Up to 80 percent of all landscapes consist of manmade surface areas and outdoor buildings. We often do not notice this because we automatically focus on organic elements such as gardens and trees. However, the manicured look of a professional landscape design depends more on artificial forms than on natural forms. Perhaps no type of landscaping bears out this point more than luxury Houston landscaping. Hardscapes in this type of design add the formality and geometric structure necessary to give a property the truly high-end look that we associate with the good life.
Luxury Houston landscaping with hardscapes begins with a serious investment in a new driveway. No one visiting your home will miss the driveway. Either consciously or unconsciously, it will have an impact on how they perceive your property. Luxury driveways are by no means cheap to install or maintain. Certain types of drives, such as decorative concrete surfaces, require periodic repairs. Other types made of cut stone are very expensive, but also very durable when we consider the innate longevity of stone as a material.
A driveway design is always done in a way that compliments both the house and the front yard. Some drives are straight, running directly from the street to a parking area to the side of the home. To add a sublime effect appropriate to luxury Houston landscaping, hardscapes like this are lined with trees that are illuminated at night with mercury vapor lamps concealed in the branches.
Other drives follow a more circuitous route leading up to the motorcourt. They may loop back on themselves as many as three times to provide guest parking for large numbers of persons. The interiors of these loops can be ornamented by tiered island gardens, lighted statuary, or custom fountains.
Walkways are also important in luxury Houston landscaping. Hardscapes with a linear flow naturally move the eye from point to point. Nothing will cause visitors standing in front of your house to notice it more immediately than a well-designed walkway leading up to its façade. If you home faces the street, the best way to add curb appeal to its façade is with a stepped walkway that gradually rises toward the front door. The actual rise may only be a few inches, but the effect is noticeable enough that the viewer feels as though they are stepping up quite literally to a higher quality of life as they approach the front door.
If your home faces at an angle to the street, a winding walkway invites the visitor on a tour through formal gardens, hedges, and flowers. This is one of the best ways to blend luxury Houston landscaping with hardscapes into organic forms, because walkways are one of the easiest surfaces to edge with a variety of shrubs, flowering plants, or even mid-growth trees. To maintain proper boundaries, a wrought iron fence and a gate across your walkway is a very formal, very polite way of saying “by invitation only.
An entry garden with steps leading up to the secluded interior is another very popular element in luxury Houston landscaping. Hardscape design here will feature some of the most custom, specialized forms on your entire property. This is because the entry garden connects your front yard to your back yard thematically as well as physically. Motifs in concrete, stonework, and masonry that we see around walkways, front yard patios, and driveways are repeated here in this special place for conversational gatherings around a lighted courtyard. New motifs in softscape and patio designs are also introduced here in various places. The intent is to establish familiarity with the designs that visitors will encounter once they move into the back yard without them even noticing that they have often moved into an entirely different realm of design once they pass beyond the courtyard walls and wrought iron gates.
Many clients choose to have a terrace constructed behind the house that will connect the rear entrance to the entryway garden to other points of interest on the landscape. There are several advantages that terraces offer over traditional porches. First, they can extend much farther into the back yard. As such, they can also be built in multiple levels that feature entire zones of interest within themselves. One of the best places to build a fountain, for example, is within a terrace. Walls of various heights and garden islands create a varied terrain of stonework that represents the aesthetic foundation for luxury Houston landscaping. Hardscapes such as this require a very large yard, and they normally connect to other luxury elements such as a custom swimming pool, or an adjoining summer kitchen linked to the terrace by a stepping stone walkway.
Other luxury Houston landscaping hardscapes that often find their way into our designs are custom patios and custom courtyard designs. These features are designed to complement the exterior of your home in such a way as to transfer the lifestyle it represents into outdoor space. These spaces can also be as functional as they are attractive. It is not uncommon to build cooking areas into masonry walls, or to construct an outdoor fireplace as the centerpiece of an outdoor room.
In many ways, then, formality follows function in luxury Houston landscaping. Hardscapes are always sophisticated in their appearance, but they are also built to support activities that make it possible for you to enjoy your life outside your home without you ever having to run inside.