area, sink, refrigerator and eating bar with bar stools.

 

 

Flexible Shade:

Flexible Shade:

When open, embedded umbrellas provide flexible shade opportunities anywhere they are needed. Moved behind the eating bar, the umbrellas are a great substitute for a pergola; they are more flexible than fixed shade amenities because various umbrellas can be open and closed at the same time or moved as the sun does. When all open, you have a perfect area to place a buffet or sit and and relax in full shade.

 

 

 

Natural Playscapes: Pond and Playground Oasis in City Backyard

Even though they live in a bustling, high-traffic part of Brooklyn, NY, this client wanted her children to experience the same interaction with nature that she had as a child,.

The finished natural playscape we created is reminiscent of a secret cove on a desert island. It boasts a swimming pond with a beach-style entry, three waterfalls, a rock climbing wall, a pirate-ship-style tree house, rope bridge, swings, exercise rings/bar, and three bubble-rock water features.

The heart of the project is, of course, its eco-friendly pond, which for the present is shallow — only 8” deep. It is deep enough so the young children can swim and play in it. However, we also constructed the pond to “grow” with them. It is actually a deeper pond with boulders that are covered with fabric and gravel which, when they are older, can be removed, exposing a full-sized pond they can stock with koi, offering an entirely different experience for more mature children.

 

Natural Playscape with Pond:

Natural Playscape with Pond:

Deck and Patio designed/built this city oasis (above), as a temporary 8” shallow pond, for younger children which can be easily turned into a full-size koi pond when the children get older. Stepping stones lead from the playhouse across the pond to a patio at the back of the house.

 

Pond with Beach-Style Entry:

Pond with Beach-Style Entry:

Crushed stone used elsewhere on the property for rainwater harvesting was also used to make a fabulous beach-style entry into the pond. Such entries are an ideal element of a natural swimming pond that is bordered by plants and natural boulders.

 

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Instead of using any chemicals to keep the pond healthy, it is designed as a natural eco-system. To accomplish this, we used all Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL) equipment and components: Skimmer, Biofalls, Pump, and Liner. Aerated by three beautiful waterfalls, the water stays pristine and healthy; much to the joy of the children, the pond attracts beneficial wildlife like frogs, which also eat unwanted insects.

 

Backyard Rope Bridge:

Backyard Rope Bridge:

What young child doesn’t enjoy imagining they are one of the Swiss Family Robinsons…or Jack Sparrow himself! From this rope bridge, they can watch for other pirates, ferocious child-eating animals, and all fearsome enemies.

 

Home Rock Climbing Wall:

Home Rock Climbing Wall:

Children who have to fight pirates and wild animals need to keep in shape. What better way than to have a rock climbing wall as part of their tree-house getaway.

 

Rope Ladder:

Rope Ladder:

No self-respecting defender of a tree-house castle would enter any other way but on a rope ladder.

 

Bluestone Patio:

Bluestone Patio:

At the edge of the children’s inter-active playground is a bluestone patio with deep seating and fire heater where adults can hang out and enjoy the waterfalls and bubble-rock features, while the children save the world from pirates.

 

 

In-ground Swimming Pool Trends: What’s Making a Splash?

Talk about making a splash with beautiful backyard escapes! Swimmingpool.com recently highlighted some of the hottest trends in swimming pool design under such sub-headings as: “Attached Hot Tubs,” “Hardscapes,” “Geometric Design,” and “Go Big at Home.”

We can attest to much of the specifics of their post. As Long Island swimming pool designers and builders, we’ve been including many of these amenities for some time. Here’s some examples of how Deck and Patio has incorporated these trends into swimming pools we’ve done for a few of our savvy clients:

 

Attached Hot Tubs:

Attached Hot Tubs:

According to Swimmingpool.com, a growing trend is to “make the hot tub appear ‘invisible’ in the design.” These spa beauties are often placed with walkways or steps as you see here.

For these clients, an up-to-date style wasn’t the only inspiration for the design. With three young children, safety had become a major concern and they also wanted an automatic pool cover. Designing a geometric pool with a built-in spill-over spa recessed inside the pool allowed us to give them one automatic cover for both bodies of water. In addition, special automation allows them to isolate the spa and heat only the spa water.

 

 

Raised Spas:

Raised Spas:

In order to better view a beautiful pool when in the spa, another trend covered under Attached Hot Tubs is elevating spas “above” the pools. Indeed, we proved this a stunning choice for an existing pool by installing a portable Bullfrog Spa with a beautiful natural stone raised above the pool.

Special plumbing was added to regulate the new spa’s sheer descent water feature: water spills from the fire bowl into the hot tub; in turn, spa water flows out into the pool for a beautiful hot springs/Roman pool effect, and, of course, you have the perfect vantage point to enjoy the pool.

 

 

In-ground Swimming Pool “Hardscapes”:

In-ground Swimming Pool “Hardscapes”:

Sometimes, only elegance will do. One of the trends listed for pool hardscapes is Travertine and we have used it for some of our clients such as in this pool surround. Cool even in the heat of summer, Travertine is a type of limestone and is quite different from marble or granite. In climates such as the Northeast, with our freeze/thaw conditions, we’ve found that where Travertine is quarried determines how practical it is. More vital Travertine info.

 

 

Geometric In-ground Pool Design:

Geometric In-ground Pool Design:

Free-form has been popular for a long time, and frankly still is, but there is a trend back to the geometric design. Here the striking geometric pool, with sheer descent waterfalls, is surrounded by a stunning patio in complementary random geometric patterns.

The steps at the far end of the pool — part of a natural retaining wall of boulders and plantings — lead to a delightful landscaped wilderness where pool equipment has been artfully hid.

 

 

Custom In-ground Swimming Pool Features:

Custom In-ground Swimming Pool Features:

Under Swimmingpool.com’s trend “Go Big at Home” doesn’t mean building huge pools necessarily, but this trend is for incorporating ever more custom pool features. Here for drama you see a high waterfall spilling over a romantic grotto with spa inside. A gazebo with outdoor great room, elegant patio surround for entertaining and sunbathing, and lush colorful landscaping are just some of this backyard oasis’ amenities.