From outdoor kitchens to pools and ponds, our local experts share their secrets for refining your backyard oasis
By DAVID HOWELL
It’s no big secret that Wilmington sees some of the nicest weather the tar-heel state has to offer. We typically host a long summer, a mild fall with dashes of summer in between, a warmer winter with a few weeks of actual cold, about two weeks of spring and then… the long summer begins anew.
Our trek through the fours seasons is nice. However, there are notable times throughout the year when an outdoor fireplace mingles well with the patio, and the wind turns cold enough to make you want to turn your back porch into a sunroom. As spring closes in on us, here are some local companies that will make sure your home has all the seasonal settings you require.
Trey Fulcher is proud to run a family-owned business serving Wilmington for over 28 years. They offer quality, mid-level to high-end outdoor furnishings and accessories. The store and staff are dedicated to customer service and pride themselves on a deep knowledge of their industry.
“One recent project,” says Fulcher, “was for a very modern home along the waterway, and the owners wanted to continue the contemporary look into their outdoor areas.”
Keeping in mind the location and its harshness - sun, salt, sand, wind – Leisure World’s pros created a fabulous blend of three mediums. Using stainless steel, teak and glass-reinforced concrete they were able to create a comfortable lounge area alongside a fire pit. They used concrete tables to add functional accents.
“It turned out to be everything the home owners could hope for,” said Fulcher. “We also continued the same look to their poolside, with chaise lounges facing out over the waterway and large oak trees nearby.” To keep the project simple and elegant, it was all done in a clean, neutral color scheme, with only some ceramic pieces and flowers to provide pops of color.
“It is our job to work with our clients to create an attractive, comfortable and long-lasting outdoor area.” With nearly three decades of experience in their craft, Leisure World strives to be the outdoor living design experts in the Cape Fear region. “By discussing the wants and needs of the client, we are able to direct them to the appropriate collections, work with materials, fabrics and spacing, and put it all together to create that special area.”
The company has a wide array of services, and no job is too small or too big. They have done everything from a small condo balcony to multi-million dollar mansions. “We take pride in being able to relate and work all sorts of projects.” Fulcher says. In a region where people live in their outdoor areas almost as much as their interiors, Leisure World’s goal is to make those exterior spaces every bit as comfortable and welcoming as where their clients lay their heads at night.
Photo ref near spine: Finley Photo Chris Campbell
The Stone Garden features both natural and cultured stone, as well as mulch, ponds, fountains and garden ornaments. Their expertise is outdoor garden rooms, and owner Nina Brown recently shared a couple of projects with us that speak to Stone Garden’s aesthetic.
“Anthony and Lauren Fuhrer visited us last July to get ideas for an outdoor room.” They toured our Inspiration Garden trying to find the perfect fit for their fireplace and patio. Ultimately, they asked Brown for a mason referral. She suggested mason Doug McGraw of McGraw Hardscapes. “He installed a beautiful fireplace and patio for them.”
After a few consultations and lots of discussion about the look and feel they wanted, McGraw suggested using a 6” thick piece of TN Sandstone for the hearthstone to provide a truly rustic look. He also incorporated three TN Spring Lake boulders for the base of the built-in seating walls. Finally they laid a beautiful, bluish-brown Oklahoma flagstone that would both complement and contrast with the fireplace stone.
The Fuhrers other requirement was to do all this locally. “We both value local, small businesses and wanted to utilize the best resources available to us in the local area, which is why we chose McGraw Hardscapes, Stone Garden, Old Growth Riverwood Company and Pender Pines,” said Lauren Fuhrer. “We often describe our outdoor space and fireplace as a functional piece of art. It may be outside, but it's quickly becoming the heart of our home, a place to gather and be with our family and friends.”
“Another notable project,” says Brown, “was an outdoor fountain and patio for the Finley Family.”
According to Joe Finley, “it’s really been a work in progress for some time now. We worked with Blair Walton at Element Outdoor Living to create a unique and truly inviting space.”
A work in progress indeed, the property has been developed over the past five to six years with a special custom project implemented in 2015. That project incorporates a bluestone terrace cantilevered over a natural pond and waterfall, that is as tranquil as it is remarkable to look at. They have color-changing fiber optic lighting under a completely custom 23' diameter, circular aluminum pergola that is one of a kind.
The entire outdoor room is surrounded by lush plantings with a turf pathway leading you to the space, with a bluestone bridge over a multi-colored river rock streambed that actively functions as a drainage swale. “It was a wooded area that we had cleared, and we went back and forth on what to do with the space for some time,” said Finley. “Working with so many talented professionals, it really has become an amazing space.”
Low Country Landscaping
Photos by KELLY STARBUCK PHOTOGRAPHY and ALICIA HAWLEY
Low Country Landscaping handles projects ranging from yard renovations to brand-new installations in many areas in the region. Whether you are looking to update your lawn with sod, or start a new plan from scratch for your entire property, owner Scott Hinson and his crew can install everything from elegant outdoor lighting and music systems to outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. No matter the project, the team is dedicated to providing their clients with personalized, professional service.
In the cape fear region, you can see all kinds of landscapes, and Hinson incorporates a lot of the natural fixtures our coastal environment has given us in nature. Spanish moss, live oaks, crape myrtles and colorful azaleas, Oleanders and sub-tropical palms surround us daily around Wilmington and provide projects with lush and vibrant landscapes.
“There are a lot of landscaping companies to choose from in our area. What separates us from our competition is over fifteen years of experience, the relationships we’ve established with our existing customers and our continuous dedication for delivering high quality landscaping design, installation and maintenance services.”
Low Country Landscaping begins all of their outdoor living spaces by designing an area that compliments the home and its architectural and historic style. Those aspects, combined with what accommodates the clients intended uses and desires, provide the personal and professional element for which they have become so well known.
Hinson and his team take their work to another level by working with area-renowned master craftsmen to create pergolas, arbors, gazebos, even screened, open air or Bahama-shuttered outdoor living structures.
Hinson’s wife, Nicole – an interiors expert – also works with the company and lends an extra pair of expert eyes to each one of their landscape designs.
They also provide lawn and landscape maintenance. Turf management, seasonal color installation, insect and disease control, tree and shrub care and irrigation system design are all included in the range of services Low Country Landscaping is proud to provide.
With over three thousand installations to their credit, Porch Conversion has become Wilmington’s source for dependable, experienced sunrooms. They have licensed residential and commercial contractors on staff, are a member of National Sunroom Association, and they offer you a lifetime warranty unsurpassed on the work they do. Last but certainly not least, from 2012 to 2014 they won the Angie’s List Super Service Award.
All sunrooms, porches, patios, and screened-in porches are customized and designed to look like they were originally constructed with the house. In addition, they provide their customers a broad line of windows and doors, including vertical or horizontal sliding doors and fixed panels.
There is no shortage of professional expertise set to match and personalize each of their clients’ needs. The goal of Porch Conversion is to help their clients enhance their lifestyle by expanding their living space, and creating a room or area that welcomes the four seasons in all of their soft and subtle changes.
Just as every home is its own unique blend of the owner’s lifestyle and the architecture of the house they inhabit, every sunroom designed and built by Porch Conversion requires an expert level of mastery and skill. It’s not always easy to make an interior space that works to make you feel comfortable in any kind of weather outside. And Porch Conversion’s dedication to turning a deck or an original screened in porch into something no one would otherwise know was new, speaks to their constructional craft and architectural talent.
Custom Home Staging and Design
According to Mary Hannah Giebel, “We always strive to highlight the fact that Wilmington has such wonderful weather year-round, to both new and repeat local buyers with the high quality outdoor staging we provide.” The objective for Custom Home Staging and Design in designing an outdoor space is to extend the livable square footage of a house, increase value and create that feeling of home.
“Our mission is to serve and help sell homes for local, regional and national builders as well as local renovators, realtors and sellers with our staging services,” says Giebel. Custom Home Staging and Design’s expertise allows buyers to mentally move in. From the indoor to the outdoor areas they answer the questions that buyers have about how the space lives, explaining why 90% of the homes they stage sell in the first 30 days. Giebel stresses that their values are focused on the relationships they build with their clients.
Custom Home Staging and Design offers a full range of home staging services. Giebel heads up the staging rental portion of the business, which keeps the company’s pricing friendly for everyone and allows each home to have a fresh, modern look.
“Once the home sells, often times the homebuyer will be interested in some or all of our furnishings. That enthused buyer then meets with Julie Glew, one of our top designers who heads up the purchasing side of our business.” Glew offers space planning, custom design options and much more to homebuyers.
“Our hope for every client is that they know we care about them, that we are here to elevate the home staging standard locally and that our top priority is helping them sell their home as quickly as possible, for as much as possible,” says Giebel.