It's time to sit back and enjoy autumn's glorious show of colors. So grab a cup of coffee and head outdoors to savor the beauty of the season.
Whether it's sitting in a lounge chair on the patio or entertaining a crowd in your beautiful backyard kitchen, many homeowners want to bring indoor comforts into the fresh outdoor air to enjoy scenic views and outdoor living.
Today, many builders incorporate outdoor living spaces into their overall home design. The yard and garden become part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors open to patios and decks.
Also, many new home communities feature beautiful landscaping, natural beauty or scenic views that invite homeowners outside to enjoy nature and community amenities.
For example, at Henning Estates by Rock Creek Homes in Huntley, each homesite backs to mature woods, scenic wetlands or tall grass prairie, giving homeowners a sense of living in nature. The community features 103 ranch homes on 110 acres.
Just as the interior of your home reflects your personality and lifestyle, so can your outdoor living space. It can be as simple or as sophisticated as you like, outfitted with all the products available today for outdoor living.
You can create a mood: serene, playful, elegant -- whatever you desire. Use planters, potted plants and gardens to bring color outdoors. Lighting allows you to enjoy the outdoors under the stars with a chandelier for elegant entertaining while light posts, lanterns and string lights -- not just for the holidays anymore -- also illuminate the space. And solar lighting is becoming a popular option.
Your yard can be set up for a variety of activities, such as the ultimate entertaining experience with a cooking and eating area, a meditation or reading spot amid flowers and artwork, a place for physical activities such as kicking around a soccer ball, playing catch or setting up a croquet game.
What outdoor features do builders offer?
All stand-alone homes in Villas at Fox Run in Plainfield feature a beautiful outdoor courtyard, said Ember Ferrantino, marketing coordinator for Wilcox Development. "It's the first thing people see and the first thing they comment on.
"Many consider the courtyard to be the focal point of the home as it is built around the courtyard, and all windows in the dining room, living room, and master bedroom look out on to this stunning space. There are also courtyard views from the foyer and kitchen."
Courtyard options include the "exterior courtyard" that gives buyers privacy with a 5-foot-high fence that borders the entire courtyard. Think about climbing vines and pretty planters for this intimate space and, of course, comfortable seating.
The "interior courtyard" provides maximum privacy as the courtyard is enclosed within the neighboring residence. Because that residence has no windows into the area, the occupants in the neighboring courtyard have complete privacy.
Also, buyers can shelter part of the courtyard with a covered porch or screened-in porch option off the master suite. This allows buyers to enjoy the courtyard even during inclement weather, Ferrantino said.
At Henning Estates, where the builder takes advantage of the scenic surroundings, all homes feature dramatic window scapes. And homeowners will hardly ever look out their back windows and see the back yard of another home.
Buyers receive a patio with a standard basement, while a walkout or lookout basement calls for a deck, said Judy Wait, sales manager. "It connects the outside to the inside."
The picturesque setting offers a perfect backdrop for decks and patios. And the sky is the limit when it comes to creating outdoor living spaces in your own backyard.
A spectacular entrance of granite boulders and cascading waterfalls welcomes you to Prairie Park in Wheeling, an exclusive condominium community that is set on 18 acres of lush landscaped grounds.
Five mid-rise condominium buildings surround the centerpiece lake with fountains, tree-lined walkway and sitting areas. This is an ideal setting for walking, bicycling and strolls around the lake. The project is landscaped in a prairie-like style.
Benches throughout the community invite one to sit awhile, and each condominium features a large expanse of windows and individual private terraces where homeowners can set up a grill or just sit and enjoy the dramatic views.
At Fox Run, a development of maintenance-free, single-family ranch homes, homeowners outfit their courtyards with a variety of different comforts and conveniences, including patio tables and chairs, umbrellas and grills, Ferrantino said. "Some people do a trellis, implement water features or install a fire pit, which offers a warm, cozy spot for people to gather."
The courtyard provides the perfect place to entertain family and friends or to use as a retreat for relaxation in a private setting.
"The courtyard is a big selling point and one of the main reasons people buy a home here," Ferrantino said.
At Henning Estates, a community of country estates, people put out their patio furniture and gas grills and enjoy cooking and eating outdoors on their patios and decks, said Judy Wait, sales manager for Rock Creek Homes. "It definitely enhances their lifestyle."
"They can have hot tubs and in-ground pools. There are all kinds of options that would increase their enjoyment of the outdoor living space.
"Buyers really like the open space and beautiful landscaping here."
At Prairie Park, people like to walk down near water's edge around the pond. They also gather at the top of the waterfall pavilion where they can look down over the waterfall or view the entire site, said James Smith, vice president of marketing for the builder, Smith Family Construction Inc.
"People sit outside, walk their dogs, walk with their children; we see people pushing strollers all the time.
"We also see people who don't live here taking high school prom photos or wedding photos in front of the waterfall.
"People come here all the time to enjoy the water features and landscaping. It really is beautiful."