When narrowing down your list of needs and wants, do a realistic assessment of what you can do with the property and budget you have.
Your spouse insists that life is not worth living without a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen and entertainment area. But there's that little matter of the collapsed retaining wall. Not to mention the giant tree whose dead limbs wreak havoc during big weather events. Reality can be brutal. It hurts to see your fire pit fund get smoked by big-ticket yet mundane upkeep, but sometimes safety, practical concerns and property values must trump pleasure.
A solid, long-term landscaping plan is a smart step toward realizing your current needs and future desires. To set your priorities, start by visualizing your dream yard (this is only a dream, so don't hold back). Then inspect for critical maintenance or improvements (drainage, grading, infrastructure, etc.) that need to be addressed, and inventory existing features that can be used or reworked into a new plan.
Finally, find a landscape designer capable of addressing both goals, perhaps in phases. You might be surprised by how much overlap there is between dreams and practicalities. With creative planning and realistic budgeting, you just might get what you needand want.
Here are some top needs and wants to consider:
Curb Appeal. You don't have to wait until you're ready to sell a house to put on its "game face." The public areas of the front yard and entry influence not only first impressions but, more importantly, a homeowner's sense of satisfaction and well-being. Even if you spend all your free time in the back yard and choose to invest most of your landscaping bucks there, don't neglect a front yard that's unwelcoming, sparse, overgrown or out of sync with the rest of the neighborhood.
Entertaining. If you entertain often or spend considerable time outdoors, investing in a nice outdoor area for cooking, eating and hanging out is a "room addition" that can make a lot of sense.
For these kinds of areas, the hardscape requires thought. The terrace or deck must complement the architecture of the house and transition smoothly to the rest of the yard. If you want such built-ins as seat walls and sinks, integrate them from the beginning. Most importantly, the space must be large enough to accommodate your crowd and all the trappings you deem important.
Water Features. The most popular recreation amenities among homeowners are decorative water elements such as ornamental pools and splash pools, according to a recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Spas and swimming pools followed close behind.
Play. Play structures such as swing sets and tree houses are often high priorities for families with young children. For safety, these should be placed in shade or with soft surfacing and where toddlers can be kept in sight at all times.
Note key elements affecting your design, like existing structures and plants, views and water issues.
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