Dorn Designs: Outdoor Living


At Dorn Homes our design process focuses on maximizing our homebuyers’ quality of life. That means building science that improves the quality of your indoor air and building materials that contain low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC). Quality of life is at the heart of architectural design as well, inspiring us to provide open floorplans and purpose-built rooms that ensure our homebuyers are building homes that match their lifestyles. But quality of life doesn’t start or stop at the door to your home; it stretches across your property. Instead of treating your yard as fully separate from your home, think of it as an extended living space.

With Northern Arizona’s mild winters and temperate summers, outdoor living is practically a year-round option. Whether you prefer gathering around a fire pit with friends and a glass of wine, or intend to design a back yard to entertain children or grandchildren, here are some important consideration when designing your extended living space.

Building with Purpose

Just as purpose-built rooms are growing in popularity, so too are purpose-built outdoor living spaces. An important first step to take when designing is to make an honest assessment of what you plan on doing when spending time outside, how much maintenance you are willing to do, and how frequently you plan on using the space. If you anticipate regularly hosting large gatherings or cookouts, consider a built-in barbeque grill with island seating or a built in bar. If, on the other hand, you don’t expect to spend much time outside cooking, it may be more prudent to simply lay out a multi-purpose paved section that could accommodate a small grill or bistro style table.

The same consideration applies when installing entertainment features. Things like horseshoe pits or playground sets can take up valuable real estate if they’re installed with the assumption that they’ll see frequent use when that may not be the case. If you’re unsure about how frequently you may use a feature, consider keeping a log of the time you’re spending outside now.

Finally, think about the amount of maintenance that you’re willing to commit to. If you intend on spending a lot of time traveling, or wintering elsewhere, you may want to avoid high-maintenance or fast-growing plants. While automated sprinklers and landscaping can cover most of the needed maintenance, they also generate added costs. The answer to the maintenance question is a matter of the right amount of hardscaping and softscaping.

Hardscaping and Softscaping

A comprehensive landscape design will almost inevitably contain a combination of both hardscaping (heavy materials, rock, stone, pavers, cement, etc.) and softscaping (soil, flowers, trees, grass, etc.) so it’s important to consider the benefits and maintenance requirements of both. A well-designed space with an emphasis on hardscaping results in less maintenance.

As you can see in the image above, the large paver patio is framed by a short wall that can double as seating around the fire pit. The ample seating and full-sized table make this an ideal low-maintenance social space. Potted flowers on the pedestals add a splash of color without adding much maintenance.

Alternatively, consider a large natural grass lawn or an outdoor space with an emphasis on softscaping.

Outdoor living in Prescott

A lawn (artificial here but real in our example) is a wonderful outdoor feature, especially for pet owners and families with children. A natural average sized lawn has a cooling effect equivalent to three air conditioning units but it does require regular watering and mowing. The grape vines pictured here are also an enticing but high maintenance feature. Any fruit bearing plants should be given very careful consideration due to their likelihood of attracting animals and insects.

Ultimately, there’s no universally perfect back yard. Each homebuyer’s ideal yard will be the yard that best meets his or her needs. As you design consider how you plan on using your extended living space, how frequently you’ll use the features, and how much maintenance you’re willing to do. Answering those three questions should provide guidance on the correct blend of hardscaping and softscaping and should help you identify which features you’d like to include. For more examples of Dorn Homes landscaping visit our models or explore our website today.

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