When it comes to entertaining during the summertime, there’s no better spot in Minnesota than outside near a lake. Kyle and Eileen Heitkamp have a nice view of Lake Minnetonka through the windows of their Minnetrista home, but two years ago, they couldn’t seem to draw people outside to enjoy it.
“It seemed like we had one focal area,” remembers Kyle Heitkamp. “Everyone would hang out in the kitchen inside of the house.”
So the Heitkamps contracted a local landscaping company to put in an expansive patio project that would draw people outside to enjoy their lakefront backyard.
“Now we have three separate areas in the backyard and people utilize the whole space,” says Heitkamp. The couple’s three children play sports and the family routinely hosts after-game parties to enjoy their new addition. “We’re casual entertainers and we tell everyone to come on over,” he says.
When designing their patio project, the Heitkamps shared their ideas with Mom’s Landscaping & Design in Shakopee. “They took us to a completely different level,” says Heitkamp. The collaboration with designer Becca Bastyr produced an award-winning design that included an eating space, lounging area and ever-popular fire features.
“Fire is huge right now,” says Bastyr. “Eight years ago, everyone wanted fire pits with Adirondack chairs around it. Now, that’s going by the wayside.” Instead, Bastyr says customers want fireplaces that are fueled by gas and ignite with the flick of a switch. “These are entertainment spaces away from your home,” she says.
Whatever features you want in a patio area, Bastyr says to think first about space. “In lakefront homes, houses are squeezed close together, so you want to think about where a patio will be in location to your house and your neighbor’s house so you have privacy,” said Bastyr. Also, when designing new features for your property, it’s very important to check with local government agencies to ensure you are meeting proper safety requirements.
Landscaping lakeshore properties requires special attention to the lake itself. “You want to be cautious about the watershed and lakeshore disturbance,” says Craig Frick, owner of Superior Lawn and Landscape out of St. Bonifacius. Frick says many new products can be compatible with lakeshore living, and require research in order to find the right product for your home and needs. “Now, they have new permeable pavers with a new instillation technique where rain goes into the paver and doesn’t shed the water,” he says.
By checking with a professional first, Frick says you can create a plan that might alleviate future headaches. “You don’t want to do anything without planning it right the first time,” he says. Frick notes many people do extensive landscaping—complete with irrigation—then want to add a patio later. Often, he says, this results in wasted effort and money for the homeowner. “Developing a good plan is always a good place to start,” comments Frick.
Glenn Ray, president of Masterpiece Landscape in Minnetonka, says the best advice for patio projects is to think about beauty. “Some patios look like an ugly invasion of a beautiful ground. They look awful,” says Ray. “If you are going to eat there and have the same view you would have in your house, you might as well eat in your kitchen.” Ray is partial to patios that require a walk-through a garden to a unique setting. “They are set apart so you know you are in another world,” he says.
Ray recommends educating yourself by driving around to see what you like. Pay special attention to what works for a property and what doesn’t. “Don’t hire anybody until you, the homeowner, can look around and see what is beautiful in landscaped grounds,” says Ray. “There’s no special vocabulary required. When you see what’s beautiful, then you can improve the grounds at your own house.”