As the controversial real estate bubble tumbles toward its imminent burst, homeowners look for new ways to increase their home’s value. In the past, you could slap some paint on a wall and bam, instant home improvement. As more and more people choose to spend time at home versus going out, they want their homes, or at least certain areas, to feel like a retreat – their own private oasis.
According to research from the Propane Education & Research Council PERC, 35 percent of homeowners surveyed currently have a finished outdoor room and one in three of those homeowners who do not 34 percent plan to design and furnish an outdoor room by spring 2007. When you apply this data to everyone, more than half of United States homes could have an outdoor entertaining area some time next year.
We are seeing a big trend in people investing in the outdoor living areas, said Leslie Wheeler, Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association Director of Communication. With more people looking for ways to enhance their homes, it isn’t surprising that they are turning to their backyards, decks and patios. Homeowners want all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen outdoors such as an island complete with refrigerator, grill, sink and countertop surface.
There are wonderful products on the market today to extend the outdoor living season and make outdoor living comfortable and enjoyable. Most consumers who invest in an outdoor living and entertaining area think that their investment with yield a return, should they decide to sell their home or borrow against it. Industry professionals interviewed for Designing Out: The Home Lifestyle Report agree that a home’s outdoor space can add as much as 30 percent to the total value of a property.
Lifestyle factors are also driving consumer demand for outdoor living spaces, with 50 percent of survey respondents saying they spend more time at home than they did five years ago. Survey respondents also said that relaxation and wanting to spend more time outside were the primary drivers for an outdoor room, with entertaining coming in a surprising last among the top five reasons listed.
If you’re just hearing about this trend and are not sure where to start, Katherine Whiteside, best-selling garden and cookbook author advises people to start simply. By definition, an outdoor room is simply an outdoor area that homeowners can use for relaxing, cooking and entertaining, said Whiteside. By adding some furniture and propane appliances to an existing patio, garden or deck, you have the beginnings of a great outdoor room.
When planning your outside room, Whiteside recommends paying attention to your climate.
Think about protection from the elements: sun, rain and cold. Use a market umbrella or a canopy hung with mosquito netting to protect yourself from sun and rain. But what happens when the evenings get cold? Consider a propane tabletop heater. At 3 feet tall, they can heat up to 5 feet in diameter. Outdoor Leisure just came out with a spectacular Bistro Tabletop Heater with a hammered bronze powder finish. The same company also offers a gas light patio heater. If you have the space, install a propane fire pit, which can be used during spark bans and is marvelous for putting your feet up while stargazing.
Protection from the elements leads right into comfort. You have to be warm, said Whiteside, so think about installing a porch floor with propane radiant heating. You need a place to sit down, so think about comfortable furniture. And if you live in an area near water, bugs are a consideration. A propane mosquito chaser can keep pesky insects away from you and your guests.
No outdoor room would be complete without a place to dine and a grill. Today’s propane grills come with all sorts of accessories that make creating appetizers and a main course a snap. You can get a rotisserie, a grill with a burner next to it, even woks. And, if you have three or more propane-fueled appliances, consider putting in an underground tank, so there are no unsightly above-ground tanks and you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel during your backyard party.
The industry’s top-selling appliances in the outdoor living category mirror the preferences of PERC’s survey respondents and Whiteside’s suggestions. After outdoor lighting 94 percent, other propane appliances dominate the list of must-have accessories: 86 percent of those surveyed said gas grills and mosquito eliminators were a necessity, followed by outdoor fireplaces 67 percent and patio heaters 53 percent.
Whether you live in a shoebox or a Mediterranean oceanfront mansion, outdoor rooms have taken the forefront and summer is the perfect time to clean up your backyard and transform it into an outdoor living space where your children can play and you can relax or entertain friends. One ay to improve the value of the backyard is to add an attractive and functional structure, such as a gazebo, pavilion, poolside cabana, or playhouse – even a yoga hut, artist’s studio, dog house, music practice room, hobby workshop, or any other private retreat.
Another possibility is to build a backyard home office, away from the distractions of the house.
No matter how large or small your yard, a water garden, pond or fountain is a great way to create a tranquil getaway just feet away from your back door.
Steve Sandalis, owner of Mystic Water Gardens in Los Angeles who has a large celebrity following, believes adding a water feature brings a peaceful element to any backyard, and in his opinion,the bigger, the better. Consider making your water feature bigger, he said, allowing it to meander through the backyard rather than being tucked away in the corner. It will create a stunning environment in which to live and relax.
Before you buy materials, determine the size of the water feature you want. Steve suggests going a little bigger than what you think will be the right size because once the landscaping grows and fills in, your water feature shrinks. To create a low maintenance water feature construct your feature that is essential an ecosystem that works with Mother Nature and not against it. The water features that we build use a biological filter and a mechanical skimmer that cuts down on the maintenance, Sandalis said.
Create a water feature that is placed strategically in the yard so you can view it from the inside, creating year-round enjoyment. If you have children and concerned about water safety, Sandalis recommends a pondless waterfall. We create features with very little depth, making it much safer for the entire family to enjoy. Water plants add a natural touch to water features. Sandalis says to keep the water clean from algae because plants absorb nutrients in the water.
When it comes to outdoor furnishings, not all products are created equally. Some are designed for specific climates and are more durable than others. You can spend a little or a lot. With so many options, and every manufacturer claiming their product is high-end and the best on the market, making a decision is nerve-wracking. We’ve taken the guesswork out of planning your backyard entertaining area or retreat with these luxury picks.
Tabletop Lantern Heaters by Outdoor Leisure Depending on where you live, you just might need a little heat on a cool summer evening.
As we move into fall, a heater will allow you to enjoy your outdoor space even longer. We like these brand-new, patio and tabletop lantern heaters from Outdoor Leisure that are heads and tails better than the usual mushroom heaters.
Cal Flame MC700 We love the Cal Flame MC700 barbecue island. It’s a part of the Master Chef Series, which is designed for the frequent barbecue cook who requires bar seating and counter space for dining and entertaining. The Series is mid-priced with numerous options that enable the consumer to create a convenient outdoor kitchen facility. The MC700 has a U-shaped countertop around the grill. It comes with a 2-burner grill (option of natural gas or liquid propane), tile top and stucco base and single-door under-counter storage. Available options include up to a 5-burner Convection grill, beverage tap, refrigerator, food warmer, side burner, LED lighting, entertainment system and built-in waterfall.
\Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet Another great grill manufacturer is Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, a company that has been making high-end grills, outdoor kitchens and recently, a martini bar, for 100 years. In addition to their awesome free-standing grills, Kalamazoo will literally build the kitchen of your dreams outdoors. The entire system stands fully finished in stainless steel and on its own leveling legs.
They will also integrate your kitchen into stone surrounds, outdoor enclosures or other hardscape treatments. Every outdoor kitchen cabinet door and drawer opening is surrounded by its own rain gutter, so any items you store inside will remain clean and dry no matter what the weather. Hand-crafted entirely of 304 and 316 stainless steel, including all hinges, handles, drawer glides and other hardware, your outdoor kitchen will withstand the elements and look beautiful for a lifetime.