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posted: 5/31/2014 12:01 AM

Homeowners value the great outdoors

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  • With the improved economy, many homeowners now are moving forward with exterior improvement projects.

    With the improved economy, many homeowners now are moving forward with exterior improvement projects.
    Courtesy of RYCO Design Group

  • Popular features like pergolas, outdoor kitchens and retaining walls can all be incorporated into your outdoor design.

    Popular features like pergolas, outdoor kitchens and retaining walls can all be incorporated into your outdoor design.
    Courtesy of RYCO Design Group

By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

"After five years of suffering through a bad economy, things are wearing out and becoming outdated -- and homeowners are starting to feel comfortable enough to replace them," said Colin Taheny, vice president of RYCO Design Group of Lake in the Hills.

"They are also starting to feel more confident about the economy, so they are moving forward on the outdoor renovations they have been dreaming of for several years. Outdoor living in this area of the country has literally exploded," he said.

RYCO is an 18-year-old architecture design and build firm. It designs and installs outdoor investments for homeowners and solves outdoor problems, like soggy spots, settling walkways and lack of curb appeal.

"People today are buying value and looking for the best bang for their buck. 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.

"Many of our customers have been saving their money and now they are ready to install LED lighting or what-have-you and they are happy to find out, for instance, that the cost of LED lights has come down or that with all of the new products on the market, they can have a patio or a seat wall or a retaining wall that looks like natural stone, but for a fraction of the cost, thanks for the new concrete products."

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.

"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," Taheny said. "We have even worked with several outdoor furniture retailers to optimize customers' outdoor furniture placement options."

RYCO designers take into account the spatial orientation of the yard, including property lines and when the sun illuminates various portions of the lot, as well as the client's stated budget and their uses for 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.

RYCO even has a full-time permit person who works with municipalities to make sure all local codes are followed.

"We also present clients with solutions to their problems like sinking 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.

"Our innovative designs and our installation expertise are what set us apart from the competition," Taheny added. "Everyone buys from the same manufacturers. If you are going to have a problem it isn't because of the materials, it is because of the installation. And if the final product doesn't look quite right, it is because the project wasn't designed correctly in the first place."

RYCO works throughout the Chicago area and in southern Wisconsin. It not only designs and installs exterior landscape and hardscape environments, but also both residential and commercial mowing and maintenance. It 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