Picture this. You’re enjoying hot coffee and donuts in the cozy dimness of an eclectic little café in Seattle. The rain is thrumming outside, but the shop’s rolling garage door keeps it pleasant inside. Suddenly the rain stops and sunlight drenches the outdoors. The proprietors throw open the garage door, illuminating the interior and inviting the outdoors in.
This happened to Dr. David Key while he was on a trip a few years ago, and it served as his vision for his home addition and his new, forward-thinking outdoor space. He explains: “I thought, ‘I’m going to put an addition on my house and I want to make it feel like I’m part of the outdoors.’”
Staying in character
Key teamed up with Grunder Landscaping Company on the outdoor project, creating a stunning example of the American Craftsman style, honoring natural materials and craftsmanship. The stone pillars that flank the driveway and stone columns in his sunroom echo the natural stone of the back yard’s new retaining walls and natural stone of the patio pavers. Take a seat in one of the Adirondack chairs, and you’ll have the ideal vantage point for viewing three acres of tranquility, outlined by Great Northern Spruces.
Fittingly, the project won a prestigious award from the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association in the category of Residential Installation over $50,000. Seth Pflum, chief operating officer of Grunder, was the main designer, and he explains the scope of the project not only the included hardscape construction of the back patio and retaining walls, but also the installation of landscaping, lighting, a water feature and irrigation system. Achieving cohesion among the many facets of the project presented challenges, and the Grunder designers collaborated with the architect for the addition, to make sure the landscaping elements blended seamlessly. Another challenge? The grades in the outdoor retaining walls. “There were elevation changes, so we had to consider how to aesthetically make the walls look nice and natural,” explains Pflum.
Ultimately the hardscape elements blended seamlessly with the residence and landscape, as much as the lush canvas of plants and grasses blend into the natural environment. Key wanted to integrate native Ohio plants and to create a naturalistic feel that complemented the craftsman style of the home. A combination of perennials and grasses achieved a beautiful backdrop. “I wanted it to have a prairie feel,” Key says. “The grasses are just spectacular. We also have wind chimes throughout the property, so we have this natural Zen thing going on.” The wind chimes must compete with the soothing sound of the water feature, which provides a gentle, calming sound to enhance the environment. Pflum explains how an old grinding millstone, a true antique, was repurposed into the water feature, engaging both the visual and auditory senses. For additional auditory interest, Key opted for copper rain chains versus gutters, so when it rains, it creates the pinging sound of water against metal. Both the water features and lighting create additional interest but also don’t overwhelm any one feature.
Finally, light was a crucial ingredient in this landscaping project. An FX Luminaire lighting system was integrated as part of the landscaping and hardscape installation. It highlights prominent features of the addition, as well as the back yard. Key wanted to keep the lighting at a low level so as to not overshadow the sky and stars each night, and the FX Luminaire system allows him to adjust the lighting remotely—it’s a complex system that makes it easy for the homeowner—and to tailor it to the different seasons.
As we look ahead to future seasons, Pflum has some suggestions for homeowners considering investing in outdoor spaces. (It’s an excellent time to do this, by the way. The trend toward investing in outdoor living is here to stay.) Pflum’s advice? “Take your time,” he says. “Research the company and interview designers. Also, really have the expectation of the length of time it will take to design it. A good design will take time.” He specifically recommends not to rush through the product selections; rather, enjoy the process and focus on it as a long-term project that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Key agrees. “The first thing you have to do is do your research and figure out what you really love and what you have to have,” he says. “Figure out the central theme, and then everything else falls into place.” In his case, the stonework and water feature—and of course, the home’s garage doors that capture views of the back yard, created the foundation for a unified aesthetic and the beauty to come.
“It’s just a very restful place, and that’s what it was created to be.”
—Dr. David Key.