Spice Up Your Outdoor Living Style
Whether you're working with a small balcony or a luxurious exterior addition, the goal is to turn your home into a more pleasant and useful place. The examples here range from high end to small in scale, but the basic mission is always the same.
High-End Outdoor Living
"We're seeing everything from bars to Beer Meisters and fireplaces," was the quote from contractor Jon Brennhofer in a recent HGTVPro.com article. While ten years ago a high-end grill might have exemplified the norm, now homeowners are bringing virtually everything they find useful inside the home to the exterior: refrigerators, ovens, wet bars, sound systems, and flat screen televisions.
Sunbrite makes a flat screen that is impermeable to rain, dust, and insects, according to the product description. (Here's the link on Amazon - note that the 42-inch version is about $2,000 pricier!)
Outdoor fireplaces are extremely popular, and range from basic to grand in scale. Consider a two-sided version if you are using it to define two distinct sections, such as living and dining room areas.
Tile and stone are popular outdoor flooring materials, and recently porphyry, a volcanic stone, has been used more frequently. Porphyry is more expensive than most other options, but the pavers last for hundreds of years and allow water to filter back into the ground very efficiently, sometimes even removing pollutants along the way. Milestone Imports has a nice porphyry photo gallery here.
Radiant floor heating and surround sound are two other features that top off a luxurious outdoor experience.
Mid-Range Outdoor Living
There's something about an open flame that creates an inviting atmosphere and draws people together, so if a fireplace is not a reasonable option, consider a moveable fire pit. Fire pits can be used almost anywhere and are available at reasonable prices. Here's a link to a well-reviewed model in the $170 range.
How secluded do you feel in your outdoor space? Privacy is becoming more and more valuable, and it's worth spending a little effort to make sure you feel like your outdoor time is your own. Tall bamboo in planters can work wonders for screening out neighbors or unsightly views. You could also opt for an outdoor privacy screen; wicker resin models start in the $150 range. (Click here to see some examples for sale.)
Water features can set the tone for a relaxing, spa-like experience. Small, lighted outdoor fountains can be found for under $200 (and, of course, the sky's the limit from there in terms of cost).
Lighting is another key element that helps create the mood you're looking for. Consider solar-powered versions that store energy during the day and turn on automatically at night. You can also find string lighting in many different styles, ranging from the low key and elegant to the, well, utterly ridiculous. (Granted, the Pillsbury Doughboy bulb set will definitely be a conversation-starter. :)
Simply creating a covered area goes a long way towards defining what feels like an outdoor living space. You can spend thousands on high quality awnings or gazebos, but temporary solutions are available starting at just under $200. These may allow you to find out how much you really use the feature before investing in a permanent version.
According to most experts, you're much more likely to use an outdoor living space if it has some kind of hard flooring. Have you considered concrete as an option? It is less durable than stone or tile, but less expensive as well, and extremely versatile as far as appearance. Stenciled concrete costs less than stamped concrete, and can replicate the look and texture of all kinds of stone and tile. The photo below shows a good example, and there are more stenciled concrete photos here.
Small-Scale Outdoor Living
Even if you're not working with a very big space or budget, you can create an inviting outdoor area that makes your home more appealing to you and others. Balconies, side yards, and very small patios all have the potential to become outdoor living space that you'll love to spend time in.
Someone with $100 should invest in "a brightly colored market umbrella," according to designer Katie Z. Leavy of Capital Design LLC in this HGTV article. Color is the recurring theme when you read interviews of exterior design experts. It doesn't cost much to pick up attractive pillows and dishware, and as you can see here, even a little color perks up what could be an unremarkable setting.
Plants are crucial to creating the look and mood of really enjoyable outdoor space. Even a small balcony can become an oasis with the right combination of furniture and greenery.
You can also use plants to outline your outdoor spaces, soften hard edges, and provide visual interest through color. Investing in large planters (as long as they fit your space correctly) is a good idea, since you can change the plants seasonally, and the planters themselves are decor items.
Now that we're in the middle of summer it's worth taking a look at this helpful article:
"The Best Container Plants for Heat" (Just click on the title to see the article on the Better Homes and Gardens website).
HGTV's "Plant Combinations that Pop" is another great article with beautiful photos that provide inspiration for anyone wondering what flowers to buy.
When it comes to flooring for smaller outdoor spaces, concrete may still be a good choice. Acid-stained concrete offers a wide range of colors and delivers beautiful results. Some imaginative homeowners even paint patterns or faux rugs on their concrete floors. Click here to see a nice photo gallery of acid-stained concrete styles.
Finally, even if you won't be working with a patio or balcony, think about adding window boxes to spice up your home's exterior. Obviously it doesn't add any outdoor living space, but it does improve the look and exterior feel of your home. This translates into greater appeal, and, potentially (remember our original mission :), better market value too.
Do you have questions about any of this information? Please call me, or just click 'Reply' to this email. I'll be happy to give you my take on our local real estate market, or provide you with any other real estate advice that you may need.
(What the lawyers make us say: The information in this newsletter is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Please always consult a qualified expert before making decisions based on this content. Nothing in this article is meant to be taken as expert legal, financial, or medical advice.)