UNDER THE WINTER SKY
DESIGNING AN OUTDOOR SPACE FOR YEAR-ROUND USE
Pandemic pups, bread baking and TikTok dances are just a few of the ways we entertained ourselves during Covid-19, but if there is one trend that is still going strong, it is the importance of having a functional outdoor living space. While heat lamps were about as hard to find during the pandemic as toilet paper, outdoor living spaces have evolved into multi-functional havens and continue to dominate in the building and home design industries. According to leading real estate website Zillow, a functional outdoor space is the most sought-after amenity among today’s homebuyers.
Creating outdoor living spaces
From simply covering a deck or screening in an existing porch to building an elaborate outdoor dining and entertaining oasis, creating outdoor living spaces can enhance the value of your home up to 20 percent, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects. Such spaces speak to quiet staycations as well as lively parties and family gatherings and can be as varied as the seasons.
Existing decks and patios can be transformed into year-round spaces with roofing and screening, but Chris Collins of Collins Custom Builders also offers custom-built sunrooms that homeowners can enjoy 365 days of the year. Sunrooms, sometimes referred to as solariums or conservatories, are an addition to the home, often separated by patio doors or sliding French doors. The wall frames can hold numerous large windows or even floor-to-ceiling windows or skylights.
Four-season sunrooms have HVAC installed in the room, making climate control possible and the space usable all year round (know more about HVAC systems by checking out sites like https://kmpcorp.com/services/furnace-repair/ or https://villara.com/areas-we-serve/manteca-ca/). Collins uses a Mitsubishi Mini-Split heating element in his sunrooms, a digital heat source that is quiet and efficient. His clients have decorated their sunrooms with plants, turned them into home offices and used them for light-filled dining and entertaining spaces. A custom-built sunroom usually takes between four to eight weeks from start to completion.
Top Left and Above: Courtesy of Collins Custom Builders
Renovating existing spaces or building new
When working with existing porches and decks, Collins makes sure they are structurally sound and up to code before any work begins. Building a roofline over a deck makes it more usable, even if it is only over one half of it, but Collins recommends a seamless tie to the existing roof for resale purposes. Pop-up gazebos and umbrellas are another easy DIY way to provide shade on a sizzling summer day if roofing is not in the budget.
When building a new deck, Collins notes that maintenance-free decking is one of the biggest things that clients are looking for. He uses a composite material from Trex for his constructions. “It’s more expensive than regular treated wood decking, but it’s worth it. No one has ever regretted building a deck from Trex,” he says. Similarly, when screening in a porch, Collins says that maintenance-free railings made of either vinyl or aluminum powder are popular options that eliminate yearly cleaning and painting chores.
Luxury projects are limitless, but outdoor kitchens and bars need to be winterized. You need a cut off to water sources and icemaker lines when the weather drops to freezing. It’s always important to buy outdoor-rated appliances and weatherproof furniture. Wood with a high oil content such as teak hold up well. Other options include polyethylene wicker and aluminum. Stay away from bare metals and materials such as wrought iron that will rust. Sunbrella® is an excellent fabric for cushions. Invest in high-quality furniture and grill covers to protect from mold, mildew and rust.
Whatever weather comes this winter, being proactive with your outdoor spaces will allow you to enjoy them longer — possibly even year-round!
Zhuzh it up
• Install a high-definition TV for watching the big game with the gang
• Set up a telescope for stargazing
• Fill up bird feeders and set out binoculars for bird watching
• Organize an outdoor fitness area under a shade sail
• Purchase a dedicated four-person card table for board games, puzzles or cards
• Create a dedicated reading nook with a place for storing books and magazines
• Add a daybed for al fresco napping
• Provide a stocked coffee bar for early morning reading
• Fill a wicker basket with cozy throws and blankets
• Set up a Bluetooth® sound system
• Add Edison or twinkle lights
• Install water features like bubbling fountains or a plunge pool
• Hang bamboo wind chimes
• Fill up planters with winter themes using holly, pine, berries, pinecones and magnolia leaves in December and hardy blooms in late winter like violas, pansies, primrose and decorative kale. ✦
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