This article is presented in partnership with Rost, Inc.

One of the largest trends in landscaping in recent years, and still growing, is outdoor living spaces. The idea of extending the square footage of your home and enjoying nature while keeping indoor comforts like furniture, lighting, and technology is appealing to many. This trend includes aspects like multi-functional patio spaces, outdoor lighting for extended time outside, fire features for warmth and focal points, hot tubs, outdoor kitchens, audio systems, and technology that makes it easy to control through apps on your phone.

Not all outdoor living projects have all the features mentioned above, but Josh and Keira Hamann’s yard in Columbia is a good example of recreating a somewhat unusable area into an additional living space for their home. For the Hamanns, creating an outdoor space was important because they wanted something that was a combination of beautiful, relaxing, private, and functional. They also wanted to make use of all the parts of their yard.

Rost Landscaping’s landscape designer, Jacob Porter, took the awkward slope of the yard and created a two-level patio with steps leading between the two, as well as to the rest of the yard, with a fire feature and mixed stone features for interest.

“This yard had enough space that we could create the outdoor entertainment area, while still keeping enough lawn space for the kids and dogs to have room to play,” Jacob says. “Another good feature was the slope that we had to work with. Sometimes this may seem challenging, but this gave us the opportunity to create a unique, multi-level layout.”

One of the approaches Jacob uses to create interest includes adding vertical elements to a patio to keep it from being one-dimensional. Vertical features, such as sitting walls, fire pits, or outdoor kitchens, can add a focal element to the outdoor space while breaking up the horizontal plane of the patio.

Another trick is mixing materials in a project. For the Hamanns’ yard, Jacob used a different material for the upper patio than for the lower patio, which helped create different “rooms” in the outdoor space. If the project does not have the size to allow for different spaces, he might choose to outline the paver patios with a different paver than what is used for the body. This soldier course helps define the edge and give the patio a clean look.

Natural boulders and ledge rock are Jacob’s favorite materials to use. They can be used as a wall to help retain grade on a slope, or they can be broken up to create a natural outcrop on a hill to work with an existing grade. They can also be used as accent pieces in a landscape bed or in a patio. When it comes to the materials for a patio space, Jacob likes both flagstone and pavers. Use depends on the client’s preference or the look that the area calls for; however, they can also be used in the same project, as they were for the Hamanns’ space.

Rost Landscaping made the project easy, Keira says. Their designers created and executed a plan that exceeded anything they had thought of and paid close attention to the couple’s goals and desires for their yard. What she did not expect, though, was what it would ultimately mean to her family.

“We knew we wanted to update the yard for aesthetics and usability, but I had underestimated just how much it would add to our home and family time,” she says. “It’s so much more than just a yard and plants and patio; it’s the experience of a getaway without having to go anywhere!”