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Monday, April 15, 2013

Outdoor Living Areas

Outdoor living spaces like the one above are becoming very popular. Probably due to HGTV and DIY shows like Yard Crashers. The area in the photo above is one of my favorites. Not that I like the house, but this outdoor living space includes a pool, a water feature, an outdoor kitchen with pass through, a fire feature and seating area. It's not too big go keep up. Marketers have been jumping on the bandwagon and we are seeing much more offered to consumers. But some of the things I see aren't very practical so maybe we should be careful to think it through before we go spend a lot of money. I thought I would give you some points to ponder. Whether it's a porch, a loggia, a patio, a gazebo, a patio, poolside areas, or a screened in porch... these outdoor living areas are still open to the air. This means they are susceptible to dust, pollen, sun, weeds, bugs, snakes, wind, rain mildew, etc.

This next photo is very nice. I like the privacy fence. It is made of rusting steel which may cause stains on the wooden decking. I like the multi levels.

This is a lovely water feature on a nice patio with privacy fence. Something to think about is cleaning these water features.

If you don't clean the fountains, pools, ponds, fish ponds, waterfalls, and manmade streams you could end up with scenes like this.

You are going to have to remove the water a couple of times a year (at LEAST), clean out the gunk and leaves. Then you might have to pressure wash or scrub before refilling. With that in mind, keep your water features sized where you can and will do this.

This water feature is pretty but there is a lot to empty, scrub and clean. And little pools or ponds like this tend to breed mosquitos.

This one is beautiful but too much for me to keep clean.

Mosquito breeding farm right beside the seating area. Sorry, I'm just sayin.

This is about all I can handle in a water feature.

Another fashion right now are these huge patio umbrellas.

Being different, and large enough to provide shade for a bigger area, people might forget that it is just an umbrella. An umbrella open to the sun will fade and the fabric will begin to break down. I have to buy new patio umbrellas every 2 yrs. That's as long as they last. They begin to fade and rip so they have to be replaced. So, I buy the cheaper ones for around $50@. Also, sometimes I forget to crank the umbrella down and the wind grabs them and knocks them down. I've had mine fly over the roof! Can you replace a large unusual umbrella?

There could a similar problem with these sails strung up to provide sketchy shade.

In this photo I see hot sun! That expensive arbor provides ZERO shade and at least part of the day this outdoor living space has full sun. At least put a roof on it! I do love the firepit. I like a fire pit large enough to burn regular sized wood but not create a bonfire. I also like how this one sits up off the ground and it has a wide hearth around it. That fire pit is a winner. The Arbor and uncovered patio is not.

Let's talk a little more about outdoor kitchens. This is also a big trend for outdoor areas. My husband LOVES to grill. He has a nice gas grill, a small charcoal grill and a huge pull-behind-his-truck grill. He just really gets a kick out of cooking outdoors and he's done BBQ, smoked meats, hash, steaks, burgers, kabobs, fish fries, etc. We have not made a full outdoor kitchen because of the cost. And, of course, these stainless steel grills, appliances, and accouterments are very high priced. Then to put them outside in the open (without the benefit of a roof) is careless. If, for no other reason, than the dirt. Put it under roof to protect your investment AND to keep the cook cooler! Doesn't this next outdoor kitchen look hot?

I like this outdoor kitchen because it's more normal. I don't know about these appliances but they are at least the normal sizes of appliances you can buy at Lowe's or Sears. Which means it won't break the bank to replace one with a stainless steel "normal" appliance. The grill is not shown but for me, I would rather have a stand alone stainless grill, again because it's cheaper and easily replaced. Also, this kitchen is big enough for easy maneuverability but not too big to keep clean. Let's face it, my husband doesn't like to clean the kitchen so I don't have high hopes he would keep his outdoor kitchen any cleaner so that leaves it in my hands. There may even be a fireplace beside this one which would be a nice feature.

This next one is an expensive outdoor kitchen, full of stainless steel, even an expensive vent hood for the grill.  and it's too big. But I do like that it's next to the house with a pass through. Think about that when you are bringing supplies to this kitchen. Do you really want to have to walk forty acres to take the food supplies and kitchen utensils and serving platters, etc. You really want it close to the house because your primary kitchen is always inside.

Another big trend is a bed outdoors for napping. I like the idea but it's best to keep in mind that mattresses outside can ruin, and mildew if you don't take care of them and they are too heavy to move in and out. Then there is the bedding like this bed, sheet, quilt, pillows and pillow cases.

And the curtains? Do you really want to go to all that trouble for a nap outside?

Now this one has a foam cushion thick enough to be a mattress. Easier care but it will have to be replaced at some time and it might be expensive to replace a custom size and shape cushion.

This is my favorite for a bed outside. It's large enough for my husband and I to sit or lay together. But it uses regular chaise cushions, it is, in fact, a double chaise lounge. Cushions would be easy to replace or to store. It also has wheels to make it easier to move it around.

These living room sized suites or modular sets are nice enough to use inside the house, much less outside. But be sure you are aware that, being outdoor furniture, the cushions will need to be protected and maybe replaced in the future. Can you find those replacements? Can you afford them. The ones in the next photo are curved and are custom shapes.

This is what happens to outdoor cushions over time. They fade, mildew, get filthy, rot.

Here are some suggestions for storing and protecting your cushions.

Yet another trend is using outdoor rugs or carpets. I know they can "pull a room together" but really are hard to keep clean. This is what can happen.

This attractive rug pulls out the orange. Looks great, but, again, how do you keep an outdoor rug from getting filthy and holding moisture underneath it which can lead to mildew.

This gazebo is found at all the big box stores that carry outdoor stuff. It is a way to provide shade. But will you be able to keep it down on the ground when it's windy? All those curtains and screen curtains will just be flying in the wind if there is a breeze. How good can screening be if it's open across the bottom and can blow around in the breeze?

A pond can be a mosquito breeding farm. I like this screened gazebo with deck.

This makes a beautiful photo. It has curtains for privacy but they are just going to blow around and need to be taken down and washed. It's not worth it for me. I believe that's a water pond in the lower right corner with the plants growing in it. Will this be easy to clean? Is it just a mosquito breeding ground? The porch seating area has heaters in the ceiling! Nice feature if you can afford to heat the outdoors. I love the pizza oven. Be careful about stacking and storing too much wood too close to the outdoor living area because it naturally attracts spiders, lizards, snakes. The outdoor kitchen is nice and the right size but it's not next to the house which means no pass through to the primary kitchen inside. A flat screen outdoor TV is always a plus to me.

This outdoor living area has an expensive arbor that gives no shade. It's an expensive visual and that's all. Notice there is no shade except from the patio umbrella NEXT TO the arbor. But the "water feature" is the pool which means you aren't cleaning a pool AND a water feature. I like the rocks around the edge of the pool. It's still a pool but the rocks give some character.

This is lovely but again, the expensive arbors give no shade. What's the point? There is NO SHADE on this patio (at least as seen in this photo). Here in SC that would mean this patio is unusable 99% of the time. I do like the privacy lattice fence. I hope it's PVC so it can be easily pressure washed rather than painted. I do like the hot tub although I've had 2 now and they are pistols to keep maintained and repaired. I finally decided it was cheaper to go to a gym with one and let them worry with the headache. The fire pit is nice although I would like to see it a little bigger. Notice the hole at the bottom. It either acts as a vent to fuel the fire or as a way to reach ashes.

I hope I've given you something to think about before you put a lot of money into your outdoor spaces. As always, plan what you want outside. For instance, I have a lot of bug allergies and that is something I have to worry about. My outdoor spaces need to include a screened in area and hard spaces so I can enjoy the outdoors without having to deal with fire ants, mosquitos, spiders, etc. We don't believe in tanning because of my fair skin and the history of skin cancer in my family so shade is imperative. My husband loves grilling outdoors so an outdoor kitchen is important to him but he's not good at cleaning so it doesn't need to be too big or complex. I would love for it to include hot water with a dishwasher! I'm big into comfort so I'm thinking plush and reclining is important. On the other hand we like to sit and have conversations with out friends, sometimes for hours. So we would want to have a comfortable conversation area. Finally, we both don't want to have to spend a lot of time cleaning and we don't have any storage for the furniture or cushions. Now how can we do it with our budget.

What about you? Do you need a kid's area? Do you have multiple cooks in the outdoor kitchen so you need it big? Does your family love swimming so a pool is in order? How much can you keep up? How much can you afford in initial cost, as well as, maintenance? Keep these questions in mind and then make a plan. Even if you only have the space or time or money for a small patio, you can use it to your advantage if you plan well. I have a friend that has a condo with an enclosed patio. She just wants to sit comfortably with a cup of coffee and to watch the birds. So she has a comfortable chair, a side table (to hold that cup of coffee), a bird bath, some bird houses and potted plants to attract those birds she loves. Whether you have a balcony or 10 acres, use it wisely according to your tastes, needs, desires, abilities and budget. Enjoy it!

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