Vacation in theYard
June, 2011 - Issue #80
The sound of water - tink, tink, tink - gently cascading around a bend. Birds chirping. You, lounging on a chaise that could pull double duty as a cloud, sipping your favorite beverage. It's 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, and you're in heaven. You're also in your own backyard.

The Grass is Always Greener
When it comes to remodeling your backyard, it's easy to get discouraged. Maybe there's no money for the big items you crave (Olympic pool?). But by focusing on what you can afford, and on getting the best bang for your buck, you can create a relaxing escape worthy of your affections.

There are few improvements more impressive to the bottom line than quality synthetic turf. We're not talking "baseball field" grass, though if that's what you want, that's what you can get. For normal applications, though, we're referring to the newest technology in always-green, feels-natural, lasts-a-lifetime faux grass.

Even the grass purists must agree that the new stuff is gorgeous. And the practical among us admit that the time saved in maintenance (Fertilizing, mowing, weeding, reseeding, watering - oh my!) is a vacation in itself. Plus, recycled options abound - and the reduction in water use is impressive on a financial and environmental level.

When it comes to having it installed in your own backyard, consider a variety of locations that could use a bright burst of color, texture and resilience. The lawn area's a given, but why not put turf in the dog run area, too? Rover will appreciate it (it's much cooler to the touch than toasty asphalt or concrete) and it camouflages a litany of not-so-aesthetic elements (Yeah, we're talking about dog poop.). Side yards and play areas, always losing the battle to get enough sun, are also ideal spots for turf installs. Custom Turf Scapes is one of So Cal's premier installers known for great customer service and affordable prices; 510-5778

A New Perspective
The best part of relaxing in the yard is being able to, temporarily at least, forget about all the things you have to do once you walk back inside. This means, of course, that the exterior of your home must play a positive supporting role in your attempts to defrag. If the outside of your home reads like the worst of Honey-do lists, it's time to get cracking.

The most noticeable element that can go terribly astray is your abode's exterior paint. Cracking, chipping, flaking exterior surfaces are worse than eyesores - they can affect the structure by allowing water access and, eventually, rot. If your home's wood trim is in need of a touch up, do it now before you need to replace the trim in its entirety. And if being at the top of a 20-foot ladder isn't your idea of fun, call an expert. The gents at Mint Condition use over 40 years of combined experience - and Dunn Edwards' best exterior paint - to ensure that your home looks as good tomorrow as it does today; 251-5521

Broken, crooked, torn screens are a bastion of annoyance. Cheap replacements abound, so pull those suckers off already and put up new home-improvement-store versions asap. You'll spend more time than money on this quick fix. Just know that you may be repeating the process next summer, and the summer after that. A more permanent and attractive option is a Phantom Screen. It has the utility of a conventional screen with none of the unsightly results. It's there when you need it and invisible when you don't. These stylish, versatile, functional miracles are designed to seamlessly and smoothly roll up out of view when not in use. They can be mounted indoors or out, perfectly blending form and function; 1-888-PHANTOM (742-6866)

Smooth Transitions
The trend in exterior decor is to take hints from your interior and draw them outside.

Weathered elements add history and mystique - think iron and copper with antiqued patinas - and can pop up in unusual places. A stunning glass-topped table, for example, adds crisp contrast to a curled wrought-iron base and would look just as comfortable indoors as out. A cast-iron bed board can be reinterpreted as a vine trellis. A copper-paneled print will stand up to Mother Nature and add a touch of texture to an outdoor living room. Furniture and accessories that look as good indoors as they do out are available at Suburban Chateau; 775-2980

Stash the Clutter
Do you ever look out at your pool and all you see are towels laying here and there - distracting from the overall appearance of your yard? Both Hanamint and OW Lee carry towel racks that can add elegance to your space - and clean up the clutter. The towels will dry quicker than lying on a chair or on the ground, too.

Adding a credenza or a serving cart will also look beautiful in the yard while serving a great purpose. Putting your appetizers, candles and vases off to the side will free up your dining table space so your guests won't be hovering over each other while trying to grab a snack. These carts and tables are available from many fine outdoor furniture manufactures in all sizes, colors and shapes. Hanamint, OW Lee and Ebel are just some suggestions.

When they are not being used, an age old question is, "Where am I going to store all these goggles, floaties and rafts?" Manufacturers like New River, Ebel and Hanamint have answered that question in style. Look no further than a quality outdoor weather-proof storage bin. They come in wood, wicker and aluminum. In addition to these accessories, there are beautiful trash receptacles, baker's racks and lazy susans to help you achieve the goal of "a place for everything, and everything in its place." They're all available from Oasis Garden & Patio; 255-9909

Accessorize It
Sometimes the small stuff makes the biggest impression - which is an especially good thing if all you need (or all you can afford) is the small stuff. Revive an old patio table with garden-fresh-cut flowers casually arranged in a decorative vase. (We love the ones from Jan Barboglio.) Decorative lighting fixtures that add visual excitement even in broad daylight are to be coveted. The GG Collection outdoor chandelier, for example, is a dramatic, weatherproof find that will earn its weight in compliments. You may be so proud of your newly-accessorized yard that a neighborly gathering is in order. In that case, spring for the GG Collection Beverage Server. Cocktails and homemade lemonade alike look elegant when poured from these 2.5 or 4-gallon servers. All items, and many more, are available at La Via Bella; 222-7006

Fix what You Have & Build what You Don't
If you're lucky enough to have a pool, stop insulting the pool-less among us by taking such poor care of it. (For the five of you who have pristine, well-maintained pools, we apologize for lumping you in with the rest.) Gazing at a shimmering unification of water, stone or ceramic is almost as calming as being submerged in it. Which means - if you intend to up the relaxation quotient of your yard - that it's time to make that pool feel brand new again. Pool Tile Saver leaves tile (and brick, and more!) clean without the use of harsh acids and chemicals; 510-5778

Here's news: You can afford a backyard barbecue built-in. (No, we're not joking.) The only catch is that you need to do away with the keeping-up-with-the-Jones mentality of bigger is the only way to go. Maybe a barbecue area complete with 10-foot granite bar, sub-freezer, dishwasher and wine room isn't in the budget. (Yet! Don't write off your dream - just don't do it now.) But if grilling to your heart's content is your idea of bliss, get a quote for the basics. Companies like MHB Landscape Construction have the experience, resources and know-how to balance your plans with your bottom line. They can even design your outdoor kitchen as an ongoing project. This year, install the barbecue. Next year, add the bar. And so on and so forth. Each step looks complete, so you're the only one who knows that the area has yet to be "finished"; 297-5169

Light it Up
One of our favorite landscape professionals, Jeff Brown, owner of NV Landscape, Inc. may have best summarized the goal of any backyard remodel when he said this: "It's all about the mood."
Says Brown: "Think about sunset, when the sky is still aglow and the mountains are a dark silhouette; the look, the quiet, the peacefulness. This is the start of your vacation. Setting the mood is about being subtle. Turn off the harsh lights at your back door and use light sparingly. If you haven't worked with us to develop a permanent energy efficient lighting system that comes on at dusk, then try these few simple techniques yourself. Use candlelight to illuminate the areas where you want to gather. Notice that I didn't say candles. Candles are great but you need to be careful of the flame. We have been successfully using battery operated LED 'candles' in all sorts of areas. These are so realistic that I bet that you have seen these and thought they were the real thing. It's all about the mood." He had us at candlelight - we're sold; 286-8888

Pay for it All
A home equity line of credit puts money in your hands to use as you see fit. (Outdoor kitchen!) Whether you're making home improvements, paying taxes, paying down credit cards, financing another large purchase, purchasing a vehicle, funding education expenses, or even "going green," you can utilize your home's equity to get the cash you need. The Union Bank FlexEquity account - their flagship home equity line of credit - is a flexible line of credit combined with a fixed-rate loan. It's a revolving credit line, so as you repay the amount you've borrowed, it becomes available for you to use again and again. With a FlexEquity account, you'll enjoy fixed- and variable-rate options; instant cash; low interest rates (their interest rate cap is among the lowest in the industry) and discounts available on fixed-rate options when you choose automatic payments from your Union Bank checking or savings account; Canyon Country 424-9686 Stevenson Ranch 254-0015 Newhall 799-8529 Valencia 799-8531

Outdoor Improvements can Influence the Sale of your Home
by Scott Thompson
It's no secret that many of today's buyers are both nervous and picky. They're also in little hurry; they'll wait for the right property at the right price - and unless the home's an incredible bargain (and sometimes even if it is), they want it to be move-in ready.

A great deal of attention has been placed on prepping the interior of the home prior to listing the place on the market. There are TV shows dedicated to paint swatches and furniture placement, all in the name of getting more money from a sale. But it's the rare episode that deals with the exterior of the home.

A poorly-maintained yard can be as much of a downfall as chartreuse bathroom walls. The goal is to appeal to the broadest segment of buyers, so, in this environment, you'll do well for yourself by investing a little elbow grease and going a step beyond raking the leaves in the yard.

A good Real Estate Agent has a long list of reliable contacts who can do much of the work for you at an affordable price, but before you start contracting services, a sit down is in order. Your agent can help you prioritize cost-effective improvements that will make a real difference in how fast your home sells and at what price.
Scott Thompson is a broker and Realtor® with Regal Realty of California; 295-8715

Furnish your Yard in Style
Sunny days of summer inspire dreams of enjoying one's garden - and now is the perfect time to live those dreams. Your perfect place needs to beckon your escape at the day's end. It should bring romance to your garden and accommodate family and friends in cool comfort. A beautiful patio with the right choice in quality outdoor furniture will complete your garden and be your sanctuary.

Consider a decorative bench for the butterfly garden. For the pool or spa, add a pair of chaise lounges. Swivel bar stools and bar tables are great fun for entertaining or enjoying a beautiful view. Gorgeous wrought iron dining sets are used inside the home as well as outside with wrought iron sofas, lounge chairs, gliders and recliners.

There are many styles of patio furniture ranging from low- to high-end quality. Aluminum, wrought iron and cast aluminum are the most common materials used in outdoor furniture. Different materials carry different weights. Aluminum is light weight in comparison to steel, wrought iron or wood. In high-wind areas, some weight might be desirable. The cushions or sling materials are designed to be durable outdoors and technology has made great advances in this area, bringing strength, fade-resistance and a "soft feel" to the outdoor fabrics used. One does not need to choose between durability and comfort any longer.

Cushion patio sets offer the best in comfort, whether in a dining set or club chairs paired with an ottoman. Umbrellas add a great look to the garden as well as offer very necessary protection from the sun. Market umbrellas are available in aluminum frames with a crank mechanism for ease in operation, and a tilt feature for greater shade from the intense afternoon sun.

To best compliment your garden design or home decor, consider a custom order for your patio furniture. Custom orders usually do not cost any more than buying off the floor and they are very easy to do. Upper-end patio furniture will last a very long time, so it is well worth the few weeks' wait for delivery to have exactly the "look" one desires.

Whatever your choice may be, quality outdoor furniture will fulfill your daydreams and bring greater enjoyment of your garden in the months and years to come.
Kirki Coleman is the seasonal manager for Green Thumb; 259-1072

Attend Free Residential Landscape Program, Receive Free Irrigation Controller
Once SCV residents or their landscapers complete an afternoon workshop, they will receive a free weather-based irrigation controller. This controller, with a retail price of over $600, will automatically adjust the amount of time sprinklers irrigate based on the needs of the plant, the soil conditions and the daily weather conditions. This means no more accidental irrigation in the rain! Our training class also contains helpful hints on water use efficiency in gardening and landscaping. Call Rene Emeterio of SLM to enroll in this program; 877-242-2262

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