Your Great Outdoors Small Spacs Can Br Private Getaways

 As today’s cash-strapped homeowners forego vacations in favor of sticking closer to home  (the so-called "staycation") the idea of creating a relaxing, secluded getaway  outside their back door is gaining popularity. Even in a spacious HOA where  neighbors aren't wedged together cheek-by-jowl, having a sense of remove from  the urban or suburban grid is very attractive to many condo owners searching  for a quiet haven. A refreshing oasis. A secret garden. A private retreat.  

 Making Space

 Can the front entry, the backyard terrace, or the deck of a townhouse or  ground-level condominium be transformed into such a space? Jerry Sarno  certainly thinks so. “By having a space designed around the way you like to live, your life will be  happier and more enjoyable,” says the architect, developer and builder. So when he planned Deer Path Farms  in Hudson, Massachusetts, he incorporated his long-held philosophy that  homeowners should be involved in the design process from the beginning—for both the interior spaces and the grounds surrounding their single-family  attached townhouses.  

 The outdoor spaces, Sarno says, “are designed to meet the needs and lifestyles of the people living in the home,  what they aspire to, and how they like to use the space.” Mounded earth, evergreens and other features create private spaces for each  homeowner.  

 But the Deer Path Farms philosophy is not necessarily the norm for  common-interest communities; most condominium owners don't have a hand in  designing their spaces from the start. One of the bigger challenges facing  condo dwellers longing for that private retreat is that HOAs vary widely in  terms of how much land they have available, as well as the restrictions placed  on that land. While a good designer can often do wonders with even a small  plot, any work customizing exterior space around an individual condo has to  comply with an array of constraints. Design professionals advise owners to look  into those constraints and answer some important questions long before anybody  puts spade to soil or starts shopping for planters at the local garden center.  Are residents allowed to plant privacy shrubs on their property lines? What  about fencing? What are the association's rules about bringing contractors onto  the property? A conversation with your property manager can help clear up  questions like these and insure that your project is being carried out within  the rules.  

 According to Attorney David J. Byrne of the Lawrenceville-based law firm of  Stark & Stark, New Jersey condominium law defines what is the owner's space and what  belongs to the condominium collectively.  

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