Daffodils peek through the ground, birds build their nests, and the days are longer. It's springtime -- time to get the patio furniture out, fire up the grill and have a garden party. Or you may want to grab a book and sit quietly by the pond or simply relax and unwind in your own outdoor living space.
Whatever your style, you'll want to head outdoors to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season during the light of day and under the stars at night.
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In response, many homebuilders 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 and beautiful backyards.
Also, some new home communities feature natural surroundings with biking and walking paths, ponds or lakes, parks and playgrounds that invite residents to enjoy nature and community amenities.
All Crown Community Development's properties include luxurious landscaping and preserved natural areas. Its master-planned Highland Woods community sits on gently rolling land with mature oak groves and 154 acres of parks, preserved wetlands and lushly landscaped greenways.
The Elgin clubhouse community features 12 different homebuilders, including King's Court Builders, and wooded, wide and deep home sites -- a perfect backdrop for outdoor living spaces. Western DuPage Landscaping has provided design services for King's Court Builders since 1999.
"When people are looking at a new home, the outdoor landscaping is an element that differentiates a home from others and can be the icing on the cake for homebuyers," said Matt Haber, Western DuPage Landscaping's design director. "The outdoor living space is very popular. It gets homebuyers excited, and they envision themselves living there."
The company often works directly with the builder's homeowners. The season after buyers have moved into their home, they often want to do a patio or some type of outdoor living area.
"Most people want to enjoy their yards and home because they plan to live there for a while," Haber said. "We've done some pretty elaborate projects for them."
Also, since the late 1970s, the company has provided landscaping services for Airhart Construction's communities.
"For Courthouse Square's Phase III in Wheaton, we're working on residents' front entry patios, a nice open social space that faces the courtyard," Haber said.
A spacious rooftop terrace is also available for the luxury row houses, "It can be customized into an area for entertaining complete with a wet bar," said Heather Mistele, sales manager. "Each homeowner has created something unique with this space and has commented that they are enjoying and using the space much more than they thought they would."
Even if you don't have community grounds or a yard, you can still enjoy outdoor living at Airhart's College Station. The cozy neighborhood of single-family cottage homes also offers a rooftop terrace option, which is a very private outdoor space -- like you see in the city, said Bill Whelan, marketing manager.
The development of unattached homes lives similar to a townhouses, although it has no yard or common area and has access to the garage in back.
"We think a lot of people will do container gardens, which will really make it nice. It's similar with what you would do with a balcony, except this is larger and more open," Whelan said.
For do-it-yourselfers and those who don't want to do it themselves, Lurvey's Garden Center in Des Plaines sells wholesale to contractors and works with individual homeowners. They offer a large selection of green goods, all different types of plants and hardscaping and the knowledge of landscape architects and designers.
"We have volume, so you can pick your tree from one out of 30, not one of five. We have an aquatics department that is second to none, and for ponds or water features, we sell natural stone because they go hand in hand," said Jean Bragdon, garden center manager. "We also have the finishing touches -- pottery, garden art, sculptures and gifts."
Lurvey's offers various levels of service. People can go in and ask questions and use them as a resource for information about gardening or landscaping. They can also set up an in-store consultation with the design department or make an appointment for a formal design where they will come out and take measurements and give you a computer-generated design recommendation. You can also go in and look at several displays at the center to get some ideas for a specific space.
For elaborate water features for custom homes, builders often engage the services of Aquascape Inc. in St. Charles. The company manufactures pond equipment and does a lot of research for new water features, new water styles and new ways of implementing water features, said Michelle Kurschner, director of marketing. "We come up with the latest innovations."
The company offers various aquascape options: a full pond with fish and plants; aquatic plants and ecosystem ponds that work together; pondless waterfalls and fountain scapes. For fountain scapes it installs an underground reservoir to make water flow through urns and other decorative containers that make up the fountain.
ILT Vignocchi Landscape Architects in Wauconda expresses its philosophy of landscape and waterscape design like this: "We want to accomplish something so seamless, something so timeless that it looks as though we had never been there," said Donna Vignocchi, president of the company.
"Anyone can drop something ostentatious in front of someone's home," Vignocchi said. "The real skill of the landscape architect is considering the style of house, scale of the surrounding environment and melding it together so that it looks like when the house was built, the landscape was done with as much care. We like to think we're an old-world craftsman boutique type of landscape company."