Including architectural touches in your outdoor design ideas

Phantom Screens / August 3, 2016

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Outdoor living spaces can benefit greatly from the addition of certain architectural touches. Terraces, loggias, fireplaces and arbors all add interesting structural elements that define the area. As the plants in your garden go through their seasonal cycles, these foundational elements will remain as the ‘bones’ of your overall space. By working with your landscape architect you can adapt any of these to the overall feel of your garden.


Creating different levels of your garden adds dynamism and interest into the space. Raised flower beds at different heights takes the traditional landscape pattern off the two-dimensional plane and adds more visual interest. Terracing is often achieved through a series of retaining walls that run along a set of stairs. These grand terraces can be rectilinear or curved depending on the style you wish to establish in your space. Symmetrical, straight-lined terraces are reminiscent of the formal French style of garden such as those found at the Palace of Versailles. However, those that employ more sweeping, natural forms are more characteristic of the English landscape garden.

Terraces are great for breaking up large spaces as well as maximizing the use of small spaces. City gardens often have to work within tight quarters. Terracing allows you to maximize planting space by making efficient use of the vertical as well as the horizontal axis when organizing plants. Rooftop gardens and brownstone backyards benefit greatly from some simple terracing due to their limited space.


While traditionally a staple of Italian architecture, a loggia can be adapted to fit many styles. The loggia is simply a covered walkway along a building’s facade. The roof of the loggia is traditionally supported by columns and arches, but designers can adapt to the building’s basic structure to suit any client’s vision. A loggia along a home’s rear facade is a great way to create a large, extended patio that can be accessed from many disappearing screen doors. A covered walkway in the loggia style can also be used to connect disparate parts of the yard. A long loggia extending out from a patio that culminates in a gazebo with a view or fire pit would provide an intimate space that doesn’t feel too out of the way.


Humans have been gathering around fires for centuries. Fireplaces and fire pits provide ideal meeting places for spending time in the company of friends and family. As a result, these structures are great for anchoring spaces to a particular spot. If you feel as though your outdoor space lacks focus, consider adding a fireplace or fire pit. These structures provide focal points for foot traffic as visitors are drawn to the light and warmth of a roaring fire. However, make sure you consider and properly abide by all relevant safety regulations when placing such structures.


These two oft-confused garden structures provide excellent supports for climbing plants. If you find your outdoor space receives a lot of direct sunlight, consider a pergola planted with a blooming plant. These traditionally wooden structures can provide shade to a lounge area thus creating beautiful covered outdoor spaces. Arbors are much smaller, usually used as covered gateways. Both arbors and pergolas benefit greatly from fragrant climbing flowers. Wisteria, jasmine, sweet pea climber and honeysuckle are great options for their combination of beautiful blooms and nice fragrance. Sitting in the light shade of a wisteria plant, surrounded in white flowers, as a slight breeze carries the smell of the blossoms to your nose will quickly become your favorite part of summer.