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North Hills Monthly

Outdoor Living Spaces Focus on Four Seasons

Apr 01, 2018 09:32AM ● By Marcie Barlow

Eisler Landscaping

The days are starting to get warmer, and with more daylight hours, many homeowners are beginning to think about what renovations are needed to turn their backyards into prime outdoor living spaces—and not just for summer.

“The biggest thing that lets you extend the season is the fire feature; it gives you an earlier start being outside in spring and takes you into the winter,” said Jawn Funyak of Funyak Landscapes, L.P., which provides design, installation and maintenance services to clients throughout Pittsburgh. “People are installing everything from casual fire pits to large stone fireplace structures to extend the life of the season.”

Eric French, president of Eisler Landscaping, agreed. “Outdoor fireplaces and outdoor sitting areas are becoming more popular in the area, and often include bars, televisions, masonry fireplaces and ceiling fans to keep these areas cool,” he explained. Eisler Landscaping and Eisler Nurseries have been in business since 1926, and they are known for creating quality projects ranging from outdoor fireplaces to backyard decks and patios. The nursery portion of the business offers more than 150 varieties of trees to area landscapers and contractors.  

While some homeowners prefer to light their own fires, options include fireplaces with gas igniters to make it easy to get the flames going. “You can also get a gas insert with fake logs, so when you’re ready to go inside, you just turn it off,” said Funyak.

In addition to fire features, outdoor kitchens are becoming the rage as well.

“We are also seeing more homeowners opting out of a family vacation and investing that money into a backyard deck or patio as well as outdoor kitchens and living areas,” said Grunden Landscaping owner Robert Grunden. “More of our clients are seeing their backyards as an extension of their homes; many are including covered patios and outdoor living areas with complete kitchens as ways to utilize this space throughout the year rather than just during the summer months.”

Grunden said that some higher-end outdoor kitchens cost between $80,000 and $100,000, but that this investment easily translates into a higher resale value for the home, so it is an investment that homeowners are willing to make. They also like the ability to cook outside in almost any season.

“We had one client who hosted her annual Thanksgiving dinner in her newly completed outdoor kitchen,” said Grunden.

Karen Wilson, marketing manager at Betterliving Patio & Sunrooms of Pittsburgh, agreed with Grunden’s assessment of the year-round trend. “Many of our customers are looking for sunrooms since they can be utilized throughout the year,” she said. “These areas provide stunning views of nature that are gathering and entertainment places for friends and families in each of the four seasons.”

Screen rooms are another alternative that Betterliving provides. “These bug-free outdoor spaces are excellent alternatives for spending time outside with friends and family,” said Wilson. Betterliving’s screen rooms include roof panels with built-in gutters to provide a more durable and visually pleasing aesthetic.

While people love to spend time outside, they don’t necessarily want that time to be spent working. Homeowners are looking for ways to save time doing maintenance so that they can relax and enjoy time off.

This is one reason that groundcover has become a popular trend. “With everyone being so busy, many clients are looking for a foliage and flower combination that can spread under trees, down embankments, and wherever the mower won’t reach,” explained Grunden. “Groundcovers have become a low-maintenance and attractive solution to some of the problems that homeowners face. It can help prevent erosion in areas with heavy rainfall or that is prone to wind, and it can become an easy, long-lasting alternative to a demanding, high-maintenance lawn.”

Container gardening is also one of the top trends for 2018. As millennials and retirees move to smaller living quarters, it means that they have less space for gardening. Containers are a way for those living with smaller outdoor spaces to create an oasis for pollinators in areas where they often need it most. It’s also a fantastic way for home gardeners to grow their own food as there are plenty of new dwarf vegetable varieties from which to choose.

Even for those with larger gardens, containers are an increasingly popular way to dress up porches, patios, window boxes and entryways, or to create a low-commitment color combination that can be changed from year to year.

“People are looking for less maintenance, which is one reason why they are looking to native plants, and the concept of Xeriscaping,” added Funyak of the desire for yards to be filled with plants that don’t require as much water or care. “While many people enjoy gardening, they don’t want to have to do it every weekend.”

Some homeowners are even turning to artificial turf to replace grass in high-traffic areas, or around pools where a slip on concrete could cause injury. “People are also installing recreation areas in their backyards like putting greens and bocce courts and covering them with artificial turf,” said Funyak, adding that today’s artificial turf products have come a long way, and they now resemble natural lawn areas compared to the green indoor-outdoor carpeting that people may have used in the past on porches or in breezeways.

Funyak also suggested that those who want to avoid maintenance chores hire a company that will provide comprehensive property maintenance. “Now is the time to get someone lined up to take care of all of the landscape elements, from putting fresh mulch in beds to pruning shrubs to cleaning water features,” he said. “We provide these services, so that all homeowners have to do with their yards is enjoy them.” 

For more information and to see pictures of outdoor living projects, visit Eisler Landscapes at, Grunden Landscaping at, Betterliving Patios and Sunrooms of Pittsburgh at and Funyak Landscapes at