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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

Don't Forget About Your Outdoor Space

By Elaine Linn, McDonald Landscape Designer

We all enjoy our home sweet homes and know our favorite chair and our favorite room. And, we all know what it’s like to look around and wish we had less clutter, more space - more anything that looks like Chip and Joanna Gaines showed up magically one morning. Well what if we could create more space and beauty? And, what if we could do that for around the same price of renovating a bathroom instead of a whole house? You can! Especially in this fine State of Virginia, where we have an abundance of sunshine, salty air and beautiful weather for most of the year. I originate from Michigan, where we dream of vacationing in a place like this and get overly excited at the prospect of spending a week in the sun. I haven’t seen that kind of excitement here until our recent snow storm! I guess we all get enthusiastic about the out of norm. And as locals, it’s easy to take for granted our abundance of enjoyable outdoor days and extended growing season and forget that most Americans don’t have this luxury.

So why not use this gift of latitude and longitude to our advantage and create space out of doors? Sometimes this can be an overwhelming concept, especially if we don’t know how to start. As a trained landscape architect and urban planner, my first recommendation would be to consult with a design professional, who can help you envision the possibilities. And there are always plenty of possibilities! But at the most basic of levels, for most of us our immediate need and desire is to create a living room type experience where we envision ourselves lounging with our morning cup of coffee or unwinding with our evening glass of wine.

As designers, we understand the importance of key design principles such as color, line, texture, balance, etc. However, to accomplish creating an intimate outdoor space, we also need to be mindful of spatial relationships, scale, horizontal and vertical enclosure, and view sheds. To accomplish these design principles, your designer will seamlessly blend hardscape (in the way of a paver patio, seat wall, pergola, and fire and/or water feature, for example) and softscape. Softscape is like adding walls, artwork, rugs, throw blankets and decorative pillows to your living room. Softscape represents enclosure, interest, a sense of coziness, peace and tranquility. And it really takes the melding of the two: hardscape and softscape to create a successful space.

About Elaine Linn- Elaine has a Bachelors in Landscape Design and a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning with a Specialization in Land Reclamation from Michigan State University. She has over 15 years of design experience from large scale mixed-use master planning to the smaller, more intimate, scale of residential design. She couldn't be more excited to now call Virginia her home and get her hands on the vast and diverse plant material that grows here.

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