Creating the Backyard of Your Dreams
With an appreciative nod and a hearty “thank you” to Mother Nature, Valley homeowners give quite a bit of attention and precedence to their backyard spaces. With an emphasis on our enviable outdoor living; the design, functionality and amenities of a home’s outdoor spaces can take a property from mediocre to magnificent!
Have you ever found yourself enthralled with the beauty and appeal of an outdoor space; perhaps at a resort or at an inspired residence? You may not be able to put your finger on why the space is so pleasing, but subconsciously your eye is appreciating the elusive qualities of rudimentary design principals in action.
“Somewhat similar to a floral arrangement, you can have all the right elements in a yard, but if they’re not artfully arranged, it won’t convey with the same power,” advises Kirk Bianchi, architecturally minded pool and landscape designer, and principle of Bianchi Design. “The right backyard design incorporates the fundamentals of proportion, composition, ratios…all designed to lead your eye through the space in a pleasing way.”
Designated a Master of the Southwest by Phoenix Home & Garden magazine, Bianchi explains the importance of focal points. “Perhaps it’s a dramatic boulder outcropping, sparkling city light views or a stately tree; every space will have its highlights. Identifying where these focal elements are is essential to the overall design, as everything else will fill in to create that crucial sculptural arrangement.”
Aesthetics are just one component to creating the backyard of your dreams. Just as important as proper design, is understanding how you desire to use the space. Are you planning to entertain with large gatherings or is your priority for a private family space? Do you prefer a calming zen-like atmosphere? Are you looking for an amenity-rich area for recreational pursuits? Will you be cooking or dining outdoors? Will your pool be used for swimming, or might it serve as an elegant water feature artfully reflecting the nearby topography or architecture?
No matter how you plan to use your backyard, blurring the line from indoor to outdoor living generally creates a pleasing flow and can be accomplished seamlessly with the use of sliding pocket doors to the patio. Extending the flooring material to the outside patio and using similar or complimentary furnishings and accessories indoors and out will also enhance the fusion. “Todays outdoor spaces are often a replication of interior functions,” says Bianchi. “You might have multiple TV areas, multiple intimate gathering spaces, a dining area, or an outdoor kitchen and bar. I like to design private sanctuary spaces such as a daybed or reading area into the design as well.”
When possible, dining areas and outdoor kitchens that are under roof are ideal. Often that means building a separate structure deeper into the yard away from the covered patio. “I like to design transitional spaces too,” says Bianchi. “A space that’s neither solid nor open to the elements, constructed of a trellis, soft fabric, or even perforated metal. The contrast of light and darkness is harsh on the eyes, so I like a soothing environment to take you incrementally from under cover to sun. They serve as a nice in-between zone within the backyard space.”
With entertaining and dining al fresco in mind, outdoor kitchens have become more and more elaborate. Accessorized with extensive counter space, islands and multiple appliances; today’s luxury kitchens put last generation’s modest charcoal grill to shame! Outfitted with smokers, grills, rotisseries, pizza ovens, refrigerators, warming drawers, and even dishwashers; the chef of the house won’t be left wanting for style or convenience.
If you’re planning on hosting gatherings of family and friends, consider adding some gaming and recreational activities to really allow for some active socializing. A dedicated area for bocce ball or a putting green can keep guests happily entertained. Even built-in splash pads for the little ones are an option.
Having a dedicated space for fitness is top-of-mind for some homeowners. “When I design a workout room or yoga studio for example, I like to make the space inviting and I like to make it a destination you want to get to,” says Bianchi. “The journey of getting there should be part of the experience. I’ve designed a yoga studio in which the residents cross tranquil stepping stones through water to get to it.”
Options in pools and spas are seemingly infinite. Negative-edge pools are simply classic and timeless and lend well in a space with elevated topography and a view. In a completely flat space, you won’t have the infinity overflow look, but you can create a pool in which the water is flush with the deck. With a small buried reservoir around the pool’s perimeter to catch the overflow, the water and ground can exist on the same plane, lending your yard a more modern look with a touch of the unexpected.
While the kidney-shaped pools of the past have given way to more architecturally minded and linear shapes, free-formed pools work as well; depending on the surrounding yard and overall design. Plaster pools had given way to the pebbled look with Pebble Tec, and now a polished primera stone product is available that looks like pebble but is as smooth as plaster. Some color options are even accented with recycled glass which adds an interesting prismatic dimension under the water.
Lighting and water features in your poolscape present more opportunities for creating mood and ambiance. Bianchi uses fiber optic “star floors” on the shallow sun shelves in some of his pool designs. “Not only does it add dramatic bling, using those subtle lights are an effective way to illuminate a dark space,” he advises. “I like to add discreet yet interesting water features to pools. Underwater bubblers illuminated from within, for instance, can add dimension and atmosphere. The sound of water is so calming, particularly when water streaming from scuppers or a wet wall is designed with a quiet, peaceful laminar flow.”
In addition to ambiance, features and functionality; homeowners will want to consider comfort as well. Misting systems of today offer a superfine mist that can be disbursed evenly with a silent built-in fan. For areas away from structures, such as lounge chairs at the pool, portable misting systems can be designed as sculptural artwork that are both pretty and practical. Heating systems can be built recessed into ceilings offering a clean aesthetic rather than using bulky standing apparatuses that can compete with your design scheme.
No matter how you define your dream backyard, there are an immeasurable number of concepts and ideas to bring your visions to life. With Arizona’s azure blue skies and lush Sonoran Desert landscapes as a backdrop, you’ve already got a head start on spectacular outdoor living!