The integration of manmade hardscapes and nature’s natural landscaping has been transforming Lowcountry outdoor living for many years. We have been moving our indoor comforts and amenities outdoors in rising numbers while watching the value of our homes increase, thanks to outdoor upgrades.
Swimming pools and spas, terraces, patios, fountains, waterfalls, ponds, fireplaces and fire pits, retaining walls, outdoor kitchens and creative lighting partner with saw palms, live oak trees, native shrubs and lush ground covers in artistic harmony to create relaxing low-maintenance personal outdoor environments.
These upgrades through renovation or initial home construction enhance the function and aesthetics of our outdoor living spaces.
It’s no wonder the leisure lifestyle industry has been growing tremendously and is now a $6.2 billion home-and-garden cottage industry. Just the addition of an outdoor kitchen can fetch upward of 130 percent return on the initial investment, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
Those numbers are exponentially higher in the Hilton Head Island area because our temperate weather allows comfortable outdoor living for most of the year. (Even in the chillier months, who doesn’t enjoy sitting around a fire pit with friends enjoying casual conversation, a good glass of wine and local shrimp straight off the grill?)
In this year’s American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) trends survey about the expected popularity of residential outdoor design elements, the nationwide group of specialists that responded put lighting, seating and dining areas, native plants, landscaped gardens, outdoor recreation amenities such as swimming pools and spas, outdoor kitchens and fire pits in their Top 10.
It’s obvious that residents and landscape design professionals in the Hilton Head area have been trendsetters, not trend followers, for some time because we have long been on the cutting edge of what now is becoming vogue nationwide.
The cornerstone decision by homeowners who are thinking about upgrading their property and those who already have is determining how your outdoor property will be utilized.
“How do they like to live outdoors?” said Kelli Franklin, a longtime ASLA member and co-owner of Outdoor Architecture with her husband Brian in Beaufort. “Is it because they love to be outside or just enjoy looking at the outside space from the inside. … How do they want to connect with the outside?”
Other considerations are the tree survey, ground grading, soil makeup and water runoff, said Franklin, who has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and actively promotes organic and natural landscaping methods.
The well-designed placement and wise choice of lighting products — whether it be flood lights, spotlights, specialty lights, bollard lights or bollard well lights — can really enhance the ambiance of any private outdoor paradise after dark.
“Uplighting” a specimen tree such as a live oak cloaked in Spanish moss “creates drama at night,” Franklin said.
Fire pits; muted colors in concrete and pavers; handmade brick pavers for walkways, patios and fire pits; and travertine around swimming pools are among the most popular hardscapes in the Lowcountry currently, but “traditional materials (like oyster shells) are still very popular,” Franklin said.
“As you know, you have to integrate the landscape with the hardscape,” Franklin said. Native magnolias, redbay, sweet shrubs, beautyberry, cordgrass and lovegrass, and traditional azaleas, boxwood hedges, live oaks and crepe myrtles are found in abundance on properties on the island and the Beaufort County mainland.
Besides their durability and visual splendor, any investment in hardscape upgrades means the resale value of your property will grow alongside the plants in your tiered garden.
“Homeowners know that designed landscapes add value to their lives as well as their property values,” said ASLA Executive Vice President Nancy Somerville. “They’re interested in livable open spaces that both stylish and earth-friendly.”