Grand Day Out

Hassle-free outdoor living spaces make the most of summer By Jennifer Garret

Where to begin? By heading outdoors, of course. But we’re not heading out just any doors. We’re heading out of our own doors. And if we plan it right, we are heading into our own lovely living areas surrounded by lush lawns, flowering perennials and sparkling friends. 
Shane Wagner, aquatic services manager for The Bruce Company, says water features are an increasingly popular way to create visual interest and a soothing ambience in outdoor spaces. “Water is tranquil,” he says. “It’s a powerful stress reliever after a long, hard day.”
Wagner notes that low-maintenance pond and waterfall options make it easy to add a water feature that requires mere minutes of maintenance per week. Pondless waterfalls operate with a pump that sits in a basin of gravel. The pump recycles the water that trickles out of an urn, a rock formation or other object. Homeowners have to recycle the water that evaporates, but some versions have automatic water-fill valves. “Then you don’t have to do anything,” Wagner says.


Even large, elaborately crafted ponds filled with koi can stay idyllic with just 15 minutes or so of maintenance per week. The key, Wagner says, is incorporating the right timesaving components that eliminate some of the maintenance. “If you skimp on some of the components, it can make the pond a lot of work,” he says.
Most water features run between $3,500 and $10,000, but he notes that even $1,000 can get a homeowner a simple pondless waterfall system for a deck, patio or balcony. Thanks to advances in technology, homeowners have tremendous choice.


Kris Wilke says choice is what drives customers to The Stool Store. With decks and patios expanding to include water features, kitchens, bars and other elements, homeowners are seeking specific seating and other furnishings to complete their outdoor spaces. With half a dozen different manufacturers each offering countless styles, metal finishes and fabric choices, homeowners don’t have to settle.
“Our customers are looking to really
differentiate their outdoor areas,” says Wilke, manager of The Stool Store. “Our customers know that they are going to be able to design something very specific. People know they can get exactly what they want.”
Customers can even have stool or chair backs custom designed to reflect personal interests. For those backing up to a golf course, stools could feature golf clubs, balls or tees. Someone on the water might want a sunrise, loons or a trout.
Ultimately it is all up to the customer. “We can get very specific,” Wilke says.
Wagner agrees that the possibilities for outdoor spaces seem unlimited, but notes that it’s important to have an overall plan and make an effort to create harmony among the various elements in an outdoor space. Furnishings, hardscape and plantings all need to work together. That will make all of the areas in a yard or lawn more comfortable and conducive to entertaining and everyday living.
Let’s start with an attitude adjustment. Instead of complaining that Wisconsin summers are too short (or that Wisconsin winters are too long), let’s look at our warm-
weather season as a precious commodity. To wit: Wisconsin summers are magical! Let’s celebrate them. Let’s make the most of them. Let’s share them.


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