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Carpenter Costin Blog

Adding a Professional Landscape to your Pool Area

A pool is an enjoyable feature to add to your property, and with a professional landscape design around it, it can be a very attractive feature as well!

In-ground pools are great for cooling off on a hot summer day or showing off your latest version of the swan dive, but with some attention from a Landscape Architect, an in-ground pool can be a truly remarkable landscape feature. Landscaping around a pool will not only add beauty, but it can add functionality, and value to your home as well.

Deciding to add a landscape around your pool is only half the battle. Once you decide that you’re going to add a new landscape to your pool area you then need to start making decisions on the look and feel that you want to achieve. Natural stone will give it a classic look that works great with teak or wood furniture. Concrete pavers will create a more modern look, and will be more durable in case you prefer metal or aluminum lounge chairs and furniture. Whichever hardscape material you decide to use, be sure you fill in the perimeter with plants and a fence. You can also choose to add additional patio space, or even tiered patios, for an improved entertaining area.

If you have a pool, or are considering adding a pool to your property, be sure to consult with a Landscape Architect about the landscaping around it. Even if you have a pool contractor, it is wise to consult with a Landscape Architect to be sure the landscape you want to add around it is feasible with the pool contractor’s design. Click the button below to learn more about pool landscaping from one of our Landscape Architects.


landscape around pool

Natural stone patios and walls give this pool area a classic New England look and feel.

Transform a Small Space into a Landscaped Paradise

Space constrictions shouldn’t limit your ability to have a wonderfully landscaped outdoor space to enjoy.

You don’t need to have a 20,000 square foot yard to have a landscape you enjoy. Even outdoor spaces barely large enough to fit a Volkswagen Beetle can be transformed into a truly enjoyable outdoor area. All you need is a creative Landscape Architect and the ability to look beyond your space or location constrictions. Even items you once saw as barriers, such as a rock ledge, can be highlighted in a new way and actually become an asset to your outdoor space.

A great way to transform a small outdoor space is to add a stone, brick or paver patio or landing, paired with a hardscape walls and walkways. Compliment the hardscape with a variety of small plants to create a natural, well balanced landscape. Adding a few pieces of small outdoor furniture will complete the transformation.

To learn more about transforming a small outdoor area into a useful and enjoyable space, please consider a free consultation with one of our Landscape Architects.


landscape design small space

This small area had several grade changes and a large rock ledge which made for an interesting project.

rock ledge

The large rock ledge was once seen as a barrier, now it is an asset to the landscape.

landscape on grade changes

Creative hardscape design created two great patio areas despite a drastic grade change.

small irregular bluestone patio

Some patio furniture helps bring the whole area together.

Photos courtesy of a happy customer.


Creative Driveway Alternatives

Consider a paver, crushed stone, or crushed oyster shell driveway to add appeal to your property.

Your driveway needs to be a functional part of your property, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive. Creative driveway solutions using pavers, crushed stones, or crushed shells can add attractiveness without jeopardizing functionality and durability.

Paver Driveways

If you’d like to make your driveway appealing, but worry about durability, then pavers are your best bet. A paver driveway is extremely durable and functional, yet it is still way more attractive than your standard concrete or blacktop driveway. Pavers can add both color and shapes or patterns to your driveway, and the durability is greater than that of concrete.

Crushed Stone Driveways

Constructing a crushed stone driveway is an inexpensive way to add appeal to your property. Crushed stone is very durable, and is more pleasing to look at than blacktop. When installed correctly, a crushed stone driveway is a wonderful addition to your property.

Crushed Oyster Shell Driveways

Crushed oyster shells were used by Native Americans hundreds of years ago to harden their muddy paths each spring. The oysters were consumed, and then the shells were crushed and placed on paths which provided a permeable, yet sturdy passage way. Crushed shells are a great addition to a coastal house; or a great way to add coastal appeal to your house. The shells are durable and extremely attractive, and they even provide an enjoyable sound when walked and driven on.

Don’t let your blacktop or concrete driveway hold you back. There are ways to make your driveway attractive without losing durability and functionality. Take advantage of our free consultations and meet with a Landscape Architect to discuss how you can make your driveway beautiful.


paver driveway

Pavers are very durable, yet still add plenty of appeal.

crushed stone driveway

Crushed stone is great for driveways and walkways.

crushed oyster shell driveway

Oyster shells are great for coastal homes, or homes looking to have a "coastal feel."

Prepare for April Showers by Adding Proper Drainage Systems

April showers bring May flowers; but they also bring drainage issues to many households across the North East. Avoid these problems with proper drainage systems.

Are you tired of water building up in your yard, or even finding its way into your basement? You shouldn’t need to accept it as something that happens every spring – or every rain event. Designing and constructing proper drainage systems can help rid your property of backed up water this spring, and alleviate all the headaches associated with it.

Water build up can happen for many different reasons, both natural and man-made. Often times, a poorly constructed driveway, with improper pitch, will funnel water into a valuable spot in your yard or even indirectly into your basement.  Other man-made drainage problems occur when hardscape walls are made incorrectly, without a permeable aspect to the wall. This creates backup which will destroy the wall and create flooding issues. In fact, it is frightening how many drainage issues we see that are actually man-made.

We also come across many “natural” drainage issues that have existed for many years. Very old houses commonly have drainage issues because they were built without proper site evaluation. This was fine when foundations were made out of native granite and basements used very little; but as the space transitions into a more useful area (laundry rooms, etc) and foundations begin to wear down over time, proper drainage becomes imperative.

A qualified Landscape Architect can solve any drainage problem, with various different approaches ranging from drainage pipes, to creative swales that funnel water into a rain garden or pond. Drainage doesn’t need to be a problem anymore – actually it can create a very attractive landscape feature if you construct a rain garden or swale. Take advantage of our free consultations and see how we can solve your drainage problems this spring.



A swale can funnel water away from problem areas and into a beautiful rain garden.

What is a Hardscape?

Landscape professionals often throw around industry-specific terms, such as “hardscape,” but what exactly does that mean?

We’re one of the top offenders of using industry-specific words, such as hardscape and softscape, in articles that are supposed to be helpful to people searching for landscape information, so we apologize for not explaining what these words mean sooner. Let’s start with hardscape.

A hardscape is any landscape feature constructed out of hard material, be it natural stone or engineered concrete bricks or pavers. Hardscapes add aesthetic appeal, as well as usability and durability to a landscape. Common hardscapes include patios, walls, walkways, stairs, and driveways.

A qualified Landscape Architect can help you out with all your hardscape needs and wants. Take advantage of Carpenter Costin's free design consultations and meet with a Landscape Architect to discuss how a hardscape can improve your landscape.

Request a free consultation

hardscape stone patio

This natural stone patio was a great hardscape addition to this backyard.

hardscape brick stairs

Brick and granite combined to make these durable, yet attractive hardscape stairs.

Add Curb Appeal to Spruce Up Your Property

Adding softscape and hardscape features by the "curb" is an easy way to add value and appeal to your property.

Even if you know absolutely nothing about real estate, you most likely have heard about the value of "curb appeal." Having an appealing "curb" or road-side landscape will not only add value to your home if you're trying to sell it, but it also improves the aesthetics and feel of the home - even if you aren't trying to sell!

Building a small hardscape feature, be it a wall or walkway, will help identify your property boundary, while also guiding visitors down the desired path and keeping them off your lawn. Compliment a hardscape wall or walkway with a nice arrangement of plants and you've got yourself "curb appeal."

Investing in "curb appeal" is usually a wise decision, even if you aren't putting your house on the market, mainly because it does not require a large investment. A skilled Landscape Architect can design and construct a beautifully landscaped curb for relatively minimal investment from the home owner.

Adding a professional landscape feature is a great idea if you're selling your house, because it adds a great value, but even if you aren't selling it still adds a tremendous amount to your property. We recommend consulting with a Registered Landscape Architect to discuss how you can add "curb appeal" to your property. Take advantage of our free consultations and meet with a Landscape Architect.

adding curb appeal

Hardscape and softscape features combine for added curb appeal.

value of curb appeal

Plan Landscape Design & Construction Projects Early for Best Results

Don't wait until mid-spring to decide you want to improve your landscape. Plan landscape design and construction projects this winter for optimal results!

It happens every year - early spring rains come to an end and warm weather is greeted by flowering plants, helping to get everyone's landscape juices flowing. It is also at this time that home owners start to realize they may want to make some improvements to their landscape, which often range from a few new plantings to a complete landscape overhaul. Although our skilled staff is fully capable of building the landscape of your dreams throughout the whole growing season, it is best to start thinking about your landscape now!

Prepping for a new landscape project now will help ensure your dream landscape becomes a reality. With ample time before construction starts, our Registered Landscape Architects can deliver the design you're looking for and develop a plan to have the new features developed early - which allows for maximum usable time in your landscape come spring. This is especially important with hardscape features, such as patios. Planning your brick, stone, or paver patio construction early will ensure you don't miss a single cookout this spring.

The first step to planning your new landscape is meeting with a Registered Landscape Architect. In the initial meeting you can explain exactly what you're looking for, or looking to achieve, and a skilled landscape professional will be able to offer advice and guidance where needed. From here, a Landscape Architect will then take the appropriate measurements (sure helps when there isn't snow on the ground), and begin to design your landscape. Starting this process early ensures ample time to hammer down the design to get exactly what you're looking for, or experiment with different materials to get the price you're looking for. Both of these are luxuries that may not be available later in the year when the need for a landscape becomes more pressing.

Consider the above benefits of starting your landscape design early. Get out and look at your property while it is free of snow and start to visualize what certain landscape features would look like in your yard. Ask yourself, "What would a patio look like there, or a privacy barrier along the property's edge over there?" If (and when) you have questions, feel free to contact us!

Request Free Landscape Design Consultation


The Value of a Professional Landscape Design

Having a professional landscape designed and installed can be one of the best investments to make. When done properly, return can be between 100% and 200%!

If you're a loyal viewer of HGTV television shows you'll know that curb appeal is extremely important when discussing property sales and purchases. Investing in the beautification of the area surrounding your house is just as important as what's going on inside the house. Many real estate professionals believe that an investment in a professional landscape will pay for itself, and then some. Even Bob Vila, the handiest of handymen, suggests that a professional landscape will add 20% to the value of your home.

Adding a new landscape, or sprucing up your existing landscape seems like a no-brainer; however, there are a few factors to consider in order to get the most value out of the new design and installation.

First, make sure you allow plenty of time for your landscape to mature before selling your house. Letting your landscape mature for four or five years will ensure that new plants and new turf will grow in nicely. Maturing your landscape will ensure you get the most value out of your investment.

Secondly, make sure you use a true professional. Registered Landscape Architects are experts in both hardscape and softscape aspects of a new design. Ensuring you're working with a professional firm with an attractive design portfolio and great references will ease the new design process, especially when making a large investment in your property.

Adding a new landscape to your property will not only increase the value, but it can also create a great space for entertaining or relaxing for the homeowner. Think you're ready to add a professional landscape to your property? Consult with an Architect to find out what you can do.


 value of landscape design



The Value of Landscape Design Master Planning

This article was written by Bonnie Marsan for a Newsletter back in 2005, and deserves to be republished now more than ever. As our economy continues to struggle, many home owners are attempting to piece together their landscapes in small sections. Unfortunately piecing together a landscape is not a simple as putting a puzzle together. Theme, flow, and direction can all be lost through the multi-year process. A master plan can prevent this. Here is how Bonnie explains it:

Your home is more than a house and garden, it's where you live your life. Indoor and outdoor living space should be complementary, making the most out of the other, emphasizing assets, subordinating liabilities - a unique solution for a unique bit of earth. The landscape should be a harmonious spatial experience from which a homeowner derives satisfaction.

Landscape design makes use of the same principles which are inherent in all good art: simplicity, good scale, balance, sequence, and focalization. These principles are the guidelines in designing each outdoor feature, be it a flower garden, shrub border, or a patio; but they also apply to the complete landscape design, which represents the logical unified arrangement of the elements comprising the whole.

When you decide to improve your outdoor living space, master pre-planning is essential. A Landscape Architect creates a master plan by researching the parameters of the site, and analyzing the goals, needs and desires of the owner to determine optimum solutions, in advance of actual execution.

Whether you implement your design in one season or break it down into phases and install over several seasons, a master plan will ensure continuity throughout the project. Master planning will allow you a practical approach to construction sequencing and phasing, and gives you a better understanding of costs and maintenance.

Our Registered Landscape Architects are available to discuss master planning. Click the button below for your free consultation.

Request Free Landscape Design Consultation

design master plan draft

Here is a draft of a portion of a master plan. Such projects can be completed over a period of seasons, helping to make the project more affordable, without losing the overall flow, scope, and direction.

You're Running out of Time to Improve Your Landscape

Act fast to improve your landscape and add appeal to your property in 2011, while you still can!

With a little over two months left in 2011, it is getting down to crunch time as far as landscape construction goes. Each day we get closer to the planting threshold; meaning that the optimal time for planting new trees, shrubs, and turf is shrinking. Hardscape construction season, however, lasts a little longer, as our experienced landscape masons can build new walls, walks, and patios well into December.fall hardscape walkway

Planting new trees and shrubs in the fall is preferred; however, waiting too long to do so can actually be harmful to your newly added plants, as temperatures are dropping and frost, snow, and ice become a real threat. Depending on the climate in our region (which can vary so greatly), it may be possible to add new plants for a few more weeks, but we highly suggest consulting with a Landscape Architect to learn more.

Landscape masonry projects can not only continue well into the 12th month, but it is actually a great idea to split your new landscape construction into two parts: a late fall hardscape project and a spring softscape project. Not only can this method help finance your project, effectively splitting costs across the fall and spring, but it also provides great results and efficient working conditions.

Take advantage of our free consultations, and speak with a Landscape Architect today! The landscape construction season is shrinking each day, so please don't wait!

Request Free Landscape Design Consultation

 fall plantings

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