Creating an Outdoor Sanctuary by Cathy Coker Martin
November 2005 Issue – Title: Outdoor Rooms, The Hottest Trend in Home Design by Cathy Coker Martin
As a little girl I remember spending hours in my grandmother’s backyard swing. Daddy built an amazing treehouse for us in the big oak tree behind our house, complete with a zip line. (Truth be told, I was afraid to go down it unless daddy was holding on to me from the ground below.) My mom planted tiny sapling trees in our backyard that today have grown so tall it’s hard to believe that they are the same little saplings. They add such beauty, charm, and of course, shade guiding your eye in and out of the path they carve out of the landscape. When my parents installed the fountain outside the breakfast room window I suddenly realized how mesmerizing the sound of falling water was and knew that someday I would have to have a fountain in a yard of my own.
In one way or another each of the outdoor additions described above is in some way a type of what we now consider “Outdoor Art”. Creating an outdoor oasis that becomes an extension of your home and, a place that gives pleasure to you and your family, is key to a successful outdoor environment. Enhancing your outdoor area, whether on a grand scale, or small scale, there are no hard and fast rules of right or wrong. It’s what makes you smile. It’s where you feel relaxed and happy to be there. This can be a wonderful journey of discovery where you can experiment with new ideas and enjoy the process of creating a personal expression of your desires and pleasures.
With spring and summer fast approaching, this is a perfect time to start planning or adding to your outdoor environment. Outdoor art is very “in” right now. What was once a couple of folding lawn chairs and pink flamingos, is now an entire industry devoted to outdoor furniture and accessories. As far as furniture the choices range from wood, to wrought iron, cast aluminum and cast stone, just to mention a few. There is even a weatherproof wicker collection on the market now.
Cast stone furnishings are probably the newest rage. (Fred and Wilma Flintsone were actually ahead of their time.) You can find stone benches, stone lounges, stone tables, stone garden seats, and even stone chairs. You can even design your own furnishings out of stone, that is, if you know the right people of course,….hello, are you paying attention? Just checking!
Ok, continuing with the “stone” theme, some of the other very popular outdoor objects’de art are of course fountains, fountains and more fountains. You really are not in the groove if you do not have some sort of water feature. It can be as simple as a table top fountain, or more elaborate such as a free standing, tiered fountain, all the way to an entire sheet of water trickling down a twenty foot wall, to soothe your senses and take you away from the stresses of the day. I have a three-tiered stone fountain on my patio that serves not only to enhance the outdoor experience, but also is strategically placed next to a screened window off of my family room. During months when it is too cold or hot outside, I can open the window just enough to hear the sound of the water falling while being in the comfort of my air-conditioned or heated home.
No yard is complete without at least some planters, with greenery and seasonal flowers cascading in abundance. Planters and urns come in a multitude of sizes and material as well. You can have small planters or ones large enough for a small person to stand inside depending on what your space will allow. This is an easy way to add color and texture to any outdoor environment at relatively minimal cost.
Other ways to add color and an artistic flare to your outdoor space are with one or more of the decorative trellises, arbors, or arches available. I have three trellises along one section of my fence for my climbing roses. I have also incorporated two arches in my outdoor environment for climbing vines. One arch is visible from my breakfast room window with a small wall fountain nestled under it. The flowering vine growing up and over the arch is natural art at its best, and the sound of the wall fountain during morning coffee is just the perfect addition to an “oh what a beautiful morning” for me.
If you’re looking to add a little romance or whimsy to your outdoor area, statues are a great way to achieve this. Again, you can go as small or as large as you have room for. There are statues to suit any taste. I, being a complete romanticist, love cherubs, and have invested in a couple of accent statues to embellish my outdoor oasis. The contrast and serenity of the ivy and other climbing vines against the little stone cherubs always makes me smile.
There are endless suggestions for outdoor adornment. Colorful and decorative welcome mats, bird feeders, gazebos, bird baths, hanging wall art of numerous materials and styles, decorative address markers, gazing balls, and, decorative holders for garden hoses can even become an aristic addition to your outdoor environment. It goes without saying that one of the number one outdoor additions, which I consider an artistic expression, is an outdoor fireplace/pit/chimenea. I personally couldn’t live without my cozy chimenea.
Last, but not least, I have to mention the ever popular and sometimes overlooked stepping-stone. Stepping stones beckon you to find out where they will lead you. So simple, but if placed just right, they can lead you on an unforgettable journey, to paths of beauty, tranquility and peace in your own outdoor sanctuary.