The Outdoor View

Posted On March 16, 2015

Step into the courtyard of Southern Vistas and you see found objects of all kinds. Fence posts, pieces of gates, stone decorative elements, old trellises. They’re all a part of owner Mark Schimmoeller’s passion for antiques and recyclable objects. Here, a piece of iron fence has become the base for an outdoor table. Over there, an unusual bottle tree creates a beautiful sculpture. A small, metal turtle begs to be taken home.

By Katherine Pettit

Southern Vistas Columbia SC

Step inside, walk past the offices, and you enter a large room filled with antiques, plus newer landscape urns and accessories. It’s all for sale, but clearly, the room is a conglomeration of fascinating items that have caught this Kentucky boy’s artistic eye.

“I moved to Columbia almost 30 years ago, did lots of landscape design work, and became the first landscape architect on staff at USC,” he explained, from an office peppered with awards and plaques. He started his own firm and for more than 25 years has been actively involved in landscape design/build. He’s also a licensed general contractor. His is the perfect marriage of science and art. “I love looking over property and developing a master plan, but I also enjoy turning that plan into reality,” he said. To accomplish those goals, Schimmoeller works with other knowledgeable artists, including some of the best in the business. “I work with professionals who are tops in their respective fields,” he shared. “I demand top quality, and look at every project as offering the opportunity to form a lasting relationship.”

His clients include both private homes and large commercial properties. Among his most notable achievements have been landscape awards for his work at Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Lake Carolina, and the rose garden at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Likewise, private residences that showcase his work have won awards, as well as numerous referrals and repeat clients from happy customers.

A more recent award-winning project has been the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Memorial, located at Fort Jackson. It contains more than 300 names of all the chaplains and chaplain assistants who, since 1775, have fallen as a result of being in a combat situation.

The scale is quite different in designing for a private home, but many of the materials used are the same.

“People want outdoor living space that’s well-designed and well-constructed for themselves and their families and friends,” he explained. He visits the property, studies the existing structures and develops a plan that ties it all together and looks as if it’s been there since original construction.

“Some clients want pools while others want water features or fountains,” he said, noting that firepits and outdoor kitchens are very popular – much more so than they were ten years ago. “People want to cook and entertain outside, yet be convenient to the home.” The materials that can be used are almost endless, including stone or granite, or perhaps a brick veneer. Beauty with functionality and sustainability is important. The more creative the project is, the more interesting it is to this artist and he has his favorite materials, including Pennsylvania Blue Stone, brown and green stone, and Virginia field stone. The company uses Lowcountry pavers for many jobs. “They are so aesthetically pleasing,” says Schimmoeller. For waterscapes, they usually build their own. Fountains are available from top quality suppliers.

Frequently, the water features and outdoor rooms will be enhanced by nearby rose or camellia gardens, or perhaps greenscaping. When that’s part of the design, Schimmoeller includes color, fragrance and texture in the master plan. Pathways often lead from one focal point to the next. Arbors and gazebos offer appealing stops, and for many, swimming pools become the primary anchor, with outdoor “rooms” adjacent.

What’s his next project? There are a number of them in process. He does more commercial work now, but is always interested in a private home with a creative opportunity. “I love what I do and especially being involved in every aspect of the process. And when I can incorporate the finest natural materials, coupled with the work of master artisans, and create an area that speaks to people at their deepest level, then I know I’ve done my job

Living Large

There are so many ways to enjoy the beauty we call home.

By Katie Osteen

Everyone with a spare inch of nature to call their own is sprucing up their earth to increase living space. These aren’t merely decks and porches anymore; outdoor living has reached new heights.

“I ask my clients how they intend to use their outdoor area,” says Joan Goodwin of Verandah Interiors. “The outdoors has now become a greater extension of the life within the home. People are using more comfort-oriented furnishings and they’re also looking toward a more healthful lifestyle, by growing herbs and animal-friendly shrubs, and planting for their own use, rather than simply flowers and greenery.”

Fred Gantt, owner of Hay Hill Services, is creating more outdoor kitchens and putting in lots of swimming pools. “We are doing lots of outdoor living areas,” he explained. Hay Hill Services has almost 45 employees and artisans who use blue stone from Pennsylvania, travertine and granite to design and build attractive living areas that withstand the elements. “We’re using aggragate concrete, utilizing oyster shells or rock salt to create texture or a dimpling effect which adds appeal,” he explained. Their staff and contractors are top-notch professionally and award-winning for their work.

Goodwin likes that the whole family is more involved in enjoying an outdoor lifestyle, and she enjoys helping her clients create a comfort environment. “There are lots of fabrics now that are outdoor-friendly,” she explained. “Indoor-outdoor fabrics are more comfortable than ever, look more luxurious and have a plush feel to them. If the outdoor area is an extension of the home, the colors should follow the established palette. If it’s an exterior area, poolside or patio, then I say do what you like.” Goodwin uses colors that often complement the home, and likes teals and berry colors. “It’s always great to have your neutrals, then add that pop of color that can be changed as your tastes change,” she says. “It’s easy for your décor to look old very quickly.”

A firm believer in quality, that standard is even more important when working outdoors.

That’s Dottie Reynolds’ philosophy as well. The owner of Casual Living says that “Outdoor living is no longer a trend. It’s a lifestyle which nearly everyone who owns a home desires. The degree to which one is willing to invest in the outdoor lifestyle may vary, but those who can, are investing an increased amount of time, money and space to fulfill their needs. The inclusion of an outdoor kitchen is rising in home renovations as well as new home construction.”

Reynolds also advocates a heat source such as a fire pit or fireplace. She says that relaxing and spending time with family and friends outside at home is not a poor man’s night out, but an evolving social event that is looked at with the eager pleasure of being casual, comfortable, and unpretentious.  

Fred Gantt’s design build firm works with their clients through the entire process. Fountains and water features are very popular, and outdoor lighting remains a very appealing way to strategically light certain aspects of the outside area, and offer landscaping that stands the test of time. Hay Hill creates “landscaping personalities based on the clients’ needs for relaxation, entertainment, and the local environment. Garden walls offer unique focal points and hardscapes add still more dimension to the outdoor living space.

“For homeowners planning to sell, landscaping for curb appeal can make a huge difference,” he says. And if you’re planning to stay forever, he recommends an unused portion of the yard be considered as a peaceful garden space with water features, or an active play area for children or grandchildren.

For some, it’s a casual space to entertain family and friends, or watch the youngsters play. Others create a private space as a retreat where one can relax and unwind with little distraction other than admiring flowers, feeding the birds, or listening to the fountain.

Joan Goodwin reminds folks to buy to last. “This is an area where, ideally, you should go to an outdoor living store and purchase the best outdoor cushions money can buy,” she says. “You never arrive at the look you want if you are constantly redoing. Quality furnishings make a huge difference.”

For those seeking a broader knowledge of design, Goodwin will soon be teaching interior design classes, for those with an interest in learning about design for their homes or businesses. More information can be found at vcustomdesigns.com.

Fred Gantt suggests that an integrated approach, with one set of experts overseeing the design and work, will create a finished product that is more cost-effective and ultimately, more satisfying to the homeowners. With knowledgeable professionals who have access to the best materials and stonemasons, the work will last and maintain its appeal.

Dottie Reynolds sees families shopping together in search of a patio set to fill up space. It’s a favored project, she says, that allows household members to look forward to planning together. Knowing that this is the place to be used to unwind and have fun, purchasing the furnishings for this area is, typically, a shared task. It speaks volumes that this one room “in” the house receives so much interest and shared goals for the desired outcome.

Start Planning

So now it’s time to walk around your outdoor space and imagine what it could be and do for your family and friends. Then, take advantage of the experts with ideas and knowledge to transform a simple piece of dirt into the favorite destination for all.  

Five Questions for Wally Steinhauser, Wingard’s Nursery

1)     What are some of the ways outdoor living has changed during the past ten years? 

Generally, people want to "live" outside and are adding outdoor rooms with kitchens, lighting and structures to make entertaining unique and enjoyable.

2) When folks come to the nursery, what are they generally seeking to enhance  their outdoor living areas? 

Many seek not only to improve or add outdoor living, but to improve their "curb appeal," to add beauty and value to their property through the addition of brightly colored containers, flowers, etc. We’ve put lots of ideas filmed at our nursery on our website.

3) What types of planters do you recommend for people who want to add planters to their space, but also want sturdy enough to withstand the elements? 

If it’s for flowers, we always recommend glazed ceramic containers ... they are colorful, heavy and generally can withstand the elements.  There are also two containers for herbs and vegetables; one is the EarthBox Gardening System, perfect for limited spaces on a patio or deck; another is the Square Foot Gardening System, which is a little larger, and is a raised 4'X 4' bed, perfect for those with a little more space and a very efficient way to grow vegetables.

4) What would your perfect outdoor living area look like?

It all starts with the colors of your home.  If your home is painted in a neutral color (white, beige, etc.), it can be enlivened with brightly colored containers ... Cobalt Blue, Burgundy, Yellow, etc., have been consistently popular colors.  If your home is not a neutral color, then, like designing an interior space, just need to pick out the right colors to accentuate the area.

5) What’s one of the best innovations you've seen for outdoor living? 

In this area, outdoor kitchens and firepits, integrated into a jacuzzi and swimming pool area, all covered by a redwood pergola are among my favorites. There's no limit to the imagination or the space.