The Great Outdoors

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                                                                           Friday, Sept. 1, 2006

 PAST ISSUES          The Great Outdoors
 Baths                American homes are performing a role reversal as out
                      favorite indoor rooms move outdoors.
 Before & After       by Sharise Cunningham

 Buying               May 2003
                      Whether it’s the back
 Holiday Decor        yard, back nine, or back
                      kitchen, the yard out
 Home                 back has become a new
 Maintenance          sort of oasis for today’s
                      homeowners. Most
                      industry designers and
 Home                 manufacturers agree that
 Theaters             the recent boom in home
                      refinancing and a
 Interior             renewed interest in
 Design               nesting have led many
                      homeowners to use the
 Kitchens             natural environment as
                      the new living
 Lawn &                                           Photo courtesy of Frontgate
                      Room for Change
                      Some opt for cozy yet elaborate theme gardens, a few indulge their
 Outdoor              favorite pastime with personal putting greens but diehard nesters are
 Spaces               creating outdoor living areas that incorporate the comforts of kitchen,
                      den and living room into fully-functional outdoor rooms.
                      “Boomers have discovered that their backyard—if planned properly—
 Profiles             can be the ultimate place to relax, unwind and rejuvenate,” says
                      Stephen Prins, founder and chief designer of New England Arbors.
 Remodeling           “The biggest change is the amount [of money people are] willing to
                      invest in high ticket items that offer both visual and physical
 By Issue             pleasure,” he says.

 IN THIS ISSUE                                                          The biggest trend in
                                                                        creating outdoor
                                                                        environments is that
                                                                        oftentimes no expense is
                                                                        spared to create an
                                                                        outdoor “living room” that
                                                                        is low maintenance and
                                                                        comfortable, but still
                                                                        incorporates luxuries
                                                                        such as heated floors,
                                                                        enhanced outdoor                             9/1/2006
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                                                                   lighting, living room style
                                                                   furnishings and fabrics,
                                                                   fully-equipped kitchens
                                                                   and full-sized fireplaces.
                                                                   Many of these open-air
                                                                   rooms also make
                                                                   creative use of wood,
                                                                   stone and tile, include
                                                                   more functional decking
                                                                   systems and permanent
                                                                   outdoor entertainment

                                                                  Rick Goldstein, an
                      Photo courtesy of DeckWright                architect for Deckwright,
                                                                  says that open decks are
                      very popular and come standard on any new house because they are
                      one of the least expensive ways to expand living space outdoors.

                      Even though decks are the entertainment favorite, the screened
                      porch is still holding its own. “The porch has redefined itself from a
                      dark, dingy space that was under utilized, to an updated bright
                      outdoor living room, complete with accessories such as tile flooring,
                      fireplaces, hot tubs, TV, etc,” Goldstein says. Currently, Deckwright
                      uses a lot of Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood in their deck designs because
                      it’s elegant and rich, yet maintenance free; just hose it down with
                      water and deck cleaner. While it may cost more upfront, it pays for
                      itself in four to six years.

                      The desire to move outside walled boundaries means many of the
                      principles of interior design are now applied to exterior design. We
                      are beginning to see design-focused spaces that incorporate color,
                      furniture, fireplaces and appliances, as well as electronics, all
                      surrounded by carefully planned landscaping. Deckwright’s new focus
                      reflects this trend by customizing its architecturally designed exterior

                      Outdoor furniture
                      The past few years have
                      seen new outdoor furniture
                      selections that feature softer
                      fabrics, more design details,
                      deep and inviting cushions
                      and are designed for the
                      ultimate in comfort and

                      “If it is durable homeowners
                      want it,” says Amy Crowley,
                      spokesperson for Frontgate,
                      a home environment direct
                      retailer. “They're not looking
                      to replace their outdoor
                      furnishings year after year
                      anymore—just like they
                      wouldn't want to have to
                      replace their indoor furniture
                      [annually]”. This increased
                      demand for materials that are
                      going to last and withstand
                      the elements makes
                                                     Photo courtesy of Frontgate
                      materials such as teak,
                      wrought iron, cast aluminum, weatherproof wicker and resin very                         9/1/2006
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                      popular, she says.

                      Teak is desired for its warm good looks, while the durability of iron
                      and aluminum make them popular choices. Wrought iron has the
                      added benefit of weight which means your furniture won’t blow away
                      on windy days. While mixing materials can make for a beautiful piece
                      of furniture, it can also create a maintenance quandary as different
                      components may require different methods of upkeep. To maintain its
                      original beauty, teak should be treated with a special oil or stain.
                      Aluminum and iron can simply be hosed off.

                      The colors of nature are also popular this year. By using nature’s
                      color palette you’re simply blending your outdoor room with the
                      natural environment, adding to the visual extension of the room.

                      The American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA) says to
                      look for varying shades of brown such as khaki, bronze and rust for
                      frames and fabrics. They also indicate that black and silver will have a
                      big fashion presence for 2003 as well, with black and teak combined
                      for an especially fresh look this year.

                      Other key trends in outdoor furniture for spring 2003 according to
                      AFMA include:

                      Group seating: Tables are often several feet long and can
                      accommodate 10 or more comfortably. Dining chairs are wider with
                      higher backs for added comfort.

                      Conversation groups: These low seating groups are ideal for the
                      outdoor casual lifestyle and are perfect for serving beverages and
                      light foods, game playing or just conversing.

                      New tabletops: Alternative materials such as tumbled marble, tile,
                      stone, slate, punched metal and other natural stones are replacing
                      traditional glass.

                      Elevated seating: These
                      high seats and tables are
                      designed so that you can
                      more easily enjoy the
                      view over the rail of your
                      deck or balcony.

                      Also popular are
                      elevated bars with
                      barstools for casual

                      Cooking al fresco
                      More than just a grill,
                      today’s elaborate outdoor Photo Courtesy of Frontgate
                      kitchens are equipped to
                      serve up gourmet meals for two or 20. Burgers and hotdogs are mere
                      child’s play in these kitchens.

                      Cabana Kitchens is the first company to introduce an outdoor cooking
                      unit with oven and broiler. An entry level outdoor setup that
                      incorporates a stainless steel oven, broiler, grill, rotisserie, side
                      burner and refrigerator compartment can cost as little as $6,000.
                      Customize it even further with sink, wok, icemaker and custom
                      surround and it can cost as much as $20,000 or more.                         9/1/2006
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                      The move to not just dine—but cook—al fresco is due in part to
                      materials that can better withstand the elements and the use of higher
                      quality products in the kitchen and surrounding environment. “You
                      used to see a concrete slab and a $199 [home improvement store]
                      charcoal grill special,” says Ashley Williams of Cabana Kitchens.
                      “Now,” he continues, “you see extravagant flooring, refrigeration,
                      heating, fireplaces and lighting. It’s not just going outside, grilling a
                      steak and bringing it back inside. You have the whole experience

                      Sales of high-end grill sales (those $2,500 and more) are up 40
                      percent, while gas grill sales are up just over 10 percent. Williams
                      believes that the biggest trend in home kitchens will move from an
                      aftermarket addition to a pre-construction design element. The
                      current interest in adding outdoor rooms has led new homebuyers to
                      seek homes that already include this feature.

                      For those who still love to cook outdoors but prefer more portable
                      cooking options, the Big Green Egg or the Flattop Grill by Evo might
                      be excellent choices. The commercial grade Flattop Grill is made of
                      stainless steel, the round solid-steel cooking surface atop a triangular
                      base gives it a charmingly deceptive look of simplicity. Its versatility
                      allows you to cook directly on the flattop surface or use cookware.
                      You can simultaneously sear meats and stir-fry vegetables. You can
                      even bake, fry, boil, poach, grill, or smoke a variety of foods. Priced at
                      $2,495, the Evo Flattop Grill packs a whole lot of kitchen in a shiny
                      little package.

                      The egg-shaped Big Green Egg can grill and barbecue, but it’s
                      probably best known for its ability to infuse meats with mouth-
                      watering smoke flavoring fueled by interesting blends of aromatic
                      woods such as fruit woods, Jack Daniels, and a variety of other exotic
                      blends plus the traditional mesquite or hickory.

                                                                Based on the design of the
                                                                Kamado, an ancient Asian
                                                                clay cooker, its 1-and-a-half-
                                                                inch ceramic walls retain
                                                                heat, and the tight-fitting lid
                                                                seals in moisture from the
                                                                food, steeping it in smoke.
                                                                Eggheads, as its fans are
                                                                called, can choose from the
                                                                diminutive 9-and-a-half-inch
                                                                grid (cooking surface) Mini
                                                                ($199), the 13-inch grid
                                                                Small ($399), the 15-inch
                                                                grid Medium ($599) and the
                                                                granddaddy of them all, an
                                                                18.25-inch grid Large ($799).
                                                                A number of accessories
                                                                help customize the use of
                                                                each green egg.

                                                            According to Williams,
                                                            Florida and California have
                                                            sold pre-constructed outdoor
                                                            kitchens, or lanais, for years.
                      Photo courtesy of The Big Green Egg
                                                            Atlanta and the Midwest are
                      beginning to see the same trend as new ideas in enclosures and
                      heating create year-round outdoor rooms.                           9/1/2006
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                      All fired up
                      Just as inside, a fireplace often provides a dramatic focal point for
                      outdoor spaces. Over the past two years, full-sized real wood-burning
                      or gas fireplaces began replacing the once-popular chiminea. The
                      choices range from 36-inch to 50-inch fireplaces with stone
                      surrounds, to the feisty and unique firepot, or the simple and portable
                      fire dish.

                                                               You can make a dramatic
                                                               statement with a space
                                                               saving two-sided fireplace
                                                               that's designed to go in an
                                                               outside wall, with the flames
                                                               visible from either indoors or
                                                               out. The cost is just a few
                                                               hundred dollars more than a
                                                               one-sided fireplace at around

                                                              Kathy Heeth of The Fireplace
                                                              Company has seen the
                                                              largest growth in real-wood
                                                              burning fireplaces with
                                                              stacked stone or fieldstone
                                                              as the most popular
                                                              surrounds, which incorporate
                                                              very well with the look of an
                                                              outdoor kitchen. The pricing
                                                              depends on the height of the
                                                              chimneystack. A 36-inch
                                                              fireplace with stonework can
                                                              run $3,000 to $5,000, while
                       Photo courtesy of RCS
                                                              the 50-inch—large enough to
                      fit two people inside—can run $6,000 to $9,000. Heeth’s company
                      uses the chimneystack to funnel smoke away from faces unlike open
                      pits, which can annoy more than enjoy.

                      Homeowners are accessorizing their outdoor fireplace mantles with
                      open flame gaslights to further enhance the environment by adding
                      ambient lighting. “They’re so much more beautiful than a bright bulb
                      sitting in your face,” Heeth says.

                      For a more rustic look, the Earthfire firepot might be just right. Much
                      like the Big Green Egg smoker, the Earthfire is based on the Asian
                      Kamado design. The Earthfire is a fusion of art and function. No two
                      are the same because each one is completely handmade, numbered
                      and signed with the artist’s insignia.

                      The Earthfire is finished in
                      the Japanese process of
                      Raku ("fire magic"), giving it a
                      high gloss crackled finish
                      with some color variation.
                      Even the stand is made of
                      hand-hammered wrought
                      iron. It cost $1,900 for the
                      wood burning model and
                      $2,200 for the gas/propane
                      model. Best of all, that
                      investment can outlast your
                      current home because when
                      you move, the Earthfire can
                      go with you.                        9/1/2006
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                      Earthfire owner Sharon Black
                      notes, “outdoor fireplaces are
                      almost a necessity now.
                      People love the warmth of a
                      fire on cool, crisp evenings.”
                      The Earthfire is safety-rated
                      to stand just 18 inches from
                      the wall and is very low
                      maintenance. It’s touted to
                      burn so efficiently that it can
                      easily burn 15 to 20 fires
                      before it requires cleanup.

                      More economical options
                      include portable campfires or
                      fire dishes. A portable
                      campfire can be used on a
                      deck, patio or by the pool.
                      These units average just a
                      couple hundred dollars and
                      have the appearance of a
                      campground fire pit with a
                      low simulated stacked-stone
                      wall. For non-enclosed
                                                     Photo courtesy of Earthfire
                      spaces, the open flame fire
                      dish makes a fascinating statement as the dish looks like a huge
                      black steel candleholder. They are available in 30-inch, 46 inch or 60
                      inch with choice of two stand styles. The gas model sells for $275 to
                      $895. The wood burning model sells for $350 to $1,150.

                      Gone are the days of muffled music behind closed doors. The party
                      can flow in a seemingly contiguous space from inside to outside as
                      home entertainment systems take on the outdoors. Outdoor rooms
                      can now be built to house and protect all of the equipment year
                      round. While the components remain “inside,” camouflaged speakers
                      can be placed throughout the yard and operated by remote control.

                                                                  “Our products can’t be
                                                                  seen, they’re heard,”
                                                                  says Chris Thomas,
                                                                  marketing manager for
                                                                  Sensory Solutions, an
                                                                  audio/video design
                                                                  group. Sensory Solutions
                                                                  installs all-weather
                                                                  speakers, and outdoor
                                                                  video, audio and lighting
                                                                  controls. Some of the
                                                                  more unique methods for
                                                                  hiding speakers are
                                                                  placing them in speaker
                      Photo courtesy of Sensory Solutions         rocks, speaker gardens,
                      hanging baskets or building them inside a stacked-stone fireplace.

                      Lights and heat
                      Lighting trends include fashionable floor lamps with water- and fade-
                      resistant shades, recessed lighting, open flame gaslights that reflect
                      the charm of Charleston and mood-setting dimmer lights. Sensory
                      Solutions uses an astronomical time clock to regulate lighting

                      Outdoor heating can range from sophisticated heated floors to                       9/1/2006
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                      stainless steel outdoor heaters, much like those you see on
                      restaurant patios. The cost of a heated floor will depend on a variety
                      of factors including the size of the room to be heated. A stainless
                      steel heater with enough output to heat up to a 15 foot radius will cost
                      between $395 and $495.

                      Regarless of how elaborate your outdoor space is,, reconnecting with
                      nature can be a great way to expand your home's living and
                      entertainment areas––not to mention for you to relax and unwind.                         9/1/2006