Outdoor Living Designer Joshua Gillow Designs with Natural Stone
Joshua Gillow, founder and lead designer for MasterPLAN Outdoor Living, has been an outdoor living designer for about 20 years
MasterPLAN Outdoor Living is a design/build firm located in Eastern Pennsylvania that specializes in backyard transformations to enhance our clients’ lives. At MasterPLAN, they love nature and they thoroughly enjoy creating spaces that bring family and friends closer together. MasterPLAN tends to gain inspiration from the existing home architecture and translate the existing materials into their signature structural aesthetic when creating these new outdoor living spaces. With Josh’s background in architecture, he has found that tying their outdoor features, like roof systems, into the home is not only aesthetically pleasing but provides several benefits to their clients. Extending a homeowner’s livable space, creating an overhead shield from the weather and a seamless indoor-to-outdoor transition all enhance the functionality of their spaces. These extraordinary outdoor living spaces are the result of the five-star client experiences they sustain from start to finish and beyond. With MasterPLAN, a long-term relationship and friendship with their clients is the goal.
How did you first develop an interest in outdoor living design?
JG:Growing up in my parent’s garden center, it was almost my destiny to end up in my career path. Learning about plants and trees lifecycles first hand peeked my interest at an early age and being raised in the country it was like food for the soul. Having lots of time to explore the nursery, play in trees and ultimately connect with nature at every turn, I can reflect and say I have always had a fondness in nature and its ability to calm and sooth. I feel that with this upbringing, I have the aptitude to bring this feeling to my client’s spaces and connect them back with nature to subconsciously improve their outdoor experiences.
What were some of your first design experiences as a professional or as a student?
JG:One of my first projects as a designer was a simple water feature for a client’s backyard. This water feature had a waterfall, lush landscaping and a nice calm space for koi and goldfish. For as simple as this project request was, the result turned out beautiful, tranquil and exactly what the client was trying to describe in few words. I found that by translating the homeowner’s thoughts into a project that was exactly what they were looking for, I was really onto something. Once I realized that no matter the scale, outdoor living projects really do impact people’s lives! From this very first positive experience, I realized I could make a difference and that willed me to learn more and make a career out of it.
How often does your company use stone and/or tile in its designs?
JG:MasterPLAN likes to incorporate natural and cultured stone veneer in our designs as much as possible. Ultimately our goal is to tie into the existing materials used in the construction of the home so that the outdoor living space doesn’t look like an afterthought. I prefer to use natural stone as much as possible because there is something very simple, yet beautiful and timeless about it. Natural stone really adds a pure and solid connection to the surrounding environment that can’t be easily duplicated by other materials.
Unfortunately, here in the northeast, using tile outdoors can prove to be very risky. I do, however, like to incorporate tile in my outdoor designs if the space is enclosed or has an overhead protection from the elements.
How would you describe your company’s design philosophy?
JG:In three adjectives: clean, bold and timeless. Staying true to the architecture of a home, creating a seamless indoor-to-outdoor transition, making efficient use of every square inch, paying attention to details and implementing a curvilinear design style helps bridge the gap between the structure of a home and its natural outdoor environment is what helps MasterPLAN create outdoor living spaces that blur the lines of inside and outside.
What’s a project that you have done with stone and/or tile that you’re proud of, talk about it a bit
JG:One project that comes to mind is located in Center Valley, PA. This project utilized a lot of hand-chiseled natural stacked stone veneer to perfectly match the existing stone in the architecture of the home. We designed a tropical hardwood deck that is anchored by this stone pillar. The topical hardwood and natural stone play off of each other in so many ways. The rich smoothness of the hardwood boards and the ruggedness of the stone creates a beautiful partnership of materials. This combination of stone and hardwood create a cozy yet sophisticated atmosphere to the property.
How do you go about choosing stone for a project?
JG:The first thing we do is look at the property and the home to see if stone already exists. If there is stone incorporated in the home, nine times out of 10, we will use that same stone or stone that matches or complements it. Typically, we don’t like to introduce several different stones and colors in one project because it won’t end up looking appealing and it ultimately becomes overwhelming. We find that less variety of stone on one project is far more impactful and timeless, giving the space longevity.
What advice would you offer to a young designer?
JG:Design in a style that you love and the right people will line up to share your vision. Always be true to your passion and don’t sacrifice your creativity for other’s narrow-sightedness. Be open to taking risks with your designs and offer solutions that are bold or a bit outside of the box. Surround yourself with designers and professionals that are more experienced than you are because it is an excellent way to grow and learn firsthand. Lastly, always look for opportunities to challenge yourself and grow your curiosity, you will find that this will make you a more well-rounded artist!
What are some trends you are seeing out there right now with stone and tile?
JG:I see people use more natural and cultured stone in outdoor living spaces as opposed to simple concrete block walls. This is comforting to me because others share in the same vision of a property with uniform materials. I have really seen a shift in homeowners valuing aesthetic over a set budget.
Also, stone manufacturers are creating new blends and styles of natural stone to better serve a wider market. Paver companies are now starting to partner with large porcelain patio tile that can hold up to the elements, especially our northeast hard winter conditions. These tiles provide us with an opportunity to bring a texture that is typically reserved for the inside of the home, outside. This further strengthens the indoor-to-outdoor transition that we aim to incorporate into all of our projects.
Why have you been focusing on using natural stone more in your designs?
JG: I personally love the natural rustic aesthetic that you can only get from natural stone. I love that it doesn’t have issues that cultured stones can produce, like efflorescence. I also love the idea that this natural stone has been around for millions of years and now we get to implement it into our designs and display it in a natural and beautiful light for everyone to see and admire. This stone also holds up better to weather conditions and holds its color infinitely.
“MasterPLAN likes to incorporate natural and cultured stone veneer in our designs as much as possible. Ultimately our goal is to tie into the existing materials used in the construction of the home so that the outdoor living space doesn’t look like an afterthought. I prefer to use natural stone as much as possible because there is something very simple, yet beautiful and timeless about it. Natural stone really adds a pure and solid connection to the surrounding environment that can’t be easily duplicated by other materials.”
“I see people use more natural and cultured stone in outdoor living spaces as opposed to simple concrete block walls. This is comforting to me because others share in the same vision of a property with uniform materials. I have really seen a shift in homeowners valuing aesthetic over a set budget.”