Posts Tagged ‘Minimal Landscape’

Houston Landscaping for the Minimalist Lifestyle

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Houston landscaping for minimalist lifestyles represents the mindset of today’s urban professional.  With a clean presentation of form, it uses space as its defining feature.  Geometry generates perspective as lines and angles establish a pragmatic sense of absolutes.  Softscapes reinforce without lush decoration.

As contemporary homes rise throughout our city, minimalist Houston landscaping offers busy young executives a low-maintenance alternative to the frequent care that other exterior designs may require. Hardscapes are used to create open spaces for outdoor living.  Their geometry creates zones of interest inside the yard where residents can display outdoor art, hold cocktail parties, or enjoy afternoons near custom pools and fountains.

Vegetation is used sparingly in minimalist lifestyle order to avoid filling the yard with too much color.  A strong preference is given to trees, grass, and shrubs that have a dark green color.  This is because dark green is a better compliment to stone, concrete, and gravel.

To create strong drama and interest in the yard, we can also build decorative walls of stone or concrete.  Any wall like this will lend a sense of importance to a specific zone of interest.  In contemporary landscapes, walls do not have to enclose courtyards like those used in more traditional Houston landscaping designs.  A simple linear structure can set aside a portion of the yard for specific functions, such as a meditation around an infinity pool.

Gravel beds are also used a lot in Houston landscaping for the minimalist lifestyle.  Gravel is a great way to create geometry with stark shades of black, white, or gray.  It is simple, yet it contributes a very powerful sense of absolutes in a landscaping design that helps tie together and anchor all the elements.  We use gravel a great deal to enhance connecting walkways, and as a pedestal of sorts for abstract outdoor sculpture displays.

Gravel is also foundational to many of our contemporary gardens.  People who live a minimalist lifestyle do not have the time for daily garden maintenance.  The garden has to maintain itself without losing its form and dynamism.  Houston landscaping and gardening specialists carefully choose plants that grow very slowly in order to avert the need for constant trimming.  Sometimes desert species like aloe are used in order to minimize the need for watering.

Inorganic elements like steel, glass, and decorative mirrors are the main components in contemporary garden designs because they symbolize the essence of the minimalist lifestyle.  Plants are used to supplement the geometry they establish in order to show that nature is still present as a force behind the scenes of human endeavor and creation.

Gary Chandler Collaborative Project

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Exterior Worlds recently collaborated with renowned Houston architect Gary Chandler.
Mr. Chandler was in charge of remodeling a house owned by a resident who entertained business clients at his home.  The new room was built as a dining terrace for clients.

This terrace was designed as a grotto with a distinctively classical tone.

Within it was a dining area, a fireplace, and seating areas.  We were hired to develop a landscape and garden theme that would support the architecture of the terrace.

We began by building a low maintenance garden that complimented the grotto.
We created a vary abstract design consisting of only a few simple elements.  We used gravel profusely to create walking space and kept vegetation was kept to a minimum.

For decorative focal points, antiques were placed in key places in the garden.  The resulting alternation of pottery, minimal greenery, and gravel created a color scheme that both complimented and contrasted the terrace.

To make the area private, we screened off the garden with an alley of trees that dual functions as a walkway.  The backside of the trees provides an attractive, albeit although impenetrable screen which prevents anyone outside the property from looking into the interior.

The landscape design was given dimension and additional form with a backdrop of trees.
Not only do these trees add color and vertical impact, but they also create mood when silhouetted by landscape lighting at night.  The resulting blend of light and shadow cast by the lighted trees adds mystique to the moment.

We also wanted to make it possible for guests to comfortably move in and out of the landscape freely.
We created a series of gravel pathways through the garden to provide this.  Gravel is characterized by a Zen-like energy that is calming to the mind.  Guests who walk down these paths in the evening will feel more relaxed and comfortable discussing business.

Aesthetically speaking, gravel conveys a curious blend of classical and modern tones.  As such it is ideal for complimenting any structure like the grotto with classical elements.  Gravel also is a natural drain for water, so it allows for trees to be planted within hardscapes themselves.

To add drama and interest throughout the landscape, additional sculptures were placed in the yard, and dwarf mondo mounds were planted.

The irregularity of green forms and sculpture designs contrasted sharply with the rectilinear layout of the classical hardscape.  When viewed in perspective, the entire scene takes on the dimensions of a painting.

Finally, we illuminated the landscape with the assistance of a partner company, Illuminations Lighting and Design.

ILD provided uplighting for the trees and feature lighting for the sculptures.  They also generated functional, artificial moonlight with tree lights, and placed path lights along walkway areas.

Minimalist Pool

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

What does a minimalist pool look like?
It has a strong, but very basic look that represents a reduction to the most fundamental elements of design.  Another way of putting it is it makes a powerful statement without being fancy about itself.

What contribution does this add to my landscape?

It creates a feeling of movement, which is the essence of minimalism, through its size, geometry, and transitional position between the home and remainder of the landscape.  This helps the contemporary landscape become very welcoming and attractive to guests.

What is the most common shape of these pools?

Minimalist pools are most commonly built in rectangular shapes.  Rectangles have long lateral lines that sweep the eye along, and hard right angles that create a feeling of strong impact.  Rectangles also lend ready support to the support of contemporary homes architecture because the length of these homes is almost always longer than its width and the shape of the rectangle supports this design very well.

Are there minimalist pools that are circular in shape?
Yes, when the terrain and the shape of the home are better supported by a radial curve than the strict linearity of a quadrilateral form.  These designs are highly custom and worked out with a set of blueprints and advanced drafting software to make sure that the pool does its job of supporting the home without looking like an avant garde tangent unto itself.

Regardless of its shape, it is very important that the minimalist pool feature a high level of luminance either by reflecting natural sunlight or by means of artificial pool lighting.  Light is essential to contemporary design, so it is necessary to build the structure in a location free from shadows and obstructions.

Does a minimalist pool always have to have a certain kind of patio?
Not a certain kind of patio, but a certain quality of patio.  Since lighting is so important to contemporary design and minimalism, it is essential that the patio contribute to overall luminance of the water by providing a highly reflective surface in its own right

Such an effect can be achieved with decorative concrete or flat polished stones that are cut with simple geometry that avoids ostentatiousness.  Decorative concrete is also highly effective for this purpose, with any number of colors, including black itself, offering both style and sharp reflective impact in the form of a super polished surface.

If a minimalist pool patio is to be literally light colored, a very popular material to build it with would be aggregate.  Using a blend of crushed stones, such as limestone, generates a highly reflective surface that is both light in color and very durable.

Minimalist Hardscape

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

A minimalist hardscape presents itself as a solid, clean surface that conveys its importance without resorting to ostentatiousness.
The structure can be a horizontal surface area for sitting or walking, or it can be a vertical structure that makes a strong contribution to the landscape design plan as a whole.

The landscape is built around solid forms that create relationships of geometry.  Examples include driveways, walkways, patios, courtyards, terraces, and stairs.  They can be built from any number of materials depending on what works best for your home architecture and outdoor design.

Because minimalist hardscape follows the less-is-more principle, there are many simple ways it can enhance your contemporary landscape design.

For example, one way to build a patio with drama and interest is to build it with steps and decorative walls.  The patio does not have to be built at a significantly higher elevation than the surrounding landscape; it just has to look like it is higher.  The best way to create this illusion is to alter the perception of the stairs themselves, which in term will alter the perception of the entire patio.

The steps are made much wider than they are high and look like they are ascending up a much steeper grade than they actually are.  In reality, the vertical ascent is probably only a foot to a foot and a half—but it looks much bigger to the eye, and therefore more important in scale.

You can have a patio like this that is just big enough for you, a significant other, or a few close friends.

Minimalist hardscape is also very important to contemporary garden design.

Vegetation growth must be controlled in contemporary gardens to preserves their fundamentally inorganic look.  One way to do this is to build the gardens small so that only a few plants can be planted at a time.  There are several ways to do this.

One method is to lay flat stones in a patio-like square design and then remove some of the stones to use as planting space.  Another way is to build a square or rectangular area using small concrete walls and filling the interior with gravel and rocks.  Once the basic design is established in concrete and stone, selective plantings of vegetation can then be introduced.

Minimalist hardscape is the best way to build eclectic walkways that contribute unique and noticeable geometry to your landscape
Walkways do not have to be contiguous surfaces.  They can be built using a series of stepping stones or concrete pavers.  When you use separate blocks of stone or concrete like this, you can save a lot of money, and you can create very interesting patterns in the landscape such as curves and spiral designs.

Minimalist Front Yard

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

What makes a minimalist front yard minimalist?

The principle of less-is-more is strictly followed.  Low-growth plants that suggest the conservation of organic energy are used to create a sense of control.  These species are also slow-growing most of the time, so you need less trimming and fertilizing to maintain your yard.

Can you have trees in a minimalist front yard?
Yes.  So long as they are proportional to the home and do not obstruct its view, they can be present in any size.  You can have small trees such as shrubs and topiaries that

Smaller trees, like shrubs, boxwoods, and topiaries enhance linear movements of different landscape elements.  For instance, you can have a walkway built that runs from the sidewalk along your street all the way to the front door of your home.  Shrubs can line either side of the walkway to add symmetry, order, and system to the scene.

Another way to decorate a minimalist front yard is by planting fruit trees and ornamental trees like crepe myrtles.  These species are larger than shrubs, but they are normally more slender and will not crowd the view.

You can even have large trees in the yard and still follow the less-is-more principle.  So long as their limbs are high off the ground and do not grow across the façade of the home, one or two large trees helps frame the house and adds impact to the scene.

What types of driveways are found in minimalist front yards?
They are conservative in terms of ornamental flair, so to speak, but they are not as strictly limited by less-is-more aesthetics than organic features.  Driveways help to draw the eye through the landscape and introduce the home to the newly arriving visitor.  Driveways that are lined with hedges or linear flower runs will center one’s attention immediately on the home.

Hardscapes like driveways are necessary to help control plant life and maintain a sense of vitality without risk of overgrowth.  This gives landscape designers a chance to construct driveways using a wide range of design styles and materials that add a sense of structure, proportion, and balance to the surrounding softscape scenes.

Popular materials for such include decorative concrete, concrete paver driveways, and even gravel driveways made of crushed high-grade stones.

Can flower beds be planted in a minimalist front yard?

Yes.  Flower beds are ideal for minimalism because they can be very compact in size, but also very diverse in geometry and in coloration patterns.  Flower beds can be monochrome in color, or they can be composed of multiple colors.

Houston has a climate that is well-suited to planting year-round flower gardens that are both attractive and low-maintenance by nature.

Low Maintenance Landscape

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

A low maintenance landscape by Exterior Worlds does not have to look barren or minimalist.  We can make your yard look beautiful and alive without having to send you outside every day to keep it that way.

One way we do this is by building automated irrigation systems that water your lawn and garden for you.  All you will have to do is adjust the timer every now and again when rainfall levels vary in the area.

Hand in hand with an automated irrigation system concealed network of drains system that remove rain water during stormy times.  Drainage systems like this not only eliminate the hazards that standing water pose to plants and animal, but also helps stop erosion.   The yard has less mud and requires fewer cleanups after a heavy rain.

Also, consider the benefits of investing in quality hardscapes made of the most durable material known to landscaping-stone.  The weather and stain resistance of stone is undisputed, and specific types of stone such as flagstone offer a resistance to cracking that you will not find in concrete.

Eliminating repair and ongoing maintenance on the front end really represents investment with a return on investment than expenditure without purpose.  In the long run you will thank yourself for doing it.  Now, when it comes time to design gardens and plant trees, one thing we can do to keep the maintenance down is to use slow-growth species.

Do not confuse this with low-growth necessarily.  Some plants and trees grow very tall.  They just take a very long time to do so, which makes them ideal for low maintenance landscaping.

While many do-it-yourself manuals will often tell you that the key to a low maintenance landscape is to simply landscape with drought resistant plants, this is not the whole truth when it comes to a place like the Houston landscape.  We have consistent temperatures here in Houston most of the year, but our rainfall is anything but consistent.

Plants need to be chosen not on their preference for dry or rainy weather, but rather on their tolerance for variable extremes of both.  There are many parts of the world where the weather can often shift suddenly, so there are many options for gardens and flower beds you can choose from if you let our experts guide you.

Also, remember that our region also has some very interesting indigenous plants that are already used to our weather.

Finally, one sure and certain path to a truly low-maintenance landscape is a conscious investment in quality hardscape design and landscape architecture.  Such elements look superb in relation to a home architecture and can reasonably represent as much as 80 percent of your entire yard design.  However, you do not have to feed, water, or fertilize these structures because they are obviously inorganic in nature.

Contemporary Residential Landscaping

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Contemporary residential landscaping devotes most of its energy to supporting home architecture.  This is especially true in front yards, where landscape elements feature linearity and angularity that reflect the movement and design of the house.

Gardens in the front are minimal in content.  Geometry is more important than organics in order to better serve the custom design of the house.  At times, a traditional style of garden design is used as a template, but it is morphed into something more avant garde to fit the proportions and scale of the home.

Contemporary residential landscaping designs typically use this type of distortion in order to propel the mind into the realm of abstraction.  Concrete reality is never completely ignored, but it is treated as something that only lies on the surface of our thoughts.  In this sense, the concepts of reality are more important than the forms of reality.

This being said, the front yard of a contemporary may have a motor court, a walkway, and a fountain just like any other yard.  But the geometry and material build of these elements will be very different than what you would see in front of a house with traditional architecture.  Contemporary elements are much starker by comparison.

This helps create a sense of Spartan minimalism in a landscape design plan, where all features of the landscape work together to reinforce the basic values of contemporary landscaping design: namely mind over matter; man over nature.

The back yard will frequently require scaling down the vegetation to complete this effect.  Grass is removed on places and.  Hardscape design becomes the defining keynote of the backyard in the form of  patios, terraces, seating areas, interconnected walkways, and rotundas.

Because we rarely meet a client with a contemporary home who does not have an art collection, we do a great deal to accommodate artwork.  Because many contemporary pieces are made to be shown outside, it is very important to create a landscape design plan that includes special display areas are created to showcase sculptures.  These displays can be anything from small, elevated pedestals to a custom patio where portions of the surface are raised to hold a series of pieces.

Special display areas are created to showcase sculptures.  These displays can be anything from small, elevated pedestals to a custom patio where portions of the surface are raised to hold a series of pieces.

Contemporary residential landscaping avoids the overpopulation of the landscape with vegetation.  This is not to say there are no plants—they are simply not widespread.  Trees are small, gardens have a lot of inorganic décor, and most growth is contained within planters, retaining walls, and portions of the patio that are removed to provide a controlled environment for slow-growth and low-growth softscape.

Small Landscaping

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

What if my home is too small for landscaping?
No home is too small for professional landscaping.  Most people who attempt a do-it-yourself approach become frustrated when too many elements create a sense of disorder and clutter.  Professionals can help with this problem by using selective and strategic placement of hardscape and vegetation to create a small landscaping design that is balanced, proportional, and harmonious with home architecture.

Is it possible to add water features to the back of my patio home?
Yes.  There are many ways that a custom fountain can be introduced to your small landscape design.  For example, if you have a contemporary landscape, we can build the fountain into the patio itself.  A silent pump that operates remotely can power the water stream, while decorative drains collect the water and send it back to the point of origin.

Another popular water feature in small backyards is the reflecting pond.  This is a small, geometrically shaped body of water that is very shallow and built near a structure of some sort.  The intent is to create a mirror in the water that will capture the image of a home, trees, or decorative landscape elements.  Reflecting ponds are ideal for small back yards with limited space because the mirror of the water actually acts as a magnifier that helps enlarge the sense of size.

What type of garden can I have behind my townhome?
Any number of small garden designs can make small landscaping look vibrant with organic life.  Most of these designs are custom in nature, being based on the layout of the property, its size, and the aesthetic demands of home architecture.

In some settings, however, smaller versions of traditional gardens like French, Italian, and English can be built behind a small home that is built along these same architectural principals.  Other garden designs that work very well in small landscapes are modern gardens, contemporary gardens, and minimalist gardens.

What can I do to enhance the patio that came with my patio home?
Obviously, in a patio home, the patio is something of an extension of indoor living space into outdoor living space.  Many homes, in fact, are built this way prior to any attempt to develop a landscape design.  That does not mean, however, that the patio has to remain as is.  Vertical impact can be added to the existing patio in the form of masonry walls, raised concrete beds, and planters for vegetables.

Are there any unique garden elements that I can add to my small backyard?
Yes.  Trellises can be added to the walls of the home, along the surrounding walls, or built in an obelisk design to function as the centerpiece of a garden.  If contemporary design is the order of the day, very unique elements such as mirrors and stainless steel posts can be added to magnify apparent size through the art of reflection.

More rudimentary elements such as stairways and stepping stones can be rendered highly decorative through the help of professional landscapers and partner masonry professionals.  Something as simple as a short stairway leading down into the softscape can add drama and interest to a small landscaping design.  Stepping stone pathways can be used to connect patio areas with gardens, seating areas, and water features and make the entire property look larger than it is.

Minimal Gardens

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

In minimal gardens, hardscapes define geometry with linear movements or radial arcs that correspond to architecture.
Because contemporary and modern gardens prefer the inorganic as building blocks of décor, concrete and polished stone patio design can frame minimalist combination of gravel, décor, and plants.  This is commonly done to establish linearity through quadrilateral or even derivative triangular shapes.

If we need to create a radial or circular garden, we can build you a concrete retaining wall to contain its elements.  Actual forms may not look like perfect replicas of the geometric shapes that you typically visualize.  Many deviate greatly from the norm to emphasize abstract, avant garde, and surreal elements.

In a minimal garden, space itself becomes a type of form.

Because this kind of garden design involves so much customization, space within geometric boundaries also takes on geometry of its own.

This negative space inverts and catches the eye like images on a film negative.
You see this all the time in commercial landscaping, where white and dark colors are contrasted in alternating patterns on pavement, gravel beds, and atriums in break areas.  This same principle can be duplicated in your own back yard.

An easy way to do this to take black polished stones and lay them out in an alternating grid and leave open space which is then filled with white gravel.  This creates a staggered checkerboard design where growth shrubs or small trees can then grow to create the impression that life is tenuously emerging out of some sort of shifting mystical void.

Keep in mind as well that not some space can remain unfilled in a minimal garden.
There is a lot to be said about the concept of nothingness, or the existential void, as 20th century philosophers liked to call it. In many ways it defines the essence of minimalism and contemporary landscape design.

The mentalist nature of minimalism, in effect, strips away illusion and forces us to create thought from the centerpoint of non-assumption and contemplative angst.

This means that empty space that would otherwise ruin a traditional garden takes on a strange power of its own in a minimal garden.

In these garden plans, vegetation is carefully selected only to highlight geometric principles.
Right angles can be accentuated with shrubs or small trees at points of intersection.  Radii can be developed by planting thin layers of slow-growing shrubs in a layered buffer of organics that pushes against the boundaries of the absolute.

Dark greens are almost always preferred over plants with light greens because they better compliment the contrasting whites, blacks, and grays used in contemporary hardscape elements.  If flowering plants are used, white flowers are preferred over brightly colored flowers or multi-colored floral arrangements.

Contemporary Garden Designers

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Contemporary garden designers at Exterior Worlds relish the opportunity to work in challenging landscapes.  Contemporary style is so subjective that it cannot be defined by absolutes—only by basic principles.   There are many custom homes in Houston that you can call contemporary, depending on your point of view.   Lot sizes also vary greatly in our city, and many yards are asymmetrical or oddly sized.

Such properties may confound the average gardener, but they are golden zones for our contemporary garden designers.  We transfer to the innate geometry of contemporary style to any such environment and turn its barriers into new boundaries of form.

This requires a very calculating objectivity on our part.  The Exterior Worlds contemporary garden designer is never a “touchy feely” designer.  Rather, our each of our experts is a precision thinker who uses scale, mathematics, unique materials, and carefully selected plants to build a mentalist construct of the world out of the raw basic shapes of universal form.  Pure, abstracted thought takes concrete expression in the basic raw energies and elements that lie behind all forms.

In order to accomplish this very challenging art form, we must rely on scale as one of the foundational principles of our garden design work.  Proper proportions ensure the integrity of the garden as a self-contained entity and as an interrelated corollary to other points of interest on the landscape.

Once we have established theme through hardscape and special materials that create vertical impact and optical effect, we carefully choose low maintenance plant life that can be strictly controlled.  Organics can only function as a support mechanism to mathematics and freedom of thought.  It cannot be allowed to grow out of control and dominate the scene—ever.

Contemporary gardens are often installed parallel to the walls of the home to accent its linear movement and sharp angularity.  We also use special materials like mirrors and steel posts to optically alter the garden’s apparent size.  A garden like this can work as a focal point that directs attention to your home’s façade.

In the corners and the far ends of your yard, we create unique combinations of hardscape, outdoor sculpture, and plant material that unify the aesthetic of the entire landscape while also providing important counterpoints and reflective compliments to any and all outdoor architecture.

At the end of the day, the Exterior Worlds contemporary garden designer will accomplish all of these things to make your home look preeminent on the Houston landscape.  Regardless of how large or small your house happens to be, we well make it a keynote of modernist form in your particular part of the world.

It will emerge as not only a premier dwelling, but as a premier work of contemporary art in its own right.