HOME: Elements that make a garden great

Once considered a luxury; outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, entertainment rooms and water features are fast becoming a desirable feature. Currently on the rise is enjoying May to October outdoors… in one's own backyard.  The options are endless, as are the creative minds of the people who design and build them.

The Outdoor Kitchen
Outdoor kitchens can be a great addition to an existing home, or an interesting development in one being built. Definitely vogue, this hot new trend allows people to reap the rewards of entertaining outside while creating wonderful memories.

Far more complex than simple charcoal grill and patio furniture, outdoor kitchens now range from classic built-in grills to island units jam-packed with amenities such as wine coolers and pizza ovens. Says Harry Gelderman, of Gelderman Landscaping, “Outdoor kitchens are becoming more fully functional. Before, it was a grill, fridge and sink. Now people want the outdoor kitchen to do everything they can do indoors. Many require pavilions or pergolas as it extends the season, and in those cases that is our starting point. Every good project begins with a design.”

Located in charming Waterdown, Gelderman Landscaping has spent 55 years one step ahead of the ever-evolving business of loving and living outdoors. “The demand for outdoor entertainment centres is growing. People are asking for a contemporary, modern look or many want a Muskoka feel.”

Appointed to design the featured outdoor kitchen project more than two years ago, Gelderman's design had to comply with the homeowner's desire to keep in harmony with the existing house and ambiance. 

“This is a heritage house and the couple were asking for a complete landscape and living space that would appear English and cottage-like. The feature objective was to maintain an historical ambiance. Our builders were to make it look old, rather than new. Features specific to this project was the mortar was not finely finished on the Wiarton ledgerock. The countertops were made four-inches thick using a beautiful dark Ebel flagstone and the sink was sunken so the stainless was not visible. To complete the vision, the planting and walkway surfaces were all made to have a period look. The result is beautiful.”

The outdoor kitchen is all about lifestyle, allowing you to bring both comfort and design to a natural setting. And an ever-growing variety of fixtures and accessories makes it easy to create a convenient cooking space. Outdoor refrigerators, storage drawers, sinks and faucets allow you to spend your time outside rather than running back and forth from the house to the grill. 

“The functionality of the space means you can spend more time with your friends and family.  And at the end of the season you just shut it all down.  But for the barbeque, of course!!”

The Fireside Lounge
Outdoor fireplaces are fast becoming a backyard “˜must have'. What many homeowners don't realize is there are affordable fireplace options, from custom designed masonry fireplaces to freestanding chimneys. An outdoor fireplace provides an attractive gathering space for conversation with family and friends. And for couples, the rosy light and soft warmth of a backyard fire creates a quiet, intimate setting.

A thriving business for 20 years, Ancaster is home to Cedar Springs Landscape. Inspired by nature, expert designer Adrian Bartels works with a dynamic team serving the surrounding area including Burlington and Oakville. “I am the first person the client meets,” explains Bartels.  “Initially, I listen and make recommendations, and then it's back to the team to begin the brainstorming and concept process.”

Specializing in all aspects of landscaping, Cedar Springs is seeing the feature outdoor fireplace develop into a desirable brand. “It is now safe to say it's become trendy. We have projects where people want a fireplace out in the open, and then there are those who want it to be an integral part of an outdoor living space. There are different motivations to what people want, as fire represents many things. There is the aspect of both heat and ambiance, but theoretically a fireplace can extend your outdoor living season from April to October.”

While many love the look and smell of a wood fire, Cedar Springs' fireplaces are more often than not run by gas. “Wood burning is not always practical in an urban backyard and gas is virtually maintenance free.”, Says Bartels.

Type of fireplace is dependent on personal choice and budget. Space is not so much an issue as it would be with certain other landscape applications. Currently Cedar Springs is seeing two trends. One is a natural, stone,
old-world style and the other is a more modern wide-screen fireplace with no mantle.

Most anyone can enjoy the numerous advantages of an outdoor fireplace. If you have a small yard, this is the definitive feature you can enjoy as the fireplace may sit against a wall to maximize the space. Of course, should you desire a pavilion it needs be in proportion to the area.

Whatever your choice, Bartels says, “It's all in the details. Woodworking takes highly-skilled people, and we have them. We've got a talented construction crew working detail. They are masonry specialists, accomplished at building
the stonework around the fireplace. We can build them grand, or compact and affordable. We adapt to give the customer what they want, and what they want is to escape into their own backyard.”

Whether it be called a negative edge, zero edge, disappearing edge or vanishing edge pool ““ it is a reflecting pool which produces a visual effect of water extending to the horizon, vanishing to “infinity”.  It is as beautiful as it is alluring. Tranquility at its best, an infinity pool offers a peaceful, non jarring swim experience with a comfortable flow.

For more than 50 years, Aldershot Landscape has been beautifully defining distinctive landscapes in and about Ontario. Celebrating 25 years with Aldershot, Landscape Architect Iain Souter, loves the outdoor world, for work and play. “We are comprised of earth, water, wind and fire and I work with all elements. But water, I feel, is mysterious in the way it moves. It is seductive. Everyone is drawn to its beauty, so I consider it a necessary feature to most landscape designs. If a pool is not included in a project, then I will suggest another water feature, anything that creates movement; such as a small rock bubbling fountain or natural pond.”

Featuring the element of water in any landscape is fundamental. By creating movement and change, it brings to a property a sense of dynamism. Urban living, with limited space, can benefit from a small moving water feature that generates a soothing background sound to muffle city noise.

Space was a non-issue when Aldershot Landscape was appointed to design the featured infinity pool in this gorgeous country setting. It was in fact, the peaceful surroundings and acreage that inspired the client's wishes for an infinity pool.

“The owners of this property are showcasing their vision, which I built on. The site had dramatic level changes so it presented an opportunity for interesting designs. The pool was exciting as we were able to create a negative edge and not go conventional with walls. With a negative edge, the water falls naturally, eliminating the need to build additional structure as it fits into the landscape at the natural lower grade. Ideally, infinity should have a feature behind, such as a lake, to give the illusion that it carries on.  In this case our backdrop was the meadow.”

Where Souter features natural flagstone on most designs for coping and decking, this landscape was more rural. The project incorporates slate tiling and wood to give it a more cottage-like feel.  With the infinity having a 90 degree turn, the view of perennials and organic flowers envelops the pool.

“This infinity is visually most interesting and was aesthetically more exciting to create. Often, negative edge pools are a feature that typically fits into a higher income family. But when watching the stillness of the water create certain calmness, your return is priceless.”