Perfect Outdoor Rooms

Hardscapes Add Spaces for Family & Friends

The Smith’s had a problem – lots of outdoor real estate, but nowhere to really spend their time relaxing or entertaining. They had dreamed for years about adding an outdoor living room with all the bells and whistles. They wanted hardscape features that fit their lifestyle, while adding beauty and function to their backyard space.

Deciding to finally “pull the trigger” and get the outdoor space they dreamed of, the Smith’s contacted Allan Block Certified Contractor - Spectrum Landscape Services of Greenfield, IN to help them with their design.

Outdoor patio with patio wall and fire pit

Large patio with built-in seating and fire pit

Raised patio with planting area

retaining walls create raised patios and beautiful planting areas

Raised patio with retaining walls

AB Europa Collection for raised patio and stairs, AB Courtyard for patio seating walls

Outdoor kitchen with built in grill

Create a custom outdoor kitchen with appliances and countertops.

Raised patio with retaining walls

With a space about 1,100 ft2 (100 m2) in size, the Smith’s wanted an area big enough to have large gatherings, an outdoor kitchen area for the grill, a bar for entertaining, and a fire pit to enjoy on cool nights. After meeting with the contractor, a design and plan was created to make their outdoor living space a reality.

The project was not without some challenges. The land behind the house while large, had a slope that needed to be addressed in order for a patio of this size to be realized. The contractors laid out a plan to build a retaining wall using the AB Europa Collection on the low side of the property to create a beautiful and level patio area. Stairs were incorporated allowing access to the lower areas of the yard while planting areas above the wall were added to soften the landscape.

The AB Old Country Courtyard Collection was added along the edge of the patio to add built-in seating around the fire pit and open patio areas. A rooftop structure was added to the grill and bar area to add shade from the sun and cover from the elements, creating a more intimate and cozy feel to this outdoor space. Lights were added through the retaining walls and seating walls to further create a warm and inviting area for entertaining at night.

Now that the work is done, the Smith’s couldn’t be happier and they can entertain, relax and enjoy their outdoor space in style.

Working with Hardscapes in the Yard

What exactly is a hardscape and why do we need or want them?

Hardscapes are solid elements or non-living features of your landscape. They can be formal or informal depending on the style of your surrounding landscape and when planned out carefully, they improve the overall outdoor space. Hardscapes can add depth and texture to your yard. Some are for artistic purposes and some are more practical in nature.

Patio with seat wall and fireplace

Custom patio with firplace and pergola added to outdoor kitchen creates an inviting area.

Patio enclosure with gate

Backyard patio enclosed with patio seating wall to create an outdoor room.

Retaining wall planter with pattern

Terraced walls built it a slope to expand space and add plantings.

Patio Wall with gate and posts

AB Courtyard patio wall creates a defined outdoor space.

Front Yard Terraced Retaining Wall

Terraced walls built to include plantings to soften front yard curb appeal.

Retaining wall terrace with plants

When choosing hardscape features, consider their overall purpose in addition to your current style or theme. Different areas of your landscape may require a variety of elements based on their purpose. Use them as accents or backdrops, like a garden bench or a pond. Or use them as a main focal point, like an outdoor kitchen or entertainment area.

Incorporating hardscapes into your landscape can be easy and fun, if the proper planning and design for your space is considered. Here are a few tips to think about when adding hardscapes to your yard:

  • Think About the Landscape - Even though you may only be starting with a small area, be sure to take the time to think about the overall picture. Indoors you wouldn’t just paint a wall without taking into consideration the furniture or linens that go along with it.
  • Don’t Ignore the Water - More hardscapes have encountered disaster by people ignoring the drainage plans for a project than all other errors combined. Planning the placement of your structures and how water will flow on and around them can save you a lot of time, money and frustrations in the long run. Waterfalls or bubbling ponds can add wonderful visuals and sound effects to your outdoor space. There are traditional pond options or pond-less options for water features. Consider both when planning your space but also consider the periodic maintenance. Make cleaning options and pump accesses easy to work with.
  • Preserve the Plants - In the warmer, drier climates a concrete or stone garden may be the style of choice out of necessity rather than design, but overall it would not be the ideal trend to follow. Having an even balance to hardscapes and landscapes can create the best of both worlds. Create a beautiful backyard with hardscapes framed by flowers and shrubs to soften the area, while a small patch of lawn can provide a safer surface for children to play on as well as keep the area cooler on those hot sunny summer days.
  • Choose the Right Materials - Think of a two or three word phrase that describes your vision and style and stick with it. Texture is very important as well when choosing your materials. If you have too many, your space can become too busy or look messy. Keep your materials limited to a few coordinating styles to add continuity to your landscape.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Call an Expert - Hire a designer or a contractor who knows and understands your style. Check portfolios and get recommendations before embarking on a project with a hired professional. Contact your local Allan Block representative for a list of AB Certified Contractors in your area. Buying using the "Find A Store" you can can find a trained expert to help you.

Hardscapes are a vital part of a functional and beautiful landscape. With careful planning and consideration you can have the backyard you have been dreaming of.

Excerpt from Landscape Newsletter Issue #36