Tips for Designing Your Outdoor Spaces

One of the most important components of the home design and build process is factoring in landscaping and hardscaping to your property. We had the pleasure of chatting with Kyle Palmer from Palmer Contracting and Hardscaping to discuss why those are an important part of the process for homeowners to consider. Kyle is an expert in his field and offered some great insight into the process to help us better understand the application and functionality of both.

Landscaping and hardscaping each have their respective places in the exterior design and aesthetic of a home and property. According to Kyle, landscaping “defines the style and story of the home”, bringing in natural elements to create a unified look of the property as well as elevating the home’s exterior appeal. Hardscaping on the other hand, is a way to add function to outdoor spaces, “creating spaces that bring the indoors to outdoor living.” A perfect example of this would be patios, fire pits, and outdoor kitchens. Many homeowners see the value in utilizing outdoor space as a continuation of their personal lifestyle. Hardscaping breathes life into outdoor living spaces, whereas landscaping sets the tone for the property itself.

When asked what are his “Top Tips” he’d recommend to clients looking to add the finishing touches to their properties, Kyle was eager to share with us what he tells his clients:

Tip #1: Think about the future of your property

According to Kyle, it is vital to “always think about the future”. In the early stages of landscaping and hardscaping, be sure to be mindful of underground pipes and gas lines that you might need easy access to down the road. The same goes for septic tanks and wells. Avoid planting trees or large shrubs overtop of these. The same goes for hardscaping. Avoid placing patios, firepits, and outdoor kitchens too close to areas on your property that might need to be dug up if there were ever an issue. If you’re planning on future hardscaping such as putting a hot tub on a deck/porch, adding a pool or outdoor kitchen, mention that to your Beaver Mountain designer so they can work it into the home design. Future proofing your home will make it easier to add these things later on, and save you money.

Tip #2: Pick plants that are hard to kill and easy to move and replant if necessary

Sometimes, your vision for your home changes over time and with that comes changes to the exterior of your home as well. Kyle suggests choosing plants and shrubs from the get-go that can easily be dug up, moved, and replanted down the road if need be. “This prevents having to kill plants and throw away money that you’ve already invested and will save you even more money down the road.”

Tip #3: Pick plants that are native to your zone

To ensure your landscaping investment will look great year after year, it’s critical to choose plants that will thrive in the Hardiness Zone where you live. Plants from more arid and hot Zones (like Arizona or Texas) will not thrive in the winters of the Northeast. “Drive around and find inspiration in the neighborhoods around you. See what types of plants other people local to you are using and notice how they look in different seasons. Plants that are native to your area and zone will look better over time and will save you money in the long run as well.”

Tip #4: Visit local greenhouses and talk to experts there

The professionals at your local greenhouses are the ones with the most knowledge on local plants. Kyle recommends taking the time to visit greenhouses “to get an idea of local plants and how best to care for them once they are planted on your property.” The folks at the local nurseries and greenhouse will also be able to suggest plants and shrubs that are helpful at keeping insects and deer away from your home.

Tip#5: Don’t fall into the Pinterest trap

Nowadays, most people scroll Google or Pinterest for ideas on landscaping or hardscaping-however, be careful with the images you use as inspiration for your landscaping and hardscaping projects. “Social media and Pinterest can often mislead people on what will actually look good for their property because the images they are getting inspiration from are in the wrong zone for them.” Kyle also recommends homeowners to be mindful of the materials they are choosing for their exterior projects and to pick materials that are easy to find locally. Hard to get materials will result in steep price tags and possible delayed projects. Yet, another reason to work with knowledgeable experts.

Tip #6: Avoid High Maintenance Landscaping

Most people don’t want to spend all their precious free time keeping up with landscaping on their property. Kyle suggests that homeowners think about how much energy they want to put into maintaining their property and make your decisions from there. “Keep it low maintenance so you can spend more time enjoying your home and property instead of needing to tend to the upkeep.” You want to be able to enjoy your property, not be drained from it.

Tip #7: Hire Professionals

Kyle’s been in this business a long time and has seen lots of unnecessary (but common) mistakes that well-meaning homeowners make when DIYing landscaping and hardscaping. To avoid accidental mistakes, Kyle recommends using professionals whenever possible to ensure the job is done right the first time.

“Not knowing proper sizing of mature plants is a big one. People will often space plants incorrectly and that leads to the plants becoming overgrown and problematic for homeowners. No one wants to have windows designed for enjoying views and sunlight to be overrun with plants that block light and end up looking bad from the outside.” When it comes to hardscaping Kyle says “[using an experienced professional] helps save homeowners money in the long run because it’s done correctly the first time by someone with the knowledge and experience. Ultimately, it saves homeowners money in the long run as well.”

Kyle has a passion for his work and loves making his clients happy. When asked what decisions his clients are always the happiest investing in, without missing a beat Kyle said: “Definitely outdoor living areas. Things like patios and outdoor kitchens always make people happiest.”

Kyle Palmer has a degree in landscape architecture from Delaware Tech and has been running his Binghamton-based business Palmer Contracting & Hardscaping since 2013. Kyle lives in Binghamton, NY with his family.

(Photos included in this article are examples from previous Beaver Mountain homeowners designed by various landscaping professionals.)