5 Tips For Creating A Home That Speaks Uniquely Of You

October 29, 2014

Creating a home that uniquely speaks of you never happens by accident. If it’s a home that involves new construction or renovation, it first started with a great set of plans. Those plans accommodate where you are in your life – and may even give consideration for your future. Rest assured, the perfect plans are all about you and your family. To get a better sense about what’s involved in designing a very personalized home, North Carolina Design recently met with Charlotte residential designer Todd Crowe, of Crowe Design & Associates. Todd shared 5 very valuable tips.

Images Courtesy of Crowe Design & Associates ©

Reflect The Current State Of Your Life
The most important thing your home must do is express where you currently are in terms of your life. “In meeting with you, it is essential that I first get to know where you are in terms of lifestyle,” notes Todd. “I want to know how you live and what is your daily routine. What’s going on? Do you have children? What are the ages of those children? Perhaps you are empty nesters and are transitioning from a full house to just being a couple. It’s a very personal relationship as I get to know what’s important to you. Your new home will take into account the current state of your life and maybe even your future considerations.”

The Value Of Meeting Clients Their Current Home
Todd emphasizes the importance of meeting clients in the homes they currently live in during initial discussions. “By going to their location, I get to see firsthand how they’re living right now and they can show me examples of things they like and don’t like. Sometimes people can’t express what doesn’t work for them, but when we’re there and they see it – and they can explain it – ultimately I get to give them the best of what it is they want. We also get to nail down their wish list at this meeting.”

Balancing The Wish List With The Budget
Todd explains that the clients generally have an idea of what kind of price range they want to be in. The wish list is always reviewed as talk of the budget ensues. “We’re going to narrow that wish list down as we start talking about budget. You know what kind of price range we might want to be in. We can design a 5,000 square foot house that looks great but if it’s over budget or does not fit on the lot, then we have missed a critical part of the equation. Most of the clients I deal with do have a good understanding when it comes to budget and lot constraints.”

Maximize Your Lot With Your Setting
In creating a home that works well for his clients, Todd is also focused on how the lot will accept the house. His goal is to maximize the lot and the setting. “There are those rare and ideal situations when you have a lot that is untouched, presenting itself as an open canvas so that we can capture the views of what is there. In many cases we do not have that opportunity. Sometimes a lot has a limited view, of perhaps a lake or golf course. Then we concentrate on opening up the main living areas of the house to take advantage of that view.

When “the canvas” he is working with is a lot that has been clear cut, this can affect the style of home that Todd designs for his clients. “You can go through a neighborhood and you’ll notice that the houses just fit with one another. Well, when a lot has been clear cut, with nothing around it, I advise my clients that we should adapt the style of their house in accordance to the style of what’s around us. If we have Colonial style homes around us, putting in a Mediterranean style house may really seem out of place.”

Know The HOA Regulations, State & Local Codes
While the plans of a house may be personalized to a certain degree by this point, nothing can sour them more than discovering that local HOA rules were not taken into account or local codes were ignored. “That’s really at the top of the list. After we have gotten a good basis for what you are wanting and needing, it’s essential to go by the guidelines of the HOA, as well as all the applicable codes. My client may be shooting a lot of ideas at me, but they do expect me to provide the guidance regarding these other matters as I get them into the house that that they have in their mind.”

Illuminating The Home – Trends In Lighting Design

October 23, 2014

Lighting is the perfect completion to the design of a beautiful home. Choosing the right fixture not only creates good visibility, it also sets the desired mood and atmosphere for a room. To find out what is trending in the world of lighting, North Carolina Design recently met up with two experts from the lighting company, Butler Lighting – owner Carlos Butler and design consultant Jordan Franklin.

Images Courtesy of Butler Lighting ©

When it comes to lighting for the home, Butler Lighting is a mainstay in the Piedmont Triad area. The company has been serving the needs of builders, homeowners, and interior designers since 1948. The company has showrooms in Greensboro, High Point and Winston Salem. Additional locations include also Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. Year after year, Butler Lighting continues to strike the right balance with an extensive selection of styles, colors and finishes, combined with a staff that understands the needs of their customers.

Lighting has become a much more integral part of the design scheme. Function is definitely being well complemented by beauty. It is clear that just as interior design in general has moved away from a more formal look, so has lighting for the home. “I would say we are seeing a more transitional feel – fixtures that have more simple lines,” explains Carlos. “You think about life in general – we are not as formal today. You’ll see lighting that is more casual. The formal dining room is kind of a thing of the past. Fixtures even push a little toward the contemporary side of things.”

The transitional look is also revealed through color. “What you’ll see are a variety of colors,” notes Jordan. “You’re seeing satin, nickel and bronze still, but you’re also seeing some mix of other painted finishes as well as fabrics. You’re seeing some finishes like a light gold leaf or a silver leaf or a vintage – things like that. The newest trends would be soft colors.”

“To go along with that, the other trend is a much more eclectic look throughout whole house,” affirms Carlos. “It used to be, you would select the same color and use it in every space in your home. I mean, 25 years ago, everything in the house was polished brass. At one time, everything might have been satin nickel. Even a few years ago, the choice could have been all bronze. Now, you might see a soft gold in the living room, a drum shade in the kitchen and a bronze fixture in the bedroom. It’s varied.”

Style of home no longer dictates the style of fixture that will work best in a space. You can’t look at a traditional home anymore and automatically assume that traditional fixtures will work best. “Lighting is a statement piece, and a contemporary or transitional fixture may be what adds bang to the space and ends up defining it,” explains Jordan. In the end, however, it comes down to preference. “A customer with a contemporary home may like how a traditional fixture looks in a room. Lighting is a very personal thing,” Carlos adds.

Both experts agree that while they can advise homeowners on the latest trends in lighting, the most important consideration in their selection is scale. It is only by determining sizing and proper scale that you can identify what fixtures will work best in that space. “Another important consideration is light output,” Carlos explains. “Light fixtures can only produce so much light. You know one person might only need a minimal amount of lighting in the space they are using it and the next might need as much as possible. I think that is very important to ask questions about light output.

Light fixtures today deserve the spotlight. They are wonderfully tasteful, in a wide range of offerings. It’s clear why lighting is called the jewelry of design.

Behind Every Dream Home – Is A Great Set Of Plans

October 22, 2014

In order to build the home of your dreams, nothing is more essential than starting with a great set of plans. The question is, how do you get to the point of having a great set of design plans? To get a better sense of the answer to this question, North Carolina Design recently caught up with brothers Chris and Derik Boush, owners of the residential design firm Home Style Solutions.

Images Courtesy of Home Style Solutions ©

With offices in Raleigh and Charlotte, the residential design firm is focused on designing gracious and comfortable homes of all styles. Having an intimate knowledge of North Carolina building codes, Home Style Solutions is regularly called upon by homeowners across the state for plans that detail both new home construction and renovations. The strengths of each brother complement the other; Chris is the residential designer and Derik handles the business and administrative side of the business. As a licensed contractor, Derik is also able to offer clients a first-hand perspective on construction issues.

Most homeowners begin the design process with a pretty good idea of how many bedrooms and bathrooms they want. “What they don’t have a feel for is what their design program means in terms of total room count or heated square footage,” Chris says. “By doing a preliminary design, we are able to figure out what the square footage parameters are within their design program.”

Regardless of what challenges the site presents, it is essential for the home to be one with its surroundings. “It’s important for your designer to have a feel for the site and its surroundings as it relates to grade, sun orientation and adjacent structures” notes Chris. “Plans that are responsive to the site conditions enhance the architectural style.”

The process of designing and planning a house where a family will live and create years of memories can be challenging. “Both the husband and wife can have different ideas of what they want and even what they can afford,” says Chris. “We flush out their wish list. This allows us to determine whether we are going to be way out of budget and if we need further discussion. Once we develop that, the plans go out for bidding to 1, 2, or 3 builders. We always want to involve the builder sooner rather than later.”

Both Chris and Derik emphasize the value of a complete and detailed set of plans in building the home of your dreams. Not only does this equate to better planning and engineering, it also translates to cost savings to the project – both for new construction and renovations. “We share with our clients every day the value of good planning and good drawings – because good design will always save you money at the end of the day,” explains Derik. “The theory is: the designer is the pennies and the builder is the dollars. If you spend your pennies wisely, you will always save dollars at the end of the day.”

“This is the foundation of your house basically,” affirms Derik. “If your design is good and your working drawings are good, it allows you to move forward in having a good experience building the home of your dreams.”

It’s Design Inspiration! From A Swatch Of Fabric Comes The Design Direction For An Entire Wilmington Area Home

October 21, 2014

It simply started with a Brunswig & Fils swatch of fabric. When barely more than a set of blue prints existed for a 4,800 square foot home on the Intracoastal Waterway, that piece of fabric ended up being all the inspiration that Wilmington interior designer Kathy McKenzie’s clients needed. The vision and direction of the project just grew from there. North Carolina Design recently sat down with Kathy McKenzie and Patti Baker of the Wilmington interior design firm McKenzie Baker Interiors to hear more about the direction of this project as well as the design aesthetic of their group.

Images Courtesy of McKenzie Baker Interiors ©

Working with clients that have not yet relocated means lots of emails, countless pictures being sent and the occasional meeting on weekends to finalize selections. Kathy and her client immediately ‘clicked’ so it was a great working relationship from the start. From that one piece of fabric, the color palette for the entire house developed. “She knew she wanted a sky blue and beach color palette and that that fabric really spoke to her,” notes Kathy. “Khaki and Palladian Blue continue throughout the house. There is a little bit of that blue in every room.”

Unlike many projects where the design involves melding existing possessions with new furnishings, Kathy was essentially starting with a clean slate. “They had been living in Annapolis and wanted to basically get rid of all their furniture,” she explains. “It was all heavy, 30 or 40 years old and moving was the right time to start fresh with new colors and furnishings.”

This is a home where the clients, their children and grandchildren would gather from different locations to spend time together as a family. It therefore needed to be family friendly. The clients also like to entertain so it was important that the home allow for large groups coming together. “The fabrics are durable and beautiful, but nothing is really precious,” affirms Kathy. “The dining table and the eating areas outside are designed for eating and hosting a lot of people. She wanted everybody to be comfortable and have a lot of space, so the bedrooms all have seating areas. Nothing too fancy and everything is very livable.”

As an interior design firm located in Wilmington – which is a vacation destination as well as a vibrant city – McKenzie Baker Interiors designs rental homes as well as primary residences. Both designers agree that the approach to a rental house project is different. “I’m working on a rental beach house right now, so the selections I make must be able to hold up,” offers Patti. “The rental will also be more casual. You’ll find however, that most people who live at the beach or in Wilmington still want some formality in their home – not too casual. You’ll often see that in a formal dining room – they still entertain that way.”

While Kathy’s client has no formal dining room, the home clearly has formal accents throughout which wonderfully complement the livable feel of the house. “These folks wanted it to be comfortable with a little bit of formality,” Kathy offers. “The formality here shows through in the selection of fabrics as well the accessories placed throughout the home.”

“When Kathy and I begin a project, the time we spend talking to a client is the most important part of the project,” affirms Patti. “We learn how they live, how they want their house to live, what they like and don’t like. In the end, it’s about having the design speak of our clients, not of us. We are really big into incorporating things that have special meaning to them into the design. It personalizes the space.”

“Some of the keepsakes on display mark our clients life journey as a family, and the places they’ve lived. There are a lot of pieces here from Panama, where they lived for a long time,” explains Kathy. “The children were small there, so they kind of grew up in Panama. The pieces from there are personal and special to our clients so it was important that we included them in the design. They also give the bookshelves in the great room a collected look.”

The great room in the home is separated from the porch by a glass wall made up of telescoping doors which can be opened up, allowing one space to flow into the other. Whether you are in the great room, on the porch or grabbing a little sun by the pool, there is no denying that the best feature of this house is the heart stopping view of the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Rugs Of Today – Traditional And Contemporary Rugs Awash In Soft Color Palettes, As Classic Bold, Strong Colors Remain

October 20, 2014

I’ve heard the question posed before, does the room make the rug or does the rug make the room? Hands down, I am definitely a believer that the rug makes the room. Without a rug, the room is incomplete, lacking the ability to make a real statement. The question is, how do you go about selecting the right rug these days? There’s a lot to know, and so much has changed over the past several years. North Carolina Design reached out to the veteran mother daughter team of Nelda Lay and Cynthia McLaren, of the Durham Oriental carpet showroom, The Persian Carpet, for a little insight and education on rugs.

Images Courtesy of The Persian Carpet ©

It’s definitely a family affair at The Persian Carpet. Cynthia’s husband, Bruce McLaren, is also a part of the business, and it was Nelda’s husband, Doug Lay, who began the business with her back in 1976. Since then, they have been addressing the needs of discerning home owners and interior designers across the state while also traveling the world sourcing incredibly beautiful rugs.

In both traditional and contemporary styles, big changes have taken place in the past several years. Strong colors have found their match in a softer color palette. “Rugs have changed a great deal, from being very traditional with lots of reds and blues to more subtle tones, in more of a transitional look,” notes Nelda. “The designs are still traditional, but where you used to see 10 or 12 colors, you may see 3 colors or many times there will be shades of one color, tone on tone.”

It is clear that the rug market is attentively following color trends much more so than ever has occurred in the past. Soft colors, neutral tones are clearly present in the selections. “These muted tones are what is being seen in contemporary rugs as well – We’re seeing colors like pale blues, grays, and ivory,” Cynthia affirmed.

As much change as there has been, both Nelda and Cynthia agree that many people are still drawn to the very traditional look. “These rugs come out of Turkey and Afghanistan and are very popular right now,” Cynthia explains. “They are very good reproductions of antiques, made with hand spun wool and vegetable dyes. They tend to be more expensive but that is because they are so well made.”

Selecting the right rug may seem like a daunting task, but in the hands of professionals, it’s really not a tall order. Knowing their customer’s budget, Cynthia and Nelda then determine if they are looking for something that is contemporary or traditional. Once they know what colors they are working with, it’s time to head to the stacks and search for the rug.

As customers start looking, the first question that invariably comes up has to do with knotting. This is where the education concerning rugs begins. “They will mistakenly have the idea that more knots per square inch means a higher quality rug,” offers Nelda. “Quality can be in a very large knotted rug or a very small knotted rug. You see, knotting has to do with the design in the rug. A formal type rug with an intricate design requires very small knots. A simpler design can take larger knots. Large knots translate into a more geometric design while smaller knots translate into a more formal design.”

As customers identify a few rugs that they like, the rugs are pulled from the stacks and laid out on the floor so that they can be looked at side by side. “A customer may have been leaning towards one, but next to another they don’t like it as much,” Cynthia explains. “We encourage them to take the rugs home and try them. This allows them to confirm that the size is right and that the colors are right. Lighting plays a big role. Sometimes colors can translate differently from the showroom to your home, so this is an important thing to do.”

As for the where and how to place a rug in a room Nelda easily answers that. “For a dining room, there should be at least two feet of rug on each side of the table, so that when someone pushes their chair back from the table they don’t fall off the edge of the rug. In the bedroom, some people want a large rug that goes under the bed and extends out to the sides, with plenty of room to walk on the rug. Other people will instead opt for 3 rugs – smaller ones on each side of the bed and one at the end of the bed.”

“When placing a rug in the living room, it’s again a matter of taste. Some people like a large rug that pretty much fills the room, except for a nice border around. You want at least a foot of the wood showing around the rug. Others prefer an accent rug, say in front of the sofa – under the coffee table. The third option is a medium sized rug that doesn’t fill the room but is larger than an accent. This rug reaches under the front legs of the sofa and chairs to keeps the rug from moving, which also looks better. With these guidelines, and by first trying the rugs out in your home, you can be assured that you make the right selection.”

A Lifetime Of Experience Working With Stone Yields Distinctive And Dramatic Homes That Are Works Of Art

October 16, 2014

Natural stone makes a powerful statement, whether it is defining the exterior of a beautiful home or creating a welcoming respite in a gracious outdoor living space. One thing is always certain, however – a skilled craftsman whose talent has been honed by years of experience is always behind these awe inspiring projects. Stone mason LC Lynch of Stone By Lynch in Charlotte is one such notable individual. LC recently shared with North Carolina Design the love he has for his craft, which dates back to his earliest memories. In neighborhoods throughout Charlotte and Lake Norman, stone is the medium he uses to allow form to meet function.

While LC has owned his own company for thirty years, his experience working with stone goes back much farther. The skills he possesses today were handed down from generation to generation, starting at a young age. “Being from the hills of Tennessee and the Appalachian mountains, you went to work with your granddad and dad when you were 6 or 7 and started picking up pieces of field stone,” LC explains.  “I’ve been a mason all my life, since I was a kid, just by sheer necessity. As you got older, you would carry the rock over to the wall where they were laying it. Then came the time when you started laying.”

For LC , one of the benefits of having spent so much time working with stone is his ability to create a look that is unique for each home and every project.  Drawing from his background overall and from regularly working with architects throughout his career, he has developed a very good sense of design. “I know what goes with what and how it is supposed to come together. I take and blend stones together so that your house does not look like the one beside it, but stands distinctively on its own,” LC affirms.

An imagination is a great thing, but LC believes that you should not have to envision how the rock will actually look as a part of your home – and this is what separates him from other stone masons. “We’re so different in that we have a stone yard. Actually we have 2 – a seven acre one in Charlotte and also in Mooresville,” notes LC. “Unlike most stone yards, instead of looking at rock in a basket or on the ground, we have hundreds of samples on the yard.”

“If you go to a standard stone yard that sells rock, they’re not masons – they don’t lay rock and have no way of really laying you a sample, nor do they have the space. I would lay you a sample of something you like. That sample panel in my yard would range from 5 or 6 feet long to 4 feet high and that is the thing that makes me different from any other mason.  I’m all about catering to the individual and getting you exactly what you want.”

Selecting the right stone for the right space is the result of individually shaping each stone, and often times hand cutting it multiple times until the fit is ideal. Our shirts say, ‘Real Stone. Real Masons,’” offers LC. “We use hand cut limestone and hand carved stone from around the world. We really promote a natural stone, getting our stone from the Tennessee and Georgia mountains, all the way up to the coast of Maine, from as far down as Texas and as far away as Oregon. It just depends on what exactly what product you want.”

“I really take a lot of pride in my work and our projects. I’d like to think that hundreds of years from now when it’s another time and may be a house is gone, people will come in and take the rock that I’ve selected and carry it away and lay it on another project some place. Even after the house has succumbed to Mother Nature, I’d like for someone to be able to take those pieces and use them again, saying ‘wow, look at the work of that stone mason, how he cut this cap and look at that mantle – look how great they look. I’m going to use those again.’”

Putting The Spotlight On Lighting In The Kitchen, Adding Clarity To Both Beauty And Function

October 14, 2014

Over the years, kitchen lighting has changed from something purely utilitarian to an essential aspect of home design, adding both function and beauty to a space. As a Charlotte area designer specializing in the design of kitchens, Penny Porter of Visual Concepts Interior Design knows her way around renovations and new home project sites, and she has certainly done her share of lighting plans for homes. Penny clued North Carolina Design in on what’s new in lighting, and shared some tips with us  on developing an ideal lighting design for today’s kitchen.

Visual Concepts Interior Design©

Visual Concepts Interior Design©

“It used to be that a big fluorescent fixture in the center of the kitchen was all you had,” Penny reflects. “There was a lot of glare, and there was no lighting for specific functions, which made it more difficult than people realized to work in the kitchen. Today’s kitchens have layered lighting, which maximizes form and function. There are a wealth of options to choose from — you can use recessed cans, chandeliers, or pendant lights.”

Cabinet Studio©

Bistany Design©

According to Penny, today’s kitchens feature three different types of lighting. “You have ambient lighting, which is your overall, general kitchen lighting,” she explains. “Then you have accent lighting, which serves to highlight artwork, architectural features and other points of interest, and task lighting, which provides extra illumination for areas where specific tasks are done. It’s important for homeowners to provide all of these layers in their lighting design, but I would say that ambient and task lighting are the two most important types.”

TEAL Interior Design©

New Old Luxury Custom Home Builder©

Different types of lighting can serve multiple purposes. “Under-cabinet lights can be used as accent lighting, but they also serve as a nightlight – if an overnight guest gets up for a drink of water, they can see what they’re doing,” offers Penny. She also suggests adding dimmers to kitchen lights to easily transition task lighting to ambient lighting, and vice versa. “Let’s say you’re done with dinner, but you don’t want to just turn off the kitchen lights. You can use dimmers to lower the lighting and create an atmosphere.”

Advanced Renovations, Inc.©

The Kitchen-Specialist©

The use of LED lighting in kitchens has grown in popularity, and for good reason. “LED strips add a really nice layer into a lighting design,” Penny affirms. “They can be used as accent lighting and task lighting. I especially like placing them along the toe-kicks of cabinets. LED is a better choice than halogen lighting — it burns cooler, it’s more energy efficient, and it offers a brighter, cleaner light.”

Cederberg Kitchens & Additions©

ID.ology Interior Design©

Lighting fixtures themselves can add to the overall décor of a space and, as Penny notes, homeowners have more options now than ever — especially when it comes to contemporary and transitional styles. “It used to be that you didn’t see a lot of contemporary options for residential lighting,” she reflects. “Now we’re seeing residential fixtures with clean, simple lines and truer finishes. Honestly, whether your style is contemporary, transitional, or traditional, there are so many choice nowadays, and the possibilities really are endless. It all depends on your vision.”

It’s A Fine Art: Wilmington Designer Draws Inspiration From Clients’ Worldwide Collection Of Art

October 9, 2014

Each home’s design is as unique as its owners. It’s up to a designer to find a way to showcase their client’s distinctive style and bring their vision to life. This is no small task, but Angela Crittenden, of Teal Interior Design makes it look easy. The Wilmington interior design firm is known for creating designs that feature both a timeless quality and a sophisticated flair – traits that served Angela well on one of her most recent projects. Her clients were a well-traveled couple who finally put down roots in their new home. They wanted to create both a cozy retreat and a vibrant contemporary space, full of color and artistry. North Carolina Design sat down with Angela to find out how she went about creating the perfect design for them.

Images Courtesy of Teal Interior Design

When starting a project, Angela first finds a source to draw inspiration from. “I look for a single element and let it direct the rest of the design,” she explains. “It may be a beautiful coastal view, a piece of art, or a certain piece of furniture – whatever the homeowner values and wants to concentrate on.”

In this home, the focus was on the clients’ extensive art collection. “They had traveled to every country except for about three, and they had brought back wonderful original artwork from around the world,” Angela says. “It was a very eclectic collection that featured widely different themes, and it was a real challenge to piece together what needed to go where. It was great to see these very different pieces come together in a unified design. The artwork definitely helped to provide interest in all the spaces.”

Angela ensured that the couple’s adventurous nature and love of unique artistry was reflected in the home’s general design. “They didn’t want a cookie cutter look,” she notes. “We kept a bit of the home’s traditional spirit, but we added elements that would provide the bold, contemporary look that they desired.”

Angela used contemporary lines, colors, patterns and textures in some unexpected ways to achieve her design goals. Bold, modern light fixtures grace the kitchen, breakfast area and living room. Metallic blue accents are carried throughout the kitchen, and thoughtfully placed accent walls in striking geometric designs add interest to the master bedroom and master bath. But the home’s most intriguing design feature may be the wallpapered dining room ceiling, which adds color and life to the space, and pulls the design of the space together.

Angela’s fresh, inspired use of color and texture are a far cry from the home’s original look. “Everywhere you looked, there was brown, brown and more brown,” Angela reflects. “We had to paint cabinets and add new granite, new rugs and new fabrics to get rid of all the brown. Paint was our best friend on this project.”

Tad Davis Photography©

Challenges aside, Angela relished the chance to flex her creative muscle. “The clients were so adventurous and open-minded,” she affirms. “It wasn’t a matter of just painting the walls beige, tossing the artwork up and calling it a day. It was an opportunity to think outside the box and create a truly distinctive space that incorporated many different design elements. I really enjoyed the project, and I’m so pleased with how it all came together.”

Fall Lawn And Landscape Care: Follow These Essential Seasonal Tips For A Continual Healthy Landscape

October 3, 2014

It’s that delightful time of year, when the air turns crisp, our thoughts turn to pumpkin-flavored delicacies, and our landscapes turn from deep green to a dazzling display of brilliant red, orange and gold. To ensure a beautiful outdoor vista this season and every season, it’s important to take steps to care for your landscape during fall.

Images Courtesy of Barringer & Barringer, Inc. Landscape Services ©

To get some helpful advice, North Carolina Design contacted Deborah Barringer, of Barringer & Barringer, Inc. Landscape Services, in Charlotte. From complex design and construction, to routine care and maintenance, the experts at Barringer and Barringer keep landscapes across Charlotte looking beautiful year round. Not surprisingly, Deborah knows just about everything there is to know about landscaping, and she was kind enough to share some of her best fall tips with us.

Annual Cleome

First and foremost, fall is the time for seeding cool-weather grass. “Tall fescue still is the best seed choice for our area,” Deborah notes. “Fescue is soft, it’s a beautiful shade of green, and it maintains its green foliage throughout the year. It’s important to aerate before seeding, as aeration helps the ground to breathe and promotes healthy seed growth by providing down-to-the-ground nourishment.

Backyard after recent aeration

“Ideally, you should seed between mid-August and mid-October; in November and December grass is not going to take. You also want your grass to be established before the leaves come down so that you don’t end up raking up the seedlings.”

Yellow Torenia

According to Deborah, a little “fall cleaning” goes a long way toward keeping your landscape healthy and beautiful. “This is the time to clean your gutters, trim your trees and freshen up your flower beds.” she advises. “Those annuals that looked so beautiful in spring are likely getting leggy and unkempt – it’s time to throw them out. It’s also time to limb up trees, removing dead branches and trimming back overgrowth. This will allow sunlight to penetrate through to the grass.”

Pink Mandevilla Vine

Outdoor Living Space with Fireplace

Mulching is another essential part of fall landscaping. “Mulch does a lot for a bed during the winter: it prevents weeds, insulates the soil, and helps plants retain moisture, which is important during dry winter months,” she affirms. “I recommend a dark hardwood mulch. It’s very pretty, and it lasts.”

Tardiva Hydrangea Blooms

Fall is an excellent time to take stock of your landscape. “Do an assessment of your yard,” Deborah advises. “Walk around and see what works and what doesn’t work, and take note of everything in a journal. If you have an area where things aren’t growing, now is the time to take a soil sample and send it off to be analyzed so that you can take steps to correct the problem.”

Russian Sage

This is also a great time of year to get out there and get those garden gloves dirty. “Fall the best time to transplant trees and perennials,” Deborah notes. “You can plant all the way into late fall, but once the freeze comes, stop. In late fall, you want to begin planting tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs so that you can have that fun pop of color in early spring.”

Sun Loving Zinnia

Stokes Aster

Finally, Deborah advises providing your landscape with much-needed nourishment in the fall. “You should fertilize your trees and lawn,” she notes. “I recommend hiring a professional to do this. It’s very important to be as friendly to the environment as possible, and to get the best results. A professional will do everything by the book and ensure that the fertilizer is mixed and applied correctly.”

Outdoor Living Spaces: What’s Trending In This Essential Space That Increases The Quality Of Our Lives

October 2, 2014

The beauty of fall makes an ideal backdrop for enjoying outdoor living spaces throughout North Carolina. Outdoor living has become ever more popular, and homeowners are increasingly investing their time and money in creating the perfect respite in the outdoors. Jim Benham, of Benham Builders, a lover of the outdoors himself, builds all over the Carolinas, and has helped homeowners create everything from simple covered terraces to outdoor spaces as large as entire homes, complete with pools, waterfalls, kitchens and numerous outdoor rooms. Jim shared with North Carolina Design how outdoor spaces have changed, and what might be driving those changes.

Images Courtesy of Benham Builders ©

Jim is enthusiastic about the new options and innovations in outdoor living. “In the past, your outdoor space was a ground level patio,” he muses. “It wasn’t connected to anything – it just sat out there, all by itself. It had those painted red picnic tables with no umbrellas, and you grilled sitting down. There has been a tremendous metamorphosis in the sorts of creative things people are doing with their outdoor living spaces. To come from that concrete patio to all of the options we have today is truly exciting.”

Gone, along with the lonely patio, are small outdoor decks and screened-in porches. “Today’s homeowners are looking for covered, but primarily open outdoor spaces where they can grill, sit by the fire, and even enjoy the rain, without worrying about their furniture or appliances,” Jim explains.

More and more, homeowners are looking to make full and complete use of their outdoor living spaces. “They want to fit as many rooms and uses as they can into the space, depending on their budget and square footage,” Jim explains. “Most people would ideally like to have conversation areas, entertainment spaces and private places to relax. But I would say the first priority is creating a cozy spot where they can drink in nature and unwind with a cool drink and some conversation.”

Another priority for homeowners: creating outdoor areas that flow harmoniously with their indoor living spaces. “In the past, you might have had a single door that opened up onto a terrace,” Jim notes. “Now you have large expanses of French doors or sliding doors to create more fluid indoor/outdoor spaces. NanaWall systems and bifold doors are becoming more popular, as they are flush with the existing floor level. Walking outdoors is like walking from room to room in your house.”

Jim doesn’t see the desire for bigger and better outdoor spaces abating anytime soon. “I think outdoor living areas will only get larger, more elaborate and more creative,” he projects. “I see a continuation of opening the indoors to the outdoors, as people seek an unimpeded view and outdoor access that’s not broken up by windows or doors. Eventually mechanical systems will be able to create a heating wall, so that an outdoor space can be used as a year round room.”

Jim gave us his thoughts on what is making outdoor living so popular. “I think the largest driver is the fact that people are finding a new value in their own private outdoor spaces,” he reflects. “They’re not cooping themselves up in air-conditioned houses. They’re out where they can hear birds chirping, frogs croaking and dogs barking in the distance. Rather than joining a country club, homeowners are investing money in their own homes in order to create that special outdoor atmosphere.”

Jim truly enjoys helping homeowners do just that. “Every home and homeowner is different,” he notes. “But in the end it’s all about using exceptional craftsmanship to create an environment where people can’t wait to get home and enjoy their outdoor space.”

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

keep looking »