Backyard Luxury Without the Luxury Prices

"Affordable" and "luxury" never used to be words you'd see cozied up together -- luxury, after all, implies a lifestyle the average person can't afford!

But much has changed with our changing economy. The once-contradictory notion of low-cost luxury is fast becoming the new operating philosophy of the savvy homeowner: How can I capture the most extravagance for the least money?

Well, for starters, consider a well-made hammock.

A quality hammock is one of the most economical face-lifts you can give your back yard, confirms Walter R. Perkins III, CEO of The Hammock Source, home to such trendsetting brands as The Original Pawleys Island Rope Hammock and Hatteras Hammocks.

"With a good hammock, you look and feel lavish without having to spend lavishly," Perkins explains.

Paired with an attractive powder-coated steel stand or a luxuriously curved cypress-wood stand, a quality rope or fabric hammock quickly becomes the sumptuous centerpiece of any deck, patio or poolside, or a lovely, functional addition to a large flower garden.

"People tend to be really surprised how just having a hammock there makes the whole area seem that much more luxurious and comfortable," says J.R. Pelletier, manager of TheHammockCompany.com, an international leader in hammock sales.

"For a couple hundred dollars' investment," Perkins notes, "not only have you just boosted the visual appeal of your property, but you've also just created a luxury destination right outside your own back door. Plus, your neighbors are going to envy you every time they catch sight of you across the fence, stretched out and content!"

The hammock wasn't always so connected with luxury, however. Far from it.

Prior to the late 19th century, hammocks functioned primarily as sailors' beds, and were neither particularly comfortable nor all that safe. Fabric hammocks back then were cramped, hot and prone to tipping, while rope hammocks, equally unsturdy, were woven typically of rough hemp or manila, and riddled with bulky knots.

Then along came Pawleys Island, S.C., riverboat captain Joshua Ward, whose quest for a better night's sleep led him in 1889 to reinvent the rope hammock and, in the process, set the standard for what's now the classic American hammock style.

Ward switched to heavy cotton rope and a knotless, lattice-like weave, placing wooden spreader bars at both ends to hold his hammock open -- and what was once a clingy, scratchy, knotty sleeping-cocoon became a soft, open, airborne leisure space.

Within no time, Ward's effortlessly comfortable new hammock style was intricately associated with the town of Pawleys Island, even then a famous seaside resort for the well-to-do. Possibly through this direct connection with wealth and leisure, a good hammock became through the years the universal symbol of relaxed good fortune.

"You might call it a boost in luxury by association," says Perkins of The HammockSource. "Of course, once you're in your own hammock, you're gonna feel like a million bucks regardless of the fact you didn't have to spend a fortune to buy it!"

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