The trend toward outdoor living has been increasing over the years, but it has accelerated by leaps and bounds during the pandemic. Despite Pittsburgh’s unpredictable weather patterns, people are clamoring to spend more time outdoors for as long as possible.
Eisler Landscapes, a design-build landscape contracting firm that is approaching its centennial, was ready to accommodate the surge in client projects.
“People are basically taking what they had, especially things like decks and patios, and making them three times larger—some up to half the size of the house footprint,” said Eric French, president of the Prospect-based company.
“I think people’s lifestyles have changed, and our climate has changed. In Pittsburgh, it used to be that if it was October, that was it, you were done with the outdoors. That doesn’t happen anymore—we’re getting an extra month on each end of the season, and people are taking advantage of it,” he added.
French noted a series of trends that will define backyard living for 2022.
The Grass is Always Greener
In typical Pittsburgh fashion, the city is slightly behind the curve when it comes to certain trends. French said that synthetic turf will become the next big backyard trend in the region, as it is already popular in other parts of the country.
In fact, Eisler is now the local distributor for a company called SYNlawn. A resilient and durable artificial ‘grass’ made with nylon and soy-based fibers that has the advantage of being environmentally friendly, French considers it to be “best in class.”
He adds that synthetic turf is very popular for the area around backyard swimming pools. “When you have natural grass around the pool, it drags in dirt and grass clippings, so it will be a big amenity for people with pools,” he said.
People are also putting in pet runs for their dogs using synthetic turf products. “The turf is specially designed and formulated for pets; it has antibacterial qualities and keeps the odors down. It’s strong and has double the amount of drainage holes,” he said, noting that it also cuts down on dogs bringing muddy paws into the house.
The advantages of synthetic turf are numerous. “Basically, it’s very, very low maintenance once it’s installed,” said French. “If you use a best-in-class product, it will have a 20- to 25-year life cycle.
“There is no mowing, no chemicals, no fertilizer, and no irrigation for 25 years,” he continued. “At the end of the day, it actually has less embodied carbon than regular turf grass over its life cycle. It’s also great for cities and for small lots.”
Other Outdoor Offerings
Another trend French shared is the use of outdoor infrared patio heaters. “With good infrared heaters on your deck, you can extend the season, using your deck or patio earlier and well into November,” he said.
He added that these heaters do require a deck with space underneath, such as an arbor or pergola. These heaters can be installed in people’s existing porch roofs, though they do have high energy consumption.
As for design trends, French said that there’s a big move toward a contemporary look, with horizontal fencing, exposed elements, darker tones like black and gray, and simple, clean lines.
Despite Pittsburgh’s notorious lack of sunny days, French is seeing more and more people install swimming pools. “The swimming pool business is huge; it exploded with COVID, primarily because people were trapped at home,” he said.
He added that wildlife habitat is also trending, with many homeowners putting in pollinator and butterfly gardens with the goal of helping the Monarch butterfly population recover.
Backyard trends carrying over from previous years include perennial planting, ornamental grass, and landscape lighting, though backyard fish ponds are petering out. “People are still doing the traditional landscaped, manicured garden in the front yard, with two trees and a row of neatly clipped yew bushes,” added French.
Founded in 1926, Eisler Landscapes has evolved from a landscape contracting company, branching out into site work, park building, university work, green infrastructure and stormwater projects.
“We have not forgotten our roots; we still do quite a bit of residential landscaping, primarily more sizable projects. We also do backyard redevelopments, outdoor kitchens, porch patio additions and swimming pools,” said French.
The company is essentially a one-stop-shop for clients, serving as a site general contractor. “We are the one phone call they have to make. We coordinate everything,” said French. “We have our own in-house landscape architects and designers, horticulturists, equipment and operators, plumbers, certified gas line installers, carpenters, and concrete finishers. With us, homeowners aren’t chasing around multiple contractors.
“From the time that folks call us, they are partnered with a landscape architect who sees their project through from the concept drawings, estimating and construction, all the way until the end,” he added.
In addition to this comprehensive approach, clients appreciate the concierge level of service that Eisler provides. “When the phone rings, we pick it up. We stand behind our warranty; we don’t disappear. We bring a tremendous value to the table with our knowledge and all of our trained professionals, horticulturists, landscape architects, and the craftsmen to get the job done,” said French.