Inside Out – The Good Life


Inside Out

By Sherry Marcolongo 

An exiting new trend in home design is the addition of an outdoor living space, which allows homeowners to live the good life both indoors and outdoors. These spaces can be added during the initial construction process or during renovations, and they greatly expand the amount of area available for relaxation and entertainment. The forms of outdoor enhancement range from tranquil gardens to impressive outdoor kitchens, and the limits are set by imagination only.

For those seeking rest and rejuvenation, the harmony created from a well-planned outdoor area can be just what a weary soul needs. There are many ways to create a serene haven right out the back door. Software programs are available for rugged individualists who wish to plan and design a space on their own. For those who are unsure of where to start or who are undertaking an extensive project, a builder, architect and/or designer may be the ideal solution.

When Steve and Donna Banks of Destin decided to remodel their home, they sought out the services of Signature Builders Inc. of Fort Walton Beach. In addition to their whole-house renovation, the Bankses also wanted to incorporate a functional and inviting outdoor living space to relax and enjoy while offering the option of entertaining family and friends.

The expansive deck they now have features a screened and cozy outdoor room for the second floor that provides shading and a retreat from the elements for a portion of the first-floor deck. The Bankses have complemented the space with outdoor ceiling fans, plenty of comfortable seating and a dining area – all of which are brought together by a free-standing outdoor fireplace.

“I enjoy the fact that our outdoor living area backs up to the wetlands and provides peacefulness and privacy – I can forget about things and just stay in my own world,” Donna Banks said.

Mike Langille of Signature Builders explains that “the front porch is a mix of original brick, stone paver patio and rough sawn cypress timbers that the owner had found at an Alabama sawmill.

“The extensive double-tier rear deck is exceptional,” he said. “Upstairs is a screened porch off the master bedroom … (and) the main level rear deck goes across the entire rear of the home and features large timber railings and seating areas.” 

Let’s Take It Outside
Not all outdoor living spaces have to be so elaborate. Many types of decks and garden spots could benefit from the addition of an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. The rise in popularity of these items has grown substantially in recent years along the Emerald Coast, as well as in other scenic locales. Fireplaces and fire pits allow residents to enjoy their outdoor spaces and living areas throughout the year, regardless of temperature.

Benches and unique seating arrangements also are low-cost, low effort additions that can help these fire-pit spaces double not only as an area to entertain guests, but also a relaxing way to disconnect from the hectic world that is just beyond the front door. Natural stone fireplaces can add a rustic feel to the setting, while a more modern fireplace can make the area more stylish and refined.

For smaller areas that still attract gatherings, various styles of fire pits and patio heaters are available for those chilly winter nights. Both natural gas and electric heaters and fireplaces are available in a wide range of designs and sizes to fit every budget and layout.

Another step to defining an outdoor living space is rethinking landscaping as more than just greenery. Trellised arches and walkways can create a nice entrance to the outdoor setting; for larger yards, well-planned hedges can create a divided area reminiscent of indoor rooms. Each “room,” or section, of the garden can carry its own theme, such as a meditation space complete with the trickling of a water fountain or an outdoor bedroom to allow visitors to daydream or sleep under the stars.

These spaces can be balanced with inventive seating, as well as hanging open-air beds or canopied hammocks resplendent with outdoor fabrics that can withstand the harsh changes in weather.

“Wicker or rattan furnishings made of extruded resin material that is specially made for durability in all types of weather would be ideal for an outdoor living space,” suggested Carol Stearns of the Decorating Den in Fort Walton Beach. Stearns also recommends Sunbrealla brand fabric and quick-drying cushions with rust-resistant metal springs inside to allow for the drainage of water. These products and materials will allow outdoor furnishings to last longer than ordinary pieces.

But the design possibilities don’t stop with furniture. For art lovers who are interested in accentuating swimming pool and patio areas, there is a new decorative option: weatherproof outdoor art prints. These prints offer ease of care and resilience from the Florida sun and tropical weather, and they add substance and ambiance to a well-appointed outdoor retreat.

Lighting also is a  huge factor in accenting an outdoor space, and an ideal feature is natural gas lanterns and light posts. Multiple types of fixtures are available to match the décor of any space. Wall-mounted styles offer a pleasant option to complement decking nestled against a dwelling. Free-standing light posts or torches can be positioned along walkways and surrounding segmented seating areas. The dancing flames can add charm as well as a sophisticated atmosphere to balance any space and theme.

Cooking Alfresco
The fastest-growing type of outdoor space is the open-air kitchen. More and more people are realizing the ease and convenience of cooking outdoors and are enjoying the fact that this style of preparing meals keeps the heat out of the house. And the best part about these open-air kitchens is that they can be fully customized to meet each homeowner’s individual needs and plans.

“The typical outdoor kitchen requested is an 8-foot to 15-foot grill island with a stucco exterior and tumbled marble or travertine countertop,” said Jamie Burton, owner of Burton Installations Inc., a Navarre-based company that specializes in creating top-of-the-line outdoor kitchens. “And the most popular grill is the 27-inch built-in grill with a single side burner with stainless steel access doors under the grill.

“Once the customer selects the outdoor kitchen, grill, appliances, countertop and finish, the outdoor kitchen is built on-site and usually completed within one week,” Burton said.
The rise in popularity of these types of outdoor kitchens has led builders to add the necessary utility hook-ups to the outside of houses during the construction process in anticipation of homeowners eventually adding an open-air kitchen to their property.

For ideas and customizable suggestions on personalizing outdoor living spaces, talk to a builder, architect, renovation specialist or designer to help find the right features or combination of features to fit your home.