Modani Blog

Urban Oasis Creates a Special Place


Special places are created with thought as to the function of the space as well as the intended ambience. While private urban outside spaces are more difficult to come by as land is always at a premium, the opportunities for capitalizing on their potential should always be taken advantage of. A terrace, a patio even an alley access can all be possibilities. The key is to look for its strong points and build the space around it. Finding a way to connect the inside to the outside also enhances the extension of the interior living space making it feel larger as one room seems to flow seamlessly into the next.

One of the first challenges most people have to contend with is pocket spaces and access to the land itself. Instead of looking at this as a problem, turn it into motivation to maximize the minimal. Since modern design champions clean, minimalistic lines, this might be an excellent jumping off point for a design concept as well.

These bits of urban spaces waiting to be made into design jewels sparkle best with a clear concept from the start. Clearly function and form will have to be addressed simultaneously. Modern outdoor furniture with its clean, no frill lines complements perfectly the strong architectural elements present usually defined by the walls of the building and neighboring buildings as well.  Reinforce this strength by bringing in elements that emphasize strong lines and clarity of form such as modern sectionals, deck chairs, dining tables, planters and vases. The emphasis should be on underscoring the vertical elements and distinguishing them from the horizontal with smooth, crisp lines emphasized by form, color and materials.

The vegetation should be selected to reinforce the modern feel with the repetition of line, volume and scale; all of the most basic design elements through leaf form and color. A repetitive use of color in a small space can pack a big punch. Echoing this same color palette in the modern outdoor furniture, either through accent pillows, an umbrella canvas or in the furniture itself can create a nice synergy of elements playing seamlessly between the softscape and hardscape elements.

Softscape refers to the plantings, furniture and other accessory items usually movable and easily interchanged. Hanging lanterns and twinkling sets of lights set off a night scene turning the most routine of nights into something special. It doesn’t take much to create a sense of retreat particularly cherished and appreciated in urban spaces. Plants should be hardy and provide strong form. A larger singular tree can provide a visual anchor to the space. A few well-placed plants in a few strategically placed containers reads better than a clutter of pots thrown together. In small spaces, it begins to feel closed in and not cozy, a fine line that needs to be observed.

Hardscape refers to the items that structurally define the space: pavers, tiles, pergolas, trellises and built-ins. Try to not overdo built-in planters and fixed seating. As easy as it is to maintain making it a popular choice, it does limit the flexibility of the space. Softscape needs to be able to be moved as needed which is an important part of making an urban oasis work well. Before investing in constructing something more permanent such as a pergola or a deck, find out if a permit is required. In wind prone areas such as Houston and Miami, this is of particular concern and probably required by code.

One last element to consider in your special space away from place is smell. Adding a fragrant twining vine that drips from that large tree might be just the element that lets you breathe in and enjoy your perfect urban oasis!


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