Rock and roll with metal elements in landscape designs

Designers have more to choose from than fire pits and furniture when incorporating metals into a landscape
Embrace rust as a part of a landscape design when incorporating metal elements.

Planters are an easy and popular way to incorporate metals into a landscape design, according to Amy Sasick, co-founder and designer at Raw Urth in Fort Collins. They have the added benefit that if clients don’t like the look after all, they can easily be swapped out for something else.

But there are some more exciting options for integrating the hard lines and materials of metal work into the softer elements of a landscape.

[Related: 11 outdoor projects to thrill homeowners]

Retaining walls are a high-impact design element for clients with contemporary tastes.

“[It’s] a more modern look when you do a retaining wall out of just a sheet of steel as opposed to something a little bit thicker,” Sasick said.

Metal screens are an overlooked option, according to Sasick. Her company and others like it use fiber laser machines to cut intricate designs into large sheets of metal, creating screens that can be used as a backdrop or against a wall, or to introduce new textures and materials to a landscape; “instead of having your six-foot wood fence to have something that adds a little bit of design and interest.”

“Gone are the days of the wood lattice that you pick up at the hardware store,” she noted.

Design with rust in mind

Regardless of how metal is brought into the space, one of the most important things to remind clients of is the obvious impact that weather will have on it.

“Being comfortable with rust [needs to be] a really high priority for clients who are putting metal outdoors,” Sasick said.

She encourages designers and homeowners to embrace that natural process.

“Rust is gorgeous,” she said. “It’s natural and it’s beautiful. It’s red. It goes great with plants.”

Metal can be very forgiving as it ages, too. “Patinas are a great idea because they’re mottled and you’re basically already weathering that metal,” Sasick said. Metal pieces with a patina will have a clear coat over them, but “even if that clear coat breaks down a little bit and [you] clear coat it over, it’s going to blend in.”

Fire and metal

Fire features are “almost a must for patios at this point,” Sasisk said. “They’re just so comfortable and they’re so inviting.”

[Related: Form and function key to fire pit selection]

However, metal fire features will require some maintenance. Sasick said that although she still creates metal fire features occasionally, her firm has stopped advertising them due to the difficulty in making sure clients have appropriate expectations about the material.

Furthermore, if homeowners want a wood-burning fire pit, they need a very thick bowl because “that fire gets so hot. Propane or natural gas fire features are probably the way to go if you’ve got some sort of metal fire feature.”

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