According to a survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, a recent trend among homeowners is to add outdoor living spaces to their properties. This includes patios, decks, outdoor kitchens, entertainment areas with fireplaces and fire pits, dining areas, and sitting areas, all accented with creative outdoor lighting. Landscape architect Steven Wlodarczyk of Botanical Decorators spoke with us about a couple of his projects that included these kinds of outdoor elements.
"It's very popular to have cozy gathering spaces that invite architectural detail into the landscape," Wlodarczyk explains. Outdoor fire pits and fireplaces are very popular and are most heavily used in autumn. One project that features an elegant fireplace and seating area is the Lloyd's Lane project, which was done in collaboration with the architect and the builder of the newly constructed home. Aside from a fireplace, the clients wanted to also add a covered patio, grilling area, level lawn, custom swimming pool, and sustainable landscape elements. There is a walkway that leads from a large oval lawn panel and garden area to the outdoor fireplace and covered patio. The entire space measures 115 feet by 75 feet.
Outdoor fireplaces are built the same way as interior fireplaces, minus the damper. Wlodarczyk explains, "If the fireplace is going to be in a covered space, it's critically important that the opening of the fireplace is sized correctly. There is a mathematical formula that calculates the proper sizes of the opening of the fireplace, the size of the flue, and the height of the chimney. All of those things need to have the proper dimensions for the fire to draft correctly."
As far as design, Wlodarczyk explains, "What we found to work the best for our clients is to keep things very simple and elegant so that areas like this do not become the focal point of the exterior space. We want the kitchen to be functional and serve its purpose, but it's not going to be the star of the show. We want the landscape and the overall composition of the project to really shine as a whole as opposed to one element standing out above the others."
In the Waverly Way project, the team at Botanical Decorators was invited to work on the exterior space shortly after construction of the house began. The client enjoys entertaining and requested that the entire landscape be used for elements such as outdoor water features, an outdoor fireplace, a custom arbor, an outdoor kitchen, grilling area and dining patio.
The outdoor kitchen and dining area is particularly charming, with its red upholstered seats and rounded tables on a patio at the end of a long manicured lawn and garden.
One of the main components in an outdoor kitchen is the grill, and Wlodarczyk recommends a really high quality professional grill such as those made by Twin Eagles or Bull BBQ. Occasionally a client wants to have an actual oven in their outdoor kitchen space, in which case Wlodarczyk recommends one by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.
"There are some warming drawers and storage. The important thing in any outdoor kitchen is the service area, which means having ample counter space where you can put out serving trays. With medium to large size parties, most people are having that catered anyway, so the kitchen itself just needs to be functional so the catering team can utilize it and have everything set up."
"There are a lot of options and a lot of different components that you can put into an outdoor kitchen, but you have to think about maintenance and longevity. The more components there are, the more upkeep and follow-up service you're going to need down the line, so we try to keep it pretty simple."
Outdoor entertainment areas can either be open or covered. "Generally speaking, putting some kind of a pergola structure or pavilion does finish off the space and gives it a nice feeling of scale and proportion. What we find is that the space becomes more of a conversation space if it is designed around some deep-seating type furniture, such as a sofa, two chairs and some ottomans with a coffee table in the middle of it to make the space a little bit flexible."
Outdoor lighting with low voltage LED lighting fixtures completes the setting and adds mood and atmosphere to a space after dark. This is a big trend, according to Wlodarczyk. "The LED lighting is definitely up and coming. They've done a good job of getting the LED lights to be consistent in terms of their color and they're definitely great in terms of energy efficiency."
Creatively designed outdoor living areas transform the exterior of a home into a kind of private retreat space, offering an opportunity for homeowners to fully enjoy the outdoors with the comforts of interior elements. These areas connect the indoors with the out, making it easier to really live outdoors no matter what the season.
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