Outdoor Living - The Good Stuff Essentials

A recent national survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) found that outdoor living continues in popularity -- perhaps with less frills. For 2012, there is continued interest in the essentials such as seated dining areas, grills, fire pits/fireplaces, lighting and installed seating. Also, 2012, will see continued popularity in classic grills, counter space and outdoor kitchens, with elaborate kitchen items such as refrigerators and sinks less popular. But when creating your complete outdoor utopia, here are some essential pieces:FENCING: Whether you need privacy or a protective barrier for your children or pets, a fence is a great addition to your home. Many new hardwood species have come into the market. Topography, climate and soil are always taken into consideration in laying out a specific outdoor living area to enjoy.DECKING: Decks can add significant value to your property and an exciting new space for entertainment and relaxation with friends and family. Most reputable fencing companies specialize in custom-built decks constructed with a variety of materials from Cedar to composite materials or specialized hardwoods. Gaining in popularity, two-tiered decks avoid obstructed viewing and designate areas of entertaining, cooking, relaxing, etc.KITCHENS: Stainless steel is hot! When extending the kitchen outdoors, granite countertops, island bars, refrigerators and stainless steel sinks can be added to the mix. Added touches include pizza ovens and wine and beverage fridges.WALKWAYS AND PATIO SLABS: Creating a space using a walkway/living area made from pavestone or patterned concrete, with the addition of an overhead for some enhancement and protection, and some greenery in landscaping can make an enjoyable outdoor area. For walkways and patio slabs, stamped and stained concrete is very durable and is easy to clean - a broom, a hose and a few minutes and the area is ready is for use. Cultured stone can be used in designs; it is beautiful, very cost effective and doesn't weigh near as much as real stone.WATERSCAPES: More and more homeowners are transforming their outdoor spaces into the ultimate oasis. To achieve this goal, the serene sounds of waterfalls, pools, grottos and ornate bridges are sure to soothe the soul. Outdoor plumbing can be added for outdoor baths/changing areas/spas and misters.LIGHTING: Outdoor living space should reflect the indoor style of the home. Track and task lighting is very popular in pavilions and covered patios, with fiber optic and solar-powered lighting to illuminate uncovered areas. Since smaller yards generally have less depth, the use of creative lighting can offer more drama and create the feeling of an outdoor room.GREEN BUILDING: Native, low-maintenance landscape materials, efficient irrigation, shade (to reduce interior cooling costs) solar heated pools, solar cell and low-voltage lighting, rain collectors - anything that draws less energy or creates less environmental impact - are gaining momentum. Rebate incentives, either government or otherwise that stimulate consumer spending, will further the demand.About Us: The Viking Craftsman Inc, award-winning contractor, combines true craftsmanship with personalized service. Specialties include additions, kitchens, bathrooms, home theaters, and outdoor living spaces in Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Richardson, Allen and Dallas, Texas.