Garden design, planning and landscaping

Gardens, yards and landscaping serve a number of different functions. They not only add to the attractiveness of the exterior of your home, but they can also provide an outdoor escape, an organic food source or support an outdoor hobby. How you design the exterior portion of your property depends upon the space available and what activities you intend to engage in while you’re outside. Here are several considerations to take into account as you plan your gardens, yards and landscaping.

Drainage

The first purpose of the exterior portion of your house is to get water away from your house. With landscape designs, this is also the first thing that you should think of before laying out your yards and gardens. Avoid creating areas where standing water can seep into the foundation of your home, especially if you add a basement. Your builder should properly grade your property for drainage, so when you design your landscaping, you need to integrate it into that grading scheme and avoid creating high cost maintenance problems for yourself in the future. The rule of thumb is to plan how to get water off before planning how to put water on.

Watering

Since you’ve already planned for drainage, you’re good to go when it comes to watering. Economically speaking, timed watering systems are the way to go. Whether it is a sprinkler system for the lawn, a drip system or seep system for your gardens and flower beds, you’ll want to be able to set a watering schedule that coincides with the time of day, which is usually late at night or in the early morning hours. Watering during the hours of the day with the least amount of evaporation is both economical and ecological. Remove the hassle of having to schedule yourself and put in a system that can be programmed to do it for you.

Usage

Considering how you are going to use the space is of great importance for designing your landscaping. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself before you begin your design:

  • How much play space do I need?
  • What type of equipment do I need in that play space?
  • Do I plan to barbeque often?
  • Do I want or need a pool or hot tub?
  • Is gardening a hobby or necessity for me and my family?
  • What security do I need to provide for?
  • Am I going to add any other structures?

Whether these items are going to be installed along with the construction of your home or if they are going to be added at a later time, make certain that you plan ahead to avoid having to relocate underground plumbing and electrical lines when it comes time for installation. Just as you did with your floor plan design, prioritize these features and make certain that space is provided for them before working other features around them.

Structures

Exterior structures are an important part of gardening and landscaping. Structures like decks, patios and gazebos become outdoor living spaces that are made use of often and add to the aesthetic appeal of your home as well. Equally important to outdoor living are lawn and garden storage sheds, play houses, play sets, pools and saunas. Some of these elements need special consideration for power and/or plumbing as well as being sure that they are safe to use. Planning for these elements is an essential part of your home’s exterior design.

Building Codes

Local building codes have setback lines for permanent structures. It is an essential part of planning and design to take those dimensions into account as you layout the exterior design of your home. Knowing where your property lines and set back lines are will help you avoid problems later on.

In addition to property setbacks, many local building codes also have guidelines for a certain percentage of the total area of the property to be landscaped. Landscaping can include grass, trees, shrubberies and other elements. Providing the required landscaping in particular exterior areas is an essential part of designing your yards and gardens.

You might need to consult a professional in order to make certain that your exterior design meets the local code requirements as you plan your landscaping design. Having to move or add additional elements at a later time is often costly.

Conclusion

The aesthetic appeal of the exterior of your home is greatly enhanced by landscaping, but that space is also an important part of living in your home as well. Design your outdoor space with as much care as you do your indoor space, even if you can’t afford it initially, make sure that you have provided for those essential elements at a later date.

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Kitchen design and planning

The kitchen is the most active room in the house. It ought to be, because it is not only a work space, but also a place for gathering together in the evening or getting fuelled up for the day ahead. No matter what other features you put in your home design, don’t skimp when it comes to designing and planning your kitchen. Here are several tips to consider when you’re designing your new kitchen.

Design Layout

When designing your kitchen layout, here are several thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Think about work flow. The optimum design is to have your sink, prep counter, cook top and refrigerator in the shape a “U.” By designing the layout in that manner, whoever is preparing a meal is taking fewer steps and using the least amount of movement possible.
  • Think about preparation and counter space. It’s better not to have to move regularly used appliances in order to prep your meals. Plan for sufficient counter space so that you’re not moving your appliances around.
  • Design your cabinetry where cooking utensils are also in easy reach while you’re working. You’ll thank yourself later.

Plan for High Quality Materials and Hardware

Don’t skimp on the quality of the materials that you use in the kitchen. Because the kitchen is a work space, it is going to see more wear than any other area of the house. Use high quality materials for:

  • Cabinets. Go hardwood on the parts that are used the most. Not only are they more attractive, they last longer.
  • Countertops. Marble or cultured marble is best, especially near sinks and cook tops. If you go laminate, make sure the job is very well done.
  • Back splashes. Backsplashes usually match the countertop material, but you might consider covering the entire wall behind your sink and cook top with ceramic tile just to help with maintenance.
  • Hardware. Use quality hardware for hinges, drawer glides and cabinet pulls. These working parts need to function smoothly and do so for a long time. Choose the best you can get.
  • Flooring. High quality easily maintained flooring is a must as well. Properly installed 12” to 24” ceramic tile is probably your best bet.

Plan for High Quality Appliances and Plumbing Fixtures

Again, this is a work space that is going to be used several times a day. Your refrigerator, dishwasher, cook top, oven or range needs to be durable and require as little maintenance as possible. You might have gotten along okay with the appliances at your old house, but with your new house, you get to start all over again. Start out with the best and most energy efficient appliances you can get.

Make certain that your sink is of high quality material that is easy to maintain and make certain that it drains properly and it is easy to get to if it becomes clogged. More importantly, have the best fixture you can find installed. You will turn the water in your sink on and off dozens of times every day, so do yourself a favor and place a high quality, durable fixture there.

Lighting and Power

Just as lighting and power are important in other work spaces, make sure that you provide your kitchen work space with plenty of it as well. Here are a few things to consider with this element of your kitchen:

  • Natural light in a kitchen is ideal for morning and day time. Provide as much of it as you can.
  • Counter lighting is an important part of food preparation. Place either recessed fixtures directly above your counters or opt for under cabinet lighting in order to help avoid casting your shadow over your work.
  • We are a world that is dependent upon electrical appliances. Consequently, where electrical outlets are concerned, put as many above counter outlets as you can along the splash behind your counter and provide plenty of spaces to plug in along your island or bar as well.

Professional Advice

When it comes to electrical and plumbing codes for your local area, make certain that you consult a professional and follow his advice with your kitchen design. Additionally, if you aren’t sure which appliances, hardware and materials are the best, don’t be afraid to ask. In the long run, it will save you money.

Conclusion

Because the kitchen is a very active working space, planning and designing a kitchen requires special consideration. Make sure that you provide yourself not only with sufficient space in which to work, but that the layout saves you steps. Additionally, plan to use materials, appliance, fixtures and hardware that require the least amount of maintenance possible.

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