There was a time, not so long ago, when a garden was just a garden. A neatly clipped grass lawn, colorful perennials growing in earthy flower beds, and perhaps a swimming pool with crazy paving was once a typical backyard scenario so familiar to ‘Generation Brady Bunch.’
Fast forward 40 years and today’s contemporary gardens are virtually unrecognizable. Humble patios and pergolas have been replaced by entire outdoor living spaces, as if whole rooms of a home’s traditional interiors have been magically cloned and moved into the great outdoors.
Indoor kitchens have morphed into full-blown outdoor kitchens, complete with cutting-edge cooking appliances, countertops, fridges, cocktail bars, hi-tech barbecues, wood-burning pizza ovens, and an array of innovative accessories.
Formal dining rooms have given way to breezy courtyards and shady pavilions, filled with tables, chairs, sink-into sofas, sun loungers, cushions and throws, invariably set around a free-form or geometric infinity pool shimmering in the sunlight.
The family TV room has been replaced by a seasonal cabana, or even a year-round pool house and dedicated outdoor entertainment space which can include anything from cinema-size flat screen TVs to surround-sound music systems for movies and dancing under the stars. Even the trusty bathroom has moved outdoors with gushing all-weather rain showers and bubbling spa baths turning backyards into semi-tropical and al fresco Gardens of Eden where one can shower or bath under a rising sun or waxing moon.
This relentless consumer craving for outdoor living spaces, fashioned in beautiful and durable materials and settings, is pushing commercial landscape companies, architects and designers to be exceptionally innovative and creative in delivering the right products and services.
“As the trend of extending the home’s indoor space outward onto the terrace and backyard continues to grow, we’ll be seeing outdoor living brought to whole new levels,” says Anna Polspoel, a professional landscape architect at Techo-Bloc, a market leader in landscape design serving eastern United States and Canada.
“With more space than the contained and divided rooms most homes have to offer, it seems as if the backyard is becoming the party room, and homeowners are looking for creative and functional ways to entertain their guests under the open sky.
|Techo-Bloc’s new Borealis captures the natural look of wood|
“The trend for 2014 is about blurring those boundaries between the outside and inside of the home by creating a softer transition in terms of decor.”
With 25 years’ experience in consistently redefining outdoor living spaces through innovative concrete landscape products, Techo-Bloc has combined art and science to create Precious Stones, a trademarked collection of dry-cast and wet-cast paving and retaining wall stones renowned for their aesthetics, strength and durability (which also come with a lifetime warranty).
“For 2014, we also set out to create products that could recreate and replicate the luxury and elegance of traditional and modern indoor decor materials while being resistant to the elements of the outdoors,” says Polspoel. The result is Borealis, a new and eye-catching concrete slab that captures the look and texture of wood but without the on-going maintenance.
“The use of wood indoors has long evoked luxury, warmth and comfort but it hasn’t been ideal in outdoor applications due to its poor resistance to climatic conditions and the commitment in time and money to maintain it,” adds Polspoel. “Borealis is a game-changer on the design front for landscape architects, opening up so many creative possibilities.”
The Borealis wood plank concrete slab is a modular 5 inch-wide “plank” akin to a trompe l’oeil, a classic art technique using realistic imagery to create an optical illusion. “It’ll have you guessing whether you’ve opted for hardwood or concrete,” says Polspoel.
Available in a range of hues, Borealis is offered in Sauvignon Oak and Hazelnut Brandy, both light-colored woods and major interior design trends for 2014, as well as the very dark and rich Smoked Pine, which is ideal for adding drama to an outdoor space.
“Interior designers have long had the luxury of combining different materials and textures such as marble, ceramics and woods to create beautiful and functional spaces. We too now have those choices,” adds Polspoel. “By mixing Borealis with other pavers and slabs, we can now really push the envelope on outdoor living designs.”
Another company pushing the boundaries in landscape design is the British-owned Haddonstone, one of the world’s leading manufacturers in architectural cast stone and fine garden ornaments.
With a showroom in Mount Laurel, N.J., and a purpose- built U.S. production facility in Pueblo, Colo., where many of the company’s products are made by hand, Haddonstone offers American landscape architects and designers the opportunity to create beautiful and durable outdoor spaces with a classic or contemporary British aesthetic.
Haddonstone is a unique form of cast limestone with a surface similar to Portland stone. The material matures and weathers like cut stone yet, piece for piece, normally costs significantly less than cut stone.
The ability to mold the Haddonstone material into almost any shape, faithfully reproducing new designs or producing replicas that are virtually indistinguishable from an antique original, has won the company numerous contracts ranging from leading international hotels and shopping malls to upscale residential projects.
“With its inherent strength, Haddonstone cast stone can be used in structural building situations. However, the usual practice is to use Haddonstone cast stone purely as a decorative building facade supported, where necessary, by reinforced concrete or structural steelwork,” says David West, president of Haddonstone (USA) Ltd.
“This task is not difficult but should be carried out only under the supervision of an architect or a structural engineer. “If you intend to use the products structurally, let Haddonstone know when you place your order, giving as much detail as possible. We can then advise you on any ways in which Haddonstone can simplify this work, saving you time and money.”
As well as manufacturing world-class architectural stonework from balustrades and columns to porticos, pavilions, temples, follies and mantels – all of which are ideal for an ocean home setting – Haddonstone offers a collection of more than 1,000 designs and decorative features from planters, fountains and statues to sundials, bird baths and garden furniture.
Haddonstone can custom manufacture architectural stone pieces to practically any shape or size. The latest designs include the Gothic Fountain with Lion Centerpiece, launched at Britain’s popular Chelsea Flower Show, and the Athenian Wall Fountain, created in partnership with America’s iconic Robert A.M. Stern Architects. techo-bloc.com and haddonstone.com