Outdoor Design Trends For Retail And Mixed-use Properties

bamboo grasses.jpgLandscape design for retail areas can be challenging. You’ve got to take a lot of things into account, including safety, accessibility, and economy of space as well as aesthetic appeal. In mixed-use situations, factoring in the needs of residential occupants adds to the challenge.

One big thing to remember when designing retail landscapes is that this space comes at a premium. Parking, utilities, buildings and other infrastructure all must share limited space, so one always has to be thinking about how to best get ROI on amenities spaces. A well-planned installation can successfully tie the disparate elements of the retail landscape together to create a sense of unity in design, even while economizing on space.

Here are some trending outdoor design ideas that are worth considering for retail and mixed-use applications:

Lawn Areas

A small patch of turf can soften the landscape around retail areas, and is often especially welcome in mixed-use neighborhoods where residents don’t have the luxury of a private back yard. Including plenty of comfortable seating allows shoppers and employees to get away from the stress and bustle of the retail environment for a few minutes, and encourages social interaction.

Architectural Lighting

Light speaks to the soul. The lighting you choose for your retail location will definitely affect the mood and behavior of the occupants. We favor architectural landscape lighting over site lighting for many retail projects. Rather than illuminating the scene with a blisteringly bright 40 foot light pole, a more artistic approach creates a softer, more welcoming nighttime ambiance. It’s possible to create beautiful effects with lighting that make the space more attractive while still maintaining a safe, well-lit environment after sundown.

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Village Aesthetic

After several decades dominated by sleek, high-tech design, we are starting to see a return to a more human, handmade sort of aesthetic. Our culture is shifting towards a search for authenticity, and the new look reflects that. Natural surfaces, weathered hues, and varied textures that invite a tactile experience combine to speak to the spirit and soul of the maker. It’s a blend of rustic and sophisticated: think old world European piazza, or a Japanese tea house sort of look.


bubble.jpgFountains often played a central role in Mediterranean cultures for a reason. They brought a cool, peaceful funk to a place and they still do - especially here in the hot South where a cool fountain provides welcome relief.

Fountains, in my humble opinion, need to be appropriately scaled and designed for their space. Think Golden Mean or Fibonacci. There should be a special punishment for not scaling fountains appropriately. Fountain design is a specialized skill and needs to be done right - bearing in mind their function and true classical proportions.


In keeping with the authenticity aesthetic, today’s trends are focused on quality of life amenities. Nowhere is this more apparent than when we consider play areas.

Parents today tend to be more engaged in the child’s world than yesterday’s drop-off generation. A decade ago playgrounds were all about equipment, Now, it’s less about structure than about creating places where people can gather together. Less about having overt play equipment, and more about peaceful green spaces where you can open up your ipad and let the kids run.

Appealing to this mindset means creating an environment that’s more conducive to developing a child’s mind than a plastic play set. Naturalistic plantings, sound and water effects, outdoor fireplaces and rolling terrain that invites children and adults to explore and experience the environment around them are all welcome additions that attract people of all ages into the space.

Upgrading Your Retail Property?

Whether you are building a new retail development or are looking to revitalize an existing retail or mixed use neighborhood, your choice of landscape design can significantly impact both the property’s ROI and the quality of life of the users. For the most successful and cost-effective installation, each element of the landscape must be carefully considered. Call us to explore the best options for your specific needs: 478-750-7733 (Macon branch) or 478-272-3878 (East Dublin location). Or, contact us online, and we’ll be in touch soon!

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Topics: Landscape Architecture