This home at the 2016 Homearama at Hallsley featured a porch that transforms into an indoor sitting room. It was built by Bel Arbor Builders and decorated by Jennifer Stoner. (Photo by John Magor)
Patios and decks make for an easy escape into the great outdoors. And, with Richmond’s agreeable climate, it’s possible to loll in the backyard and entertain on the terrace almost year-round. Because of this, homeowners are investing more in transforming their backyards into a refuge.
“People are definitely making a significant investment in their outdoor living space,” says Edward Lane IV, president of Lane Homes & Remodeling. “It’s an extension of the home, and if they like being outdoors, they want space where they can have parties and enjoy a glass of wine.” Lane works mostly on older homes, and his outdoor additions include fireplaces, water features, outdoor kitchens, gazebos and pool houses.
From 2010 to 2015, new construction of single family homes with a designated outdoor living space (a porch, patio or deck) increased 30 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And, in the past five years, residential construction projects in general have increased 75 percent.
“I found that before 2008, people were wanting to put in fireplaces and pools and extend their outdoor spaces, and Richmond is a great climate for that,” says landscape architect Meg Turner, owner of M. Turner Landscapes. “But, when the financial crisis hit, everything came to a standstill. And for the next few years it was people making due with the space they have and editing that space. In the last two or three years, it’s started to warm up again, and people are expanding outdoors.”
As a landscape architect who embraces classically designed gardens, Turner says many factors come into play when creating a beautiful and functional outdoor space — proximity to the indoors, shade and lighting, intimacy, year-round plantings and blending with existing architecture — just to name a few. Turner’s classical designs make her gardens and terraces appear as though they’ve existed for years. She has landscape architecture projects ranging from cozy courtyards in the Fan to expansive terraces overlooking the James River.
With her hardscapes, she also has been including fun focal points such as fireplaces and tranquil water features, which are becoming more popular in residential gardens. “Incorporating running water is hugely important,” Turner says. A water feature can be as simple as a small shallow reflecting pool or a fountain in a courtyard. “It’s a nice soothing aspect to have,” she says, “and psychologically, it’s very relaxing.”
Richmond provides a great climate for extending your living space outdoors, says landscape architect Meg Turner. (Courtesy of Lane Homes & Remodeling)
Balancing hardscaping with landscaping is important when creating an outdoor living space. “Too much paving and hardscape without the softening of plants can make or break the space,” she says.
Tim Kreuger, landscape designer and project manager with Sneed’s Nursery, stresses the importance of hiring a landscape designer. “They can see the entire vision, and they know what materials to use and what plants are going to do well,” he says. At Sneed’s, a one-stop-shop for landscape design, Kreuger works with clients from the initial design to the final build.
Patios can range from $3,000 for a small terrace to up to $90,000 for a large-scale residential hardscape, according to Kreuger. “We are doing projects across the board,” he says. “And, we are building a patio a week.” He notes that some homeowners will spend as much as $20,000 for outdoor kitchen appliances and $20,000 for top-of-the-line furniture for their outdoor space.
A home built by Joe Hill of Bel Arbor Builders and decorated by interior designer Jennifer Stoner at the 2016 Richmond Homearama in Midlothian’s Hallsley neighborhood featured a cutting-edge porch that transforms into an indoor sitting room. A terrace was enclosed on three sides and a fourth “wall” was created by installing a remote-controlled screen that keeps bugs out. A layer of durable poly-vinyl seals out noise and nature’s elements.
“A lot of people look at the backyard as their vacation,” says Edward Lane IV of Lane Homes & Remodeling, who built this outdoor kitchen. (Courtesy of Lane Homes & Remodeling)
“There are lots of people who love outdoor living spaces, but don’t want bugs and want the flexibility of opening up and having extra entertaining space,” Stoner says. “There is much more flexibility.”
Other state-of-the-art features in the stylish space include a long, bubbling reflecting pool and a fire-pit-meets-water-fountain combination. As a designer specializing in interiors, Stoner couldn’t help but bring the great indoors outside. Mirrors were nestled in a wall of shrubbery, and a chandelier retrofitted with battery-operated votive candles was hung above from tree branches. “It created this really cool dining and entertaining space,” she says.
“A lot of people look at the backyard as their vacation,” says Lane, “so they want to set it up so that they can go out in the backyard and spend the weekend there. Having a pool and pool house, you have a kitchen, bathroom, and a family room. They have their weekend vacation home right in their backyard.”