Topic: Outdoor Living Ideas

Date Posted: Monday, August 18, 2014
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

Outdoor living alters landscape for homeowners

Outdoor living alters landscape for homeowners




The Kaiser family's Ho-Ho-Kus home after landscaping. Others are adding fireplaces and even TVs.

In the past few years, members of the Kaiser family have radically transformed the back yard of their Ho-Ho-Kus home, starting with a patio, a deck and a built-in barbecue.

Drainage projects came next, followed by additional plantings, exterior lighting and, finally, a full-sized pool.

The Kaiser family's Ho-Ho-Kus home after landscaping. Others are adding fireplaces and even TVs.

The home before the landscaping.

"My husband likes to grill and I like not to cook," said Michelle Kaiser, who said their three teenagers adore the pool and their extended family from the city loves to visit the great outdoors. "As the years have gone by, we've been able to make it into the space that we really love and really can use."

Creating outdoor living spaces is one of the hottest trends in landscape architecture, local and national experts say.

"There is a real focus on the exterior of your home," said Mark Borst, owner of Allendale-based Borst Landscape & Design, which did the project on the Kaiser home. "It's almost like creating a different room for your house. It's about the barbecue, outdoor rooms that have a roof but open sides, a fireplace. There are outdoor TVs with surround sound. Everything you think of normally having inside is creeping outside."

The American Society of Landscape Architects 2014 trends survey found that 92 percent of those professionals surveyed indicated that outdoor kitchens and living areas were somewhat or very popular. Also ranking high were lighting; fire pits or fireplaces; and installed seating, including benches, walls, steps, ledges and boulders.

While good landscaping can improve the value of your home, most people caution that you're not going to get a dollar-for-dollar return.

"For the most part, people are improving their landscaping to enjoy it now," said Glenn Jacobsen, owner of Jacobsen Landscape Design & Construction in Midland Park.

John Harris, a Florida-based landscape economist, estimated that good quality landscaping, healthy trees and shrubs, and a robust lawn could increase property values between 10 percent and 25 percent.

"It's not like the return you might get from renovating your bathroom or kitchen," Harris said. "But there is still the value of street appeal, if you are going to be selling, because landscaping is one of the first things people notice."

Contrary to the Landscape Architects survey, a survey done from 2012 data by the National Association of Home Builders said 31 percent of buyers did not want an outdoor kitchen. Local landscaper Jacobsen said that discrepancy is likely because Bergen County draws more affluent buyers who crave luxurious amenities.

"The trend is still really strong here," he said.

Less so are water features, Jacobsen said. "Maybe seven years ago we were doing a lot of ponds, waterfalls, the like," he said. "That's ended its run. It's nice to have a fish pond, but they take a certain amount of maintenance."

On the other hand, fire pits or fireplaces are growing in popularity, Jacobsen said. A fire pit, even well-designed and elaborate, is essentially still a campfire, he said, and some homeowners are turned off by the rustic nature of it.

"You can come back inside smelling like you were sitting around a campfire," he said. Fire pits can cost between $2,000 and $4,000. Fireplaces have a free-standing chimney or one attached to a wall or patio space. Depending on the size and nature of the installation, they can cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Appliances have kept up with the outdoor living trend. All-weather outdoor televisions run from about $3,000 to $5,000, and outdoor speakers cost between $200 and $500. There are kitchen appliances that can withstand the elements.

When it comes to the cost of outdoor spaces, the sky is the limit. "A full-blown outdoor room with a kitchen, fireplace, overhead structure can go from $150,000 to $200,000, depending on how complex you get," Jacobsen said.

Exterior lighting has long been one of the most popular projects in landscaping. Advances in LED technology have revolutionized the industry, said Gregg Malora, owner of Firefly Landscape Lighting in Harrington Park.

When LED lighting was first introduced, the color was on the cold, blue side of the spectrum, which can turn off many people. Now the lights are closer to the warmer light of a halogen fixture, Malora said.

"LED lighting uses about one-fifth of the power as traditional lights," Malora said. The fixtures cost about 20 percent to 30 percent more, "but they pay for themselves over the life of the system."

Malora said most of the lighting jobs he installs cost between $3,000 and $7,000, with between 15 and 30 different fixtures.

"Automation has also come a long way so that you can control your landscape lighting from your smartphone," he said.

Bells and whistles notwithstanding, there is a lot to be gained in landscaping, well, the landscape.

John Freitag, co-owner of Yellow Wagon Landscaping in Ridgefield, works with each client to pick the desired mix of plantings, trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and other plant life.

"You have to know how much maintenance they want to do, or whether they want to bring someone else in to maintain it," he said. As a general rule, it's good to have a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees as well as a combination of perennial flowers that return each spring and annuals that die out after the summer season.

"What that does is, it creates a beautiful space year-round," Freitag. explained. "That extends the amount of time you can spend outdoors."

For Frank Santoro in Englewood Cliffs, Yellow Wagon installed plantings around the property. Spring starts with Scotch broom and tulips; summer brings roses,, including a variety that lasts until the first frost, Freitag said. Throughout summer, crape myrtle and hydrangeas bloom amid showy annuals like petunias and begonias. Throughout the property there are plantings that provide color even in late fall and winter, such as the evergreen, Blue Atlas Cedar and Coral Bark Maple, which loses its leaves but has a bright red trunk year-round.

"The previous owners didn't do much of anything to the property," Santoro said.

"The house had the same landscaping as it did in 1969 and it just didn't look right," he said.

Now, Santoro said, he can enjoy his property while just hanging out by the in-ground pool.

"We like to eat out there and I wanted it to look good," he said. "I get so many compliments now."

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