The outdoor-living phenomenon only continues to evolve and grow in popularity. According to Jarod Hynson, president of Earth, Turf & Wood, the possibilities are limitless, whether you’re interested in a secluded patio that offers privacy for two or a full-out retreat that can accommodate a crowd.
Sixteen years ago, Jarod detected a change in the air. People simply wanted to stay home, where they could relax, bond with their children and entertain friends and family. They began eyeing their expansive backyard lawns and posing the question, “What if …”
By then, Jarod had been in the industry for nearly 20 years. As a 13-year-old, he had launched a lawn maintenance service in his hometown of Skillman, New Jersey, which ultimately became one of Central Jersey’s most elite grounds maintenance companies. In 1994, Jarod sold the company in order to finance his education at Messiah College. After graduating, he returned to landscaping and married a Lancaster County coed he had met at Messiah. “That’s how I ended up in Reamstown,” he says of his adopted home turf.
Realizing homeowners had become interested in venturing beyond simply landscaping their properties, Jarod began researching trends that were changing the way people lived in warm weather locations, such as Southern California, the Southwest, the Gulf Coast and Florida. Recognizing that the sky was the limit, Earth, Turf & Wood evolved from a landscaping company to one that specializes in design/build projects for outdoor spaces. “We can provide anything from a basic patio to the total package,” he notes. And, with Landscape Architect Mary Hatch Dresser on staff, the company can offer services that extend beyond the basic permits by developing and overseeing residential stormwater management plans that are now needed due to hardscaping restrictions imposed by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s watershed criteria.
Jarod and Mary share the opinion that the popularity of outdoor-living spaces is being fed by a multitude of scenarios, including our fast-paced lifestyles, a desire to commune with nature, family bonding, creating a new venue for home entertaining and adding life (and value) to spaces that are under used. “Some people just want to eliminate the rat-race of heading for the shore every weekend,” Jarod notes. “Why would they want to leave home if they have access to a resort in their own backyard?” he asks. “And, it’s accessible every day of the week.” Mary adds to that train of thought, noting that outdoor-living areas are stress relievers. “As soon as you pull into the driveway, you automatically begin to unwind,” she says, pointing out that such spaces “should call you to come out and relax.”
Families have also come to view backyard retreats as nurturing spaces. “Parents tell me, ‘Now I know where my kids are on the weekends,’” Jarod says of the outdoor-living areas that instantly become magnets for teens and their friends. Mary adds that they also serve to get younger children out of the house (i.e. away from technology) to enjoy the fresh air and get exercise.
Outdoor-living spaces have added an all-new dimension to home entertaining as homeowners are issuing invitations for al fresco dining, pool parties, televised sports-viewing events, s’mores parties around the campfire, celebrations for family milestones and even benefits for nonprofit organizations.
“Every project is customized,” Jarod explains. “No two are alike.”
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Kitchen design has moved to the great outdoors! “All we’ve done is taken an interior kitchen concept and moved it outdoors,” Jarod says. Fortunately, the industry is keeping pace with demand. Cabinetry ranges from sleek stainless to hardwoods. Granite tops counters. Grills have been joined by smokers and pizza/bread ovens. Appliances range from refrigerators and beverage coolers to outdoor ranges and dishwashers. “Everything is waterproofed, making it completely functional,” Jarod points out.
In Jarod’s estimation, there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting around a campfire. No doubt, fire pits have helped to make s’mores a universal treat. “Kids love them for that reason,” Jarod says of the first step of roasting marshmallows over a fire. This very natural-looking fire-pit area is man-made. “Natural-looking environments are the most difficult to achieve,” Mary remarks, noting there’s a fine line between the random and precise placement of stones, rocks, plantings, etc.
Plantings also figure into the overall plan. “The goal is to achieve year-round color,” says Jarod, adding that native plants continue to have a positive impact on the industry. Another goal is to choose plants that don’t grow too slowly or quickly. “You’re looking for sustainable, long-term plants,” he says. Dogscaping – creating canine-friendly outdoor-living areas – is also a new trend, and one of its tenets is to incorporate pet-friendly (i.e. nonpoisonous/nontoxic) plants into the landscape. “Pets are part of the equation,” Mary says of designing outdoor-living spaces.
Indoor Style Translates to Outdoor Spaces
According to Jarod, the “LED market has taken over” the outdoor-lighting segment of the industry. In his opinion, there has been a marked improvement in color quality, brightness and intensity. Lighting brings an all-new dimension to the landscape, as it sets the mood, allows you to use the space well into the night, and provides an added sense of safety and security.
Pools now entail graceful curves and angles. Look closer and you’ll note features such as staircases, sun shelfs and “benches” beneath the water’s surface. Sprays and waterfalls provide soothing sounds. Exercise also figures into the equation as many homeowners begin or end their day with water running or lap swimming. “In view of the fact that there’s only a 90-day window for pool use in this area of the country, you have to weigh your options,” says Jarod. “It’s where the enjoyment factor versus the investment weighs into the budget.” Still, he estimates that 60-70% of clients put pools on their must-have lists.
Style has impacted the outdoor-furnishings market! Upholstery is plush, durable and waterproof. Colors are on trend. Frames offer solid construction. As far as the look goes, the market is brimming with contemporary, traditional and transitional furnishings for your outdoor world.
Again, the angular concrete slab has been replaced by patios that arc and curve. Surfaces include pavers, aged stone and travertine. A mix of products adds texture and creates rug-like configurations. Patios can also function as the bridge between indoor and outdoor spaces, creating private getaways for relaxing, reading or enjoying a beverage or cigar outside your bedroom, home office or living areas.
Open-air pavilions are the top choice for housing outdoor kitchens, dining rooms and seating areas. Post-and-beam/timberframe construction is well represented in this region. Another popular option is lining ceilings with exotic woods such as mahogany.
This often serves as the focal point of the pavilion or an outdoor seating area. When it’s under a roof, it’s often topped by a television. Jarod points out that if a fireplace is built correctly, it can expand an outdoor-living area’s window of opportunity to as much as nine months.
Audio and video components for outdoor use have become “extremely advanced,” Jarod reports. Apps and computer technology allow you to control everything with ease. For example, the fire and water in the containers seen above come to life with the touch of an app.
Beyond a pool, there is a multitude of ways to incorporate water into the landscape, including fountains, ponds and stand-alone spas. According to Jarod, the newest water feature is the water wall, which is visually and audibly engaging.