Outdoor Living Rooms
And Other Over-The-Top Exteriors
Images Courtesy of Lewis Aquatech
In case you haven’t heard, outdoors is where it’s at. Outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces blazing away in outdoor living rooms – pretty soon you won’t need a house at all. Whether you’re shopping for a new pad or getting the old place fixed-up for an open house, pay attention to what’s happening on the exterior.
According to the experts, whatever you’re doing on the outside should reflect the home’s architecture. “We specialize in extending the house into the landscape so it looks compatible,” says landscape architect Jay Graham, principal of Graham Landscape Architecture, based in Annapolis, Maryland. So if the home is contemporary you should be looking at clean, simple lines indoors and out. If the home is traditional it’s okay to consider old-school style patios, pools, and porticos.
Getting the basics correct is key, but what separates the okay from the oh-my? “We’re doing a lot of outdoor pizza kitchens, insect repellent systems and snow melt systems underneath exterior terraces,” says Don Gwiz of Lewis Aquatech based in Chantilly, Virginia. Making the outdoors more accessible in all four seasons should be part of the plan but summer is when you really cash in the chips for excellent exterior planning. For that, you’re going to need a boffo pool.
“Putting in pools used to be like working from templates, they were basically cookie-cutter style,” says Drew Crowder, owner of NVBlu which is also based in Chantilly, “nowadays a pool guy has to be versed in art and architecture, it’s all about color theory and hydraulic design, it’s like advanced physics.”
The science boils down to gear like high-efficiency pool heaters designed to save energy, infinity edges and selecting tiles to elicit a certain feel from a body of water. Want to cantilever a lap pool over a second story master suite? No problem. Want to access your pool’s water temperature via your Blackberry while you’re on vacation? Can do.
A gorgeous pool can also be connected to an adjoining après-swim space where one can unwind after a rousing game of pool volleyball or some serious lap work. Picture a big-screen plasma TV (suitable for outdoor use) above the mantle on your aforementioned outdoor fireplace.
While the bells and whistles of outdoor spaces are important don’t neglect the greenery. “It seems we’ve talked to a lot of clients lately about hardscapes and they’ll say, ‘that’s all great, but we want plants,’” says Eric Groft, principal with Oehme van Sweden, based in Washington DC. Native plants are hot right now as is the idea of making the indoor spaces blend seamlessly with the outdoors.
“Natural is not easy,” says Groft, “we’re always trying to establish what we call the genius of the space.” The firm’s strokes of genius include twenty-foot waterfalls, inconspicuous fire rings, soothing lily ponds, bubbling fountains, dining terraces located off the home’s main dining room and secluded private terraces adjacent to the master suite.
Living outdoors continues to be part of the American dream. That’s why we have wraparound porches, patios and pools. But just like the indoors these old standbys are evolving before our eyes while influencing property values, purchase price and resale.
“It’s all about bringing the elements of living inside out by grounding the house with it’s outdoor spaces,” says Groft. “You have to consider the architecture of the garden,” says Graham, “otherwise it can end up looking wild and crazy.”
The pool guys have seen their business transform over the years in a business that’s all about transformation. “We’ve built circus tents over a piece of land so we can dig during the winter, so we could produce something amazing” says Crowder. “The different shapes of pools has become endless,” says Gwiz, “and the floor plan of outdoor spaces has become more architecturally correct.”
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