Every year Mother Nature presents different opportunities for landscape design firms in the Chicago area, said Colin Taheny, vice president of sales for RYCO Landscaping of Lake in the Hills.
"Last year we were dealing with a severe drought. This year there have been a lot of flooding problems. It seems that people are constantly trying to control water and regulate it and we can help them with that," he said.
"This year, for instance, trees that help regulate water on properties and prevent standing water are very popular."
Taheny said homeowners in the suburbs put off landscaping, patio and deck improvements when housing prices were falling during the recession.
"They are starting to feel more confident about the economy, so they are moving forward on the outdoor renovations they have been thinking about for several years. Outdoor living in this area of the country has literally exploded," he said.
RYCO is a 17-year-old architecture design and build firm that installs outdoor improvements for homeowners, while also solving outdoor problems like soggy spots, settling walkways and lack of curb appeal.
"People today are buying value. They know what they want and what they really need -- and we are tweaking the plans we draw to give them as much of what they want without sacrificing quality," Taheny said.
RYCO handles everything from designing paver patios to building pergolas and trellises, outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, decks and water features. It also installs lighting, outdoor kitchens, plantings and water-management systems.
"We examine everything from how the home's front sidewalk plays into the landscaping to how the color of the pavers works with the color and texture of the home's roof. All of the colors and textures used on a home's exterior and lot need to flow together," Taheny said.
"We like to call what we do 'lifescaping' because we are literally creating outdoor living spaces using everything from landscaping to outdoor kitchens and from lighting to fire pits," he said.
"We don't look at our work as selling a project. We look at the whole environment of the home and, for a small fee that can be applied toward the project, we come up with drawings drawn to scale."
The company takes into account the spatial orientation of the yard, such as property lines and when the sun illuminates various portions of the lot, as well as the client's stated budget and desired use of the property, before offering suggestions.
And when they offer those suggestions, they include numerous ways to achieve a similar result at different price points, Taheny said. Homeowners, for instance, may choose to pave with natural stone, poured concrete, pavers that look like natural stone or Holland stone. They can also mix natural stone with pavers in irregular sizes so that the client gets a unique, natural look.
"We also present clients with solutions to their problems like sunken patios and overgrown landscaping, and we offer to phase large projects for them. In a few cases homeowners are even choosing to have us refresh their existing patios. We can reface them if they were laid out properly when they were installed and then we can power wash and seal them to make them look like new," Taheny said.
Composite decks that require less maintenance than wood decks are also available. Homeowners who do not want to go to the expense of building a patio with retaining walls are often choosing to have a deck built instead, he said.
"It is all about embellishing the outdoor space so that the homeowners can happily relax there with smiles on their faces," he said.
Later this summer, RYCO plans to open a display within the Barrett's Technology Solutions showroom at 576 S. Route 59 in Naperville, according to Ben Ubben, senior landscape designer for RYCO.
They will showcase how homeowners may craft a back yard that is filled with high-end lighting and entertainment systems, provided by Barrett's, along with outdoor elements like barbecues, pergolas, plantings, outdoor fireplaces and custom patios, supplied by RYCO.
Similarly, Past Basket of Geneva, a kitchen designer, and Barrett's have teamed up to create a model kitchen with both companies' products on display right next to the patio vignette. A sliding-glass door will separate the two displays, simulating the walk from a home's kitchen to its patio.
"We were definitely thinking outside the box on this by partnering with Barrett's and Past Basket to allow our clientele to walk into a showroom and see how all of the various design elements can fit together. Touching and feeling something is much better than just seeing it in a photo," Taheny said.
The vignettes are expected to be complete at the Naperville location later this summer.
RYCO works throughout the Chicago area and in southern Wisconsin. In addition to landscaping design and installation, the company does both residential and commercial mowing and maintenance; installs and maintains irrigation systems; handles turf and tree care; and installs and maintains outdoor lighting systems.
For more information, call (800) 955-7926 or visit www.RYCOlandscaping.com.