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Running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day or enjoying family barbeques are a source of fond backyard memories. Only the clairvoyant among us could have imagined the new ‘back yards’…the highly appointed outdoor spaces that are becoming increasingly popular.
Concrete patio slabs, rectangular swimming pools, and rolling kettle grilles are quickly being remodeled, replaced, or updated. Current outdoor living features and materials are just as stylish and creative as the homes they serve, providing multifunctional destinations for owners and guests.
Modern outdoor areas require a dedicated, professional design scheme to ensure an easy transition to and from the indoors, provide artful square footage and the proper utility connections for all of the desired features. Careful planning can even accommodate year-round enjoyment through creative options for shade, sun, and other weather conditions.
One of the primary requests for outdoor space these days is a fully functional kitchen, one that serves traditionally outdoor meals. A built-in, gas-powered barbecue grill, complete with warming drawers, heating elements and plenty of grilling surface, is essential.
Because an outdoor kitchen is often designed within a covered patio or veranda, grilles are usually supplemented with a ventilation system to exhaust smoke and odors. Other conveniences include a sink and faucet, an under-counter refrigerator/ice maker, and a row of base cabinets topped by a weather-tough countertop.
A remodeled outdoor kitchen logically demands a remodeled outdoor eating area. Weather-resistant furnishings and upholstery are available in an increasingly wide range of styles to suit any taste and need, from formal dining tables to casual, plushy seating options. Outdoor rooms might also include a bar island between the cooking and eating areas. Such islands double as serving areas for casual meals.
Another popular feature of outdoor rooms is a fireplace-television combination. Modern gas-powered fireplaces are designed to simulate authentic wood-burning units, but with better energy use, heat distribution, and ventilation. Such chimneys can accommodate a niche for a flat-screen television, easily supplemented by small, outdoor-rated speakers for surround-sound. What used to be a plain patio has now become an enviable destination for family and guests.
To make the space accessible to the indoors and to merge indoor and outdoor entertainment space, many remodeling designs feature all-glass folding or pocket doors that create wide-open passages as opposed to conventional swinging or sliding patio doors. When designed with the home’s micro-climate in mind, these doors may also help to cool the house with natural breezes. Ceiling fans keep the air moving through the outdoor room, while outdoor-rated lights in the ceiling and on the walls allow its use after dark.
To keep less-desirable weather out of both the house and the covered outdoor space, motorized roll-down screens — ideally concealed in the structure — keep pests, winds, rain, and other debris out. Such screens come in a variety of weights and are easily controlled by a remote device or wall switch.
The living space extends beyond the covered area, of course. Reworked patios enjoy the creativity of interlocking pavers, flagstones, or stamped or colored concrete to add dimension and interest. Alternatively, the open-air space might be a deck, often finished with weather-resistant engineered planks. These areas require little maintenance, maintain their color and structural integrity, and are eco-friendly, besides. Consider adding comfortable built-in seating and a freestanding fire pit to complete the look.
Finally, modern pools and spas (often in combination), are becoming works of art, incorporating fountains and waterfalls, rock formations, frameless edges, and other landscaping features.
Combined, a remodeling project encompassing a covered outdoor room, open deck or patio, and pool/spa feature creates a value-added feature to any existing home. By extending living space and creating year-round options to enjoy it, the modern back yard provides years of enjoyment and boosts property value for the homeowner. The old backyard has become a destination resort.
Todd Allen Miller, AIA
QMA Design+Build, LLC
5000 Boardwalk, Suite 2
Ventnor, NJ 08406
NJ New Home Builder License #037561
NJ Home Improvement Contractor #13VH01107300
(609) 822-4949 – phone
(609) 822-4429 – fax
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