Art and Architecture How to expertly combine specialty decking materials to complement the home and landscaping.


In   a push to come up with evermore creative backyard designs, many builders are   mixing and matching multiple surfacing products to great effect.

Vic   Lehmann, for one, uses a variety of materials on his projects. “There’s no   excuse for creating a cookie-cutter pool in a day and age when there are so   many incredible surfacing options available,” says the president of Lehmann Pools & Spas in Mahwah,   N.J.

While   it takes skill and an artistic eye to blend layers of materials and textures   in a way that creates a cohesive design — and not a jumbled mess — pool   builders should not feel intimidated.

Here,   we’ll examine the multiple-surface trend and showcase tricks of the trade   from those who do it well.

Spotlight   on surfaces
With decking materials reaching new levels of sophistication, it’s no   surprise that designers are becoming more ambitious. Many use multiple types   of surfaces to enhance otherwise plain patios, improve safety, and even make   their projects more cost-effective (To see real-life examples, go to Making an Impact).

“When   mulling over new materials, not only should visual elements be considered,   but also strength, safety, ease of maintenance, weather resistance and   drainage capability,” says Mark Ragel, president of Patio Pools & Spas, a Pool & Spa News Top   Builder in Tucson, Ariz.

If   price is an issue, these materials can be a great way to keep costs low, says   Joe Vassallo, president of Las Vegas-based Paragon Pools.   “When the materials themselves are breathtaking, you don’t need as many   bells, whistles and tricks [such as a fountain].”

To   discover creative combinations, designers suggest experimenting while on the   job. In addition, Lehmann spends time reading trade magazines to learn what   other builders are doing, traveling to see what’s hot in other regions,   visiting quarries to look at stones firsthand, and crafting small-scale   mock-ups to show to his clients.

“Creating   something new and exciting takes a lot of experimentation, preparation and   hard work,” he says, “but the payoff is worth the extra time and effort that   goes into designing something truly original.”

Putting   it into practice
To achieve design excellence with multiple materials, it’s important to   remember a few basic principles.

•   Experiment with color.
Creative decking designs often use complementary or contrasting shades.

Some   prefer working with a narrow color palette — for instance, a variety of   blues, grays and black — which allows them to visually unite the disparate   materials. Others choose to boost the “wow” factor by incorporating dramatic   elements against a more neutral backdrop, such as setting metallic tiles into   a concrete path.

Another   option is to vary the look of a single type of material. “For greater   sophistication in our designs, we often use one material cut or finished in a   variety of ways,” Lehmann notes. Using the material in different ways enables   designers to highlight focal areas and capture viewers’ attention in a manner   that’s less “look at me” and more subtle elegance.

Whether   colors harmonize with one another or provide stark juxtapositions of contrast   is a matter of preference. Be warned, however, that with so many beautiful   and boldly hued materials available in today’s market, it’s easy for builders   to overdo it.

“You   have to use your most eye-catching materials wisely, and sometimes sparingly,   to avoid a final product that looks like the work of an amateur,” Vassallo   says. Even with more adventurous clients, he still prefers to work with fewer   than six materials to avoid what he calls “a Picasso” — a look that many will   see as a disjointed mess.

•   Keep things in proportion.
When blending a variety of materials, size, scale and proportion should be   considered in great detail.

“With   a rectangular pool, you want to use materials that are geometric. To throw in   the use of boulders and curvy materials simply doesn’t work,” Ragel says.   “The same thing goes for a free-form pool, where bold square and geometric   patterns disturb the overall appeal of the design.”

For   large lots, he recommends multiple materials as a rule. “Even if a particular   material is incredibly beautiful, it will lose its effect if it paves an area   as expansive as a football field,” Ragel says.

To   avoid a mismatched look, he recommends setting off the different materials with   design elements such as waterfeatures, planters, bridges or walkways. Doing   so creates intimate spaces that function almost like outdoor rooms.

Conversely,   to maintain proportion in a small lot, Ragel often limits the variation in   materials used to keep things uncluttered.

•   Consider balance and symmetry.
To provide a cohesive, finished look, designers should focus on where the   hardscape is placed as well as the materials. “Balance outside the pool goes   a long way toward making a setting visually pleasing,” says Bill Renter,   president of The Deck & Patio Co. in Huntington   Station, N.Y.

Materials   should not only be in balance with each other, but also harmonize with the   property and home. “Use of rhythmic patterns and well-known, simple shapes   can provide a sense of order as well as pleasing variation,” he adds.

That’s   not to say the decking must always be evenly distributed. While most builders   strive toward symmetry, Renter believes asymmetry can achieve a more natural   look. “Nothing is more classic than nature, and since most things in nature   are grouped in odd numbers, I like to see design groupings in threes and   fives to mirror nature,” he says.

•   Strive for unity.
Unique materials can draw the eye, but nothing in the hardscape should stand   out too much because, ultimately, each element needs to fit together like   pieces of a puzzle.

By   carefully editing the number of materials used and drawing on them repeatedly   throughout the design, aesthetic unity can be achieved. Also, using a variety   of differing but complementary textures, colors and shapes can break up what   could become monotonous.

Harmony is crucial to creating a picture-perfect   project. “One key element should tie the entire yard together,” Ragel says.   “With consistency in patterns, colors and textures, builders can make almost   anything work. They’ll be able to successfully unite many different materials   while maintaining a sense of seamless ease.”

Source: Leslie Licano – Pool and Spa News | 8.14.2009

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