North Texans who spend warm spring weekends enjoying the outdoors are often pushed back inside by the punitive reality of the July-through-September heat.
But being a resourceful group, many have figured out ways to experience the outdoors and the air conditioning as well, All that’s needed is a home that brings the outdoors in, and a yard that takes some indoor comforts out.
Sounds simple, but finding a property on which house and yard are both exactly what you want can be difficult, not to mention potentially out of your price range.
So comes the urge to remodel the home and yard you actually own into the home and yard of your dreams.
Remodeling for the indoor-outdoor life often means remodeling to correct specific problems. For instance, since concrete patios were so prevalent several decades ago, deciding what to do with a weather-beaten one is a major outdoor remodeling challenge.
“Nothing is more boring in the back yard than the common concrete patio,” says contractor 13ruce Hedman, who has been renovating Dallas-area properties for the past 16 years. “You can coat it with masonry paint or spray on a synthetic material that covers the surface like stucco. Or you can lay 1/2-inch-thick brick pavers over the patio to change the overall setting.”
A cracked patio is an eyesore and should be replaced-but with what? Exposed stone looks good, but can be hot or rough on bare feet. Patterned concrete companies can imprint designs in wet concrete, or you can think about heat-resistant, aggregate materials.
Another major remodeling challenge is figuring out ways to alter your living space in such a way as to bring the outdoors inside. Adapting to the Texas summer heat, in particular, can mean building a gameroom, sunroom, porch, or deck adjacent to the yard, so you can enjoy air conditioning or fan breezes while feeling like you’re outdoors. And pools, decks, play structures, and even outbuildings take some of the comforts of home out into the heat-baked yard.
Steve DeCosta, a contractor who handles a variety of out-door-related projects for homeowners all across the Dallas area, says one of his favorite projects is a Lake Highlands home in which he converted the garage into a gameroom that perfectly linked a stunning creekside lot with the home’s interior.
“The owners didn’t really need more square footage,” DeCosta says. “They have this huge deck with a pool built into it, and they wanted a transitional room, where kids could go in and get a soda or dry off without tracking water through the house. ” The room DeCosta built, with glass doors to the deck and the driveway, is now the most popular room in the house year-round.
Whatever your dream, its fulfillment usually begins with architect’s plans that make the most effective use of the available space. But you don’t need an expert for landscaping. According to landscaping guru Howard Garrett, you are the expert, and you start the process of landscaping by looking out your window.
“Just look out your window at the views,” he says. The key to landscaping, he maintains, is creating good views from the house’s windows, to bring the outdoors inside.
Your first move, according to Garrett: Plant trees. “Trees are your biggest investment,” he points out. “You plant trees to block bad views and to provide privacy. And once you’ve done that, you’ve created the skeleton of a garden. Then you just look for the walk patterns. You don’t have tobealand-scape architect to do that.”
Placing trees first will also provide a blueprint for sun and shade patterns. With that knowledge, you can plan bushes, beds, ground cover, and grass accordingly. The goal? The yard should provide a sense of enclosure, of privacy, stresses Garrett.
According to Garrett, the two biggest landscaping mistakes people make are selecting ill-adapted plants and failing to prepare the soil properly. His advice, of course, reflects his status as the area’s most fervent organic gardening gum, with a weekend radio talk show on WBAP-AM 820, a column each Friday in The Dallas Morning Sews’ House & Garden section, and books such as Plants of the Metroplex and The Dirt Doctor’s Guide to Organic Gardening to his credit.
As you consider the views, think not only of the far-off views but of what you see right outside your window. The views from many of your home’s windows, especially those at the back of the house, probably include your new deck or patio. So consider adding trellises for roses and climbing plants, and window boxes, hanging baskets, and portable containers for both flowering plants and vegetables.
Paul Fields, a landscape architect who is director of design at Lambert’s, offers the Lambert’s secret to providing high-impact color on decks: overplanting in containers. “Put too many flowers in the pot, so they drip from the sides, bang down over the edges,” he says, Also, you can interplant-say, caladium bulbs and plants in the same container, Fields says, to lengthen the growing season and enjoy blooms throughout the summer.
And you can prepare for the next season, he points out, by planting daffodils and tulip bulbs in the same container as pansies. By the time the pansies fade, the daffodils and tulips I will begin to bloom.
Another way to keep as much color as possible is to interplant different annuals and I perennials. Fields recommends using a permanent annual, such as a miniature rose bush, in a container to add a central theme that you can vary with your seasonal plantings around it.
Caladiums and impatiens, are among the best choices for spring through summer color, says Fields. Butterflies are attracted to lantana, I and hummingbirds will visit plants that have long-throated blooms, such as buddleia. I Plants that will cascade over the sides of the pot, such as English ivy and lantana, add a vertical dimension.
II you need color in a hurry, try buying fully planted hanging baskets at nurseries, then set I into a pot. Use simple pots, unless you are trying to show off a pot.
I Creating a home and yard that’s a perfect match for the way you approach the indoor outdoor life is hard work and art combined, a blending of hope and common sense.