By Jordan Swift
There has been a considerable insurgence of man-made materials versus natural materials. We already mentioned composite wood, but it is not uncommon to see porches with composite shingles, faux greenery, imitation decorating stones, and more. While it used to be taboo to include non-natural elements in nature, that is not necessarily the case anymore. People are looking for lower maintenance options, and often the man-made alternatives provide that.
We could talk about each man-made material at length, but ultimately, they all serve similar purposes. They are generally low-maintenance options for people who want the look of natural elements but do not want the upkeep that they require.
One man-made material we do want to discuss, though, is steel. Steel is a high quality material we utilize often. Sometimes you need a building material with a bit more durability, and steel provides that. We really love steel because it is the most used recycled material in building projects, making it a fantastic, environmentally-friendly option. It is used in everything from steel decks and firepits to interesting metal art pieces, making it an incredibly versatile material. The TLC Gardens Team integrates custom fabricated steel elements into our designs, including steel pergolas, gates, planters, and other structural designs. Examples include our custom steel pergola fabricated and built at Hilltop Courtyard in Boulder and our custom steel planters at Contra Verde in Longmont. One of the most compelling, architectural uses of steel in our design builds can be seen in the moon gate at Song Ranch; an aesthetically-stunning combination of wood and steel creates an entrance experience to this client’s Tai Chi studio space.
We have talked a lot about building materials, but one of the most important elements of many backyard projects is the inclusion of plants. While plants are not a building material, per se, they are a crucial element. In combination with materials such as wood and steel, plants bring in the connection to nature, colors, and textures to elevate a landscape design.
Plants can be the determining factor to making a space feel like a true oasis. Our Verde Garden project is a perfect example of how the plants and landscaping really tied the entire look together. The large focal point boulders surrounded by shrubbery help to create a natural divider so the area has separate intimate areas rather than one wide-open space.
There is a plant type for every person. You do not have to have a green thumb and dream about The Secret Garden to feel the value of plants. Your perfect plant selection is entirely dependent on your region and aesthetic preferences. Nearly every area has a wide range of plant options to fit virtually anyone’s maintenance and motif goals.
Aside from plants, the other “material” worth mentioning is furniture and integrating seating or dining areas. Some people prefer an entertaining environment, while others want a tranquil space. Either way, furniture and seating are often crucial components to the backyard and usually require some material considerations.
Some people love the concept of natural seating areas, like tree stumps as seats or wrap-around tree benches. Others are fine with adding some store-bought patio furniture to their porch. Regardless, it is essential to consider the entire picture of the backyard to really see how many materials are at play and which materials are right for you.
Choosing the Right Materials for You
The reality is that the right material for your backyard project depends on many factors. Ultimately, you want to assess your aesthetic goals, the functionality of the features, and the overall architecture of what you are building.
Whether you want to incorporate a pergola or redo your entire backyard, opt for higher-quality materials when possible because they tend to last longer. Keep in mind that nearly every option out there has a beautiful, more economical alternative. If you are in love with a material that is outside of your budget, know that there is a more budget-friendly alternative available.
On that same note, for every material out there that is not sustainable or environmentally friendly, there is a renewable or recyclable alternative that is just as good or better.
As long as you have a clear vision of what you want and do a bit of research, you will be able to find the perfect materials for your next backyard project. Looking to have a professional contractor design and build for you? TLC Gardens has developed a fun and engaging process, during which materials choices will be presented to you for each element in your landscape. If you’re interested in hiring an award-winning team, get started here!
Jordan Swift is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Jordan is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.