Designing a beautiful landscape takes careful planning, time and effort and a creative eye. A lush, green landscape with healthy trees, plants and flowers will provide a well-maintained appearance for your home, and adding great outdoor
landscape features will increase
your home’s curb appeal and property value even more.
Creating a beautiful exterior ambiance means paying attention to landscape details that will enhance and highlight exterior features on your home. It’s important to select the right plants and hardscape materials that will compliment your home’s architectural style. When planning your residential landscape design in NJ, you want to create good balance, scale, depth and visual interest that gives a great first impression for your home and property. Take a look at five ways you can boost curb appeal, increase property value and create a spectacular landscape for your home.
1. Front Yard Walkways
Walkways are an important part of front yard landscaping. A beautiful walkway will increase curb appeal and provide an inviting entrance to your home. Whether the walkway leads straight to your front door or winds through a garden area, it needs to be functional and beautiful. Consider three important design features – width, shape and paving materials.
- Width – To be functional, your front walkway should be wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. Proper width should be a minimum of four feet, but five feet is preferred if you have the space.
- Shape – To determine the best shape, first consider the size of your front yard. Typically, small front yards look best with a simple straight walkway, while a curved walkway can add much needed design interest to a large front yard. A straight front walkway will emphasize your front door as a focal point as guests approach the house.
- Materials – Since your front walkway makes a big first impression, select materials that compliment architectural materials on your home. If your house has brick accents, a brick or paver walkway would look great. If your house is painted with no hard materials, choose materials you like in complimenting colors and textures. Solid stone, such as bluestone or brick pavers are safe and stable to walk on.
The cost of installing a new front yard walkway for your residential landscape design in NJ will depend on the size, shape, material and complexity of design. Additional costs may occur if grading or demolition is required.
Your driveway plays an important role in your residential landscape design in NJ. Since it’s usually accessed from the front of the house, it gives guests and neighbors a first impression of your home. In addition to looking great, it also needs to be durable and functional to hold the weight of your car. That means the materials you choose are just as important as the shape, texture and color of your driveway.
A well-designed driveway should take into account the functional needs of the driveway, the architectural style and materials on your home and the surrounding landscape. The design and layout should accommodate your parking needs, design goals and budget. The material you choose must be durable and strong and able to withstand tire marks, oil drips and abrasive deicing chemicals often needed in cold Norther New Jersey winters.
When designing a new driveway, there are four important considerations – safety, easy access, drainage and appearance.
- Safety – Drivers must be able to safely enter and exit your driveway, so if your driveway meets a busy street, good visibility is essential. If you’re installing a new driveway, avoid locating the driveway entrance near a corner or high traffic area whenever possible.
- Easy Access – For maximum functionality, your driveway should provide easy access to your garage, your front door and convenient guest parking. If needed, you can create a walkway to lead guests from the driveway or parking area to your front door.
- Good Drainage – To increase the lifetime of your driveway, make sure it is located in an area with proper drainage. Areas with poor drainage and wet soil provide a weak sub-base for your driveway which can result in sinking or cracking.
- Appearance – Your driveway has a big impact on your home’s curb appeal. It should enhance your home’s style, architectural features and landscape. Building your driveway in the center of your front yard is much less appealing than locating it on one side of the house.
Design and Appearance
There’s a variety of driveway design options for your residential landscape design in NJ. You can create a long, straight driveway, a driveway with soft, sweeping curves or a circular driveway. The design and layout all depends on how you need the driveway to function. Do you need a parking area for guests? Do you need a turn-around space? Do you want room for two cars to pass? Straight driveways work well for small front yards, while winding driveways add visual interest and various landscape possibilities. A circular driveway, the most popular type, eliminates the need for turning around or backing out, so it increases safety and visibility.
Popular driveway paving materials include natural stone pavers, asphalt and gravel, but consider the size requirements. A long, winding driveway will require a lot of material, so you might want to pave the bulk of the driveway in more cost-effective material like asphalt or gravel, then create borders with decorative materials like cobblestone, flagstone, belgium block, stone pavers, brick, or lush landscaping.
The costs of installing a new driveway will depend on size, materials and labor. It’s important to compare upfront costs to long-term costs. Some paving materials are inexpensive to install, but require more maintenance, while others are expensive to install, but require little maintenance and last a lifetime.
3. Outdoor Lighting
Driveway lighting provides a safe and inviting entrance to your home. A common mistake homeowners make with driveway lighting is over-lighting, so the driveway ends up looking like an airport runway. Fixtures should be placed along the driveway where there are close obstacles, like fences, walls, trees and rocks, or changes in driveway direction, like curves and turns. Fixtures should also be placed at the driveway entrance and end destination, typically the garage or front door. Proper illumination at the driveway’s entrance provides visibility at night and lights at the end destination provide safe parking and exiting the vehicle.
There are various types of driveway lighting fixtures for residential landscape design in NJ:
- Install a decorative stone or brick column or tier on each side of your driveway entrance to welcome guests to your home, then top the column with a beautiful brass or copper light fixture. To soften hard surfaces, surround the lamp posts with foliage and colorful flowers. The columns can also hold your mailbox and address numbers.
- With a long, winding driveway, line the driveway with soft pathway lights to direct cars to the end of the driveway or parking space. Keep the lights about 10 to 15 feet apart on alternating sides of the driveway to avoid excessive brightness. You can also highlight landscape features like trees, shrubs and plants along your driveway for dramatic nighttime ambiance.
When planning your landscape lighting for your residential landscape design in NJ, first consider how you intend to use your outdoor spaces. Do you want to entertain on your patio or deck? Do you want a beautiful view when you look outside? Do you plan to use your back yard for nighttime family activities? Once you determine how you want to use your outdoor spaces, consider important design factors that will help you create a great layout for your landscape lighting:
- View – Landscape lighting can provide beautiful outdoor views at night from inside or outside your home. Think about what you want to see when you look out of a window, relax on your patio or entertain family and friends.
- Depth – To create depth and interest in the yard, use a variety of different landscape fixtures. Pathway lights will provide safety for walkways and pathways. Uplights and downlights will highlight landscape features and architectural features on your home.
- Focal Points – Select one or two elements in each area of your landscape that you want to draw attention to. This could be tall trees, hedges, flower beds, outdoor water features or a beautiful stone retaining wall with flowing foliage.
- Special Effects – You can create interesting special effects with light and shadows in your landscape. Filtering light downwards through the canopy of a tree will create a soft, lacy shadow below, while uplighting trees and shrubs will emphasize height in the yard.
Outdoor lighting for your residential landscape design in NJ comes in a variety of low-voltage, LED and solar-powered fixtures. Wall mounted and ceiling fixtures will provide essential lighting for patio, dining and seating areas. Spots and motion detectors will provide added security and safety for your landscape and home. Outdoor lighting fixtures are available in a variety of beautiful finishes like bronze, brass, stainless steel, nickel and pewter, as well as black and white to compliment every architectural style.
For high-quality low-voltage lighting, you can expect to pay about $325 per fixture to cover product and installation for your residential landscape design in NJ.
4. Outdoor Spas
An outdoor spa can create a relaxing backyard atmosphere with tranquil water sounds for your residential landscape design in NJ. It’s a great outdoor feature that will provide health benefits for you and your family and entertainment for your guests. An outdoor spa is the perfect way to rejuvenate after a long day at work while creating a warm, tropical oasis in your back yard.
An in-ground spa can be used year-round, even in cold New Jersey winters. With a variety of versatile features, in-ground spas add ambiance and comfortable atmosphere to any landscape. Spas are often integrated into swimming pool designs for convenience and added enjoyment. There are often water features that connect the pool to the spa. In modern pools and infinity pools, there’s often no visible division between the pool and the spa. The wall that separates the spa from the pool is built just millimeters below the surface of the pool, so there’s no visible difference between the two.
- Gunite Spas – Gunite spas look much like a swimming pool, but smaller. You can install a gunite spa all by itself in your landscape or integrate it into a larger swimming pool, so the two can share the heating and filtration systems. A gunite spa is the most expensive type of spa to build and heat, but it offers unlimited options for size, shape and customized detailing. You can design a gunite spa in any size and shape to fit your needs and compliment your landscape.
- Fiberglass Spas – Fiberglass spas have ready-made shells that can be installed at a much more affordable price than gunite spas. A fiberglass spa offers a wide range of options for interior features like seats, arm rests, pillows, cup holder and water jets, as well as easy maintenance.
- Swim Spas – Swim spas are rectangular with water jets at one end that produce a current, and flow rates can be changed by simply turning a knob. Swim spas offer exercise and health benefits at a fraction of the costs and space requirements of a swimming pool. If you have limited space, a swim spa is a great outdoor feature for your residential landscape design in NJ.
5. Outdoor Fireplaces
An outdoor fireplace creates endless opportunities for enjoying your backyard residential landscape design in NJ. An outdoor fireplace will create a relaxing, comfortable backyard setting and add light and warmth for entertaining year-round. During the summer, it will provide cozy atmosphere and extra light. During cooler fall and winter temperatures, it will add warmth, so you can enjoy being outdoors on crisp, cool evenings. An outdoor fireplace will create an inviting focal point and comfortable ambiance in any size and type of residential landscape design in NJ.
Whether your back yard is large or small, you can design an outdoor fireplace that’s perfectly proportioned to the size of your yard. Although outdoor fireplaces are typically built in a rectangular shape, they can also be built in square, round and oval shapes. The exterior can be covered in stacked stone, river rock, flagstone, limestone, brick or concrete, and custom features like mantles, extended hearths, plant ledges and lighting can be added to any custom-built fireplace. Here are some different style ideas:
- Traditional Style – Traditional outdoor fireplaces are typically constructed or faced with natural stone or brick. The firebox opening is usually square or rectangular and custom features usually include a mantel and an extended hearth for seating. A traditional style fireplace works well with traditional style architecture like English Tudor, Colonial, Craftsman and Ranch homes.
- Modern Style – Modern outdoor fireplaces are characterized by clean lines and industrial materials like concrete, stone and metal. The firebox opening is typically square or rectangular with simple lines. Many modern fireplace styles don’t slope inwards for the chimney, but emphasize a cube-like structure.
- Spanish Style – Spanish style outdoor fireplaces are typically stuccoed to look like adobe. Colorful tiles are often used around the firebox opening or placed as accents along borders and ledges. Many Spanish and Mediterranean style fireplaces have an arched opening and curved lines throughout fireplace elements.
Custom Fireplace Features
- Mantle – A mantle will provide a place to put outdoor lighting, candles, food and drinks and accessory items. Precast concrete is an excellent material option because of its durability, but wood, granite and cast limestone are also popular choices.
- Hearth – For seating close to the fire, add a hearth to your fireplace. It can be faced with the same fireplace material or capped with precast concrete or natural stone. For a comfortable seating height, make sure the hearth is between 18 and 20 inches off the ground.
- Lighting – Installing soft, low-level light fixtures in your outdoor fireplace will provide extra light for entertaining and dining, but don’t use fixtures that will overpower the glow of the fire. Talk to your landscape professional about proper wiring for fireplace lighting.
- Wood Storage – If you build a wood burning fireplace, you’ll need a nearby place to store wood. You’ll need a built-in wood box or storage compartment that’s large enough to hold enough wood to keep the fire fueled through the evening.
The cost of an outdoor fireplace for your residential landscape design in NJ will depend on the size and type of fireplace, wood or gas, the materials you choose and the custom features you add.