on Photos to Enlarge)
Welcome to the
summer of 2002!
As you may guess, I rarely cook and would not be considered a gourmet chef. Nevertheless,
I do know a little something about outdoor living spaces, especially patios,
decks, grills and fire pits. I thought outdoor living spaces would be an appropriate
subject for this edition, since most of you are likely cooking and entertaining
outdoors regularly at this time of year. I would like to share with you, via
photos, some of the outdoor living spaces we have created. I would also like
to provide you with some advice if you are thinking about such a project, or
if you need a little inspiration to enhance your existing outdoor living space.
We receive numerous requests to design outdoor living spaces. The patios, decks
or terraces we design are intended to be functional, architecturally congruent
and aesthetically pleasing. How is that for "big"
words? The concept of an outdoor living space can include many different
components. Consider your patio, terrace, or deck as another room of
your house. You may enter this space from your kitchen or great room,
or perhaps from your master bedroom or basement walkout. It is often
a great place to entertain guests. It is an extension of your interior
living space. It has a floor, and when designed appropriately, it has
walls, and perhaps shrubs, trees or fencing that provide screening
and sun protection. It may be exposed to the elements, or it may be
tucked below a large deck or terrace. Orient your outdoor living space
to your lifestyle and to attractive views.
Choosing the right surface material for your outdoor living space is very important.
My only rule of thumb is "anything is better than plain concrete." Plain
concrete is very sterile in its appearance and it makes you feel very "cold" and
uncomfortable. Stone, brick, and colored or stamped concrete would be a much
better choice. Keep in mind, when choosing the surface of your outdoor living
space, that you want a smooth material that does not get too hot for your bare
feet. Also keep in mind that you do not want a slick surface especially around
pools and spas.
If you enjoy eating outside, or if you entertain frequently by the poolside or
within your garden, why not cook your food outdoors and serve it outdoors as
well? If you have a grill outdoors, why not have a small sink and small countertop
to clean and serve your food? Why not have your grill or smoker built into a
stone or brick cabinet so it is unobtrusive and not an eyesore. Would you tolerate
looking at a typical black gas grill in your kitchen? I think not. Consider more
attractive grill designs, perhaps stainless steel would fit your contemporary
taste. The concept of an outdoor kitchen is catching on, and I must say that
I am pleased to be supporting the trend.
Perhaps you are not an "eat outside" type of person
you may like to avoid the sun and instead spend your time outdoors
in the evening in the spring and fall. Perhaps you would enjoy sitting
alongside a warm fire pit, making smores, or just relaxing in
the cool night breeze. You do not have to go to the lake; you can recreate
the lake setting in your own backyard.
Space is always an issue. I cant tell you the number of times that I have
seen patios and decks under-designed and too small for comfortable use. Please
keep in mind that if you want to seat 5-6 people at a round table, you need (at
minimum) a 12 x 12 space to do so. Do not hesitate to pick out furniture
that maintains your interior decorating theme. The five-dollar lawn chair from
the discount store is not allowed. Pick out a suitable table and chairs, or a
small sofa and some loungers. Wrought iron is available in a wide range of colors
other than black. Wicker furniture may be a good choice, especially for a screened-in
porch. Be creative, choose furniture that is comfortable, but keep in mind in
bad wind storms that cushions blow away and glass tables fall over and break.
Decorate your outdoor living space with planters with summer color. Perhaps palms
and gardenias would fit your taste. Be sure to choose planters that are durable,
preferably ones that will not break if left outside year round. Concrete or bronze
would be good choices. Most importantly, choose pots that are in-scale with your
outdoor living space and home. The size of your home may require 3 tall
pots with substantial plantings. Be sure to add music to your outdoor living
space. A live band is preferred, although strategically placed speakers with
tasteful tunes are a perfect alternative. I like speakers suspended from the
base of the terrace, deck or house, or scattered within the plantings around
the perimeter or your outdoor living space.
Finally, we need outdoor lighting. This is like adding the cherries on top of
the banana split. Lighting will make your outdoor living space come to life at
night. It can provide additional security, safety and create great ambiance.
Be sure to light pathways, stairs and especially cooking surfaces. We install
a very professional version of low-voltage landscape lighting and the fixtures
are virtually unnoticeable during the daytime hours.
Please let us know if you need assistance creating your outdoor living space.
I hope that I have been able to provide you with some good direction and inspiration.
Have a great summer!