Outdoor Living in Lake Country

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Sheila Helmberger

Outdoor Living in Lake Country

Sheila Helmberger

There probably aren't many people who appreciate the luxury of a day filled with sunshine or a warm summer night as much as those from Minnesota. As soon as the sun emerges in the early spring and temperatures start creeping up we find our way with friends and family to tables and chairs with comfortable cushions ready to enjoy everything the delicious days have to offer. The seasons arrive and then go again so fast that no one can blame us for looking for ways to spend as much time out of doors as possible. For years a fire pit in the back yard sufficed as a gathering place when friends would come to call. Today the fire pit might include some unique accent lighting, an outdoor sound system and so much more. The current trends in landscaping and outdoor design are offering more ways than ever for us to let our lives spill out into our yards.

Brett Thompson of WW Thompson Concrete and Jamie Lipke, landscape designer at Backyard Reflections, say they are seeing more customers interested in creating outdoor living areas.

For all of their warmth and delight, the summer days still end with chilly evenings and a heat source of some kind is a welcome part of an outdoor living space. There's something about a fire, not only for the warmth, but the sense of relaxation and ambiance that it offers. When you surround a fire with comfortable seating and some seasonal blooms, you've created your own personal mini paradise.

Thompson and the staff at WW Thompson Concrete say they have seen a variety of their materials purchased for use in outdoor living areas, from stone and brick to a variety of pavers, each offering a different look and function. They say people are looking to create areas that allow them to stay home to entertain more these days. They find it relaxing, and more affordable. Being able to offer a great atmosphere is a bonus. They say they have seen designs from the very basic of outdoor spaces, with a grill, a fire pit and some seating, to areas that are much more elaborate. Something new they say customers are looking to include in designs is a pizza oven as well as a grill. The heartiest of souls will continue to fire up the grill for cooking all year around.

Lipke says Backyard Reflections has had designs on order since last fall for projects to be completed this spring. She says a complete outdoor kitchen will be every bit as functional as the one you have indoors. Spaces are included for preparing the food, cooking it and enjoying it. They include refrigerators, counters, wine coolers and sinks. Gone are the days while the host makes trips in an out while the guests sit by themselves. "We are doing a ton of kitchens," she said. Some customers are including bar areas. Fire pits run by gas offer easy maintenance and little work. Besides refrigerators for keeping food and beverages cool, drawers can be built in offering other storage. Lipke said a sink is a nice addition for a host and helps with the cleanup.

Natural materials weather well and fit into the rural landscape of this area said Lipke, "Concrete pavers are popular for patios and walkways as well as boulders, natural stone and flagstone for pathways and walls. "The only real downfall is the summers aren't quite as long here as they are in other parts of the United States," she says, "but we take the precautions we need to as far as footings to protect from frost. For the most part, if you add a heat source you should easily be able to use those spaces from April into October."

Lipke said natural swimming pools are another possible addition. "Installed much like a pond, these natural swimming pools use their own eco-system to filter and clean the water naturally versus using chemicals. They offer a whole new scope on swimming pools. "

Lighting features are another way that you can extend the hours your space can be used. Built in lighting can be subdued and placed around the perimeter or in other places it may be needed such as walkways or in spaces where outdoor games might be played. Finish the design of your outdoor living space with blooms or greenery in pots or built in planters that will add a splash of color and an eye pleasing way to complete the final look.

When planning your own outdoor living space there are many things to consider including the budget you have to work with, whether you will hire the work out or do it some of it yourself, and how you want to use the finished space. Consider the traffic patterns to the area and how you will move within it. Consider pathways and trails. When you decide on the all-important fire source, it's time to decide whether seating will include patio sets with cushions or built in benches and how they will be seated around the fire.

Today's outdoor structures can offer so much more than shelter from the elements. Our yards offer a much overlooked canvas that can be used for so much more than lawn. They provide an inviting place to gather with friends, and a spot to enjoy the outdoors. Whether it's a smaller petite patio or something more elaborate, when it's finished, there might not be any reason to go back inside until winter.

Written by:

Sheila Helmberger
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I have been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years. I worked for five years in the newsroom of a daily newspaper writing articles, features and columns. I currently contribute regularly to seven regional magazines on a variety of topics. I write on women's issues, parenting, homes, outdoors, Health, weddings, and many others. I am used to working under deadlines and understand the importance of meeting them. I am capable of doing research, writing the information and doing so in a timely manner while weeding out the information that is not needed yet making sure that the most important it...
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