New ideas for outdoor spaces
This is the time of year we all look forward to: Daylight lasts long after our workdays have ended, the weather is balmy, and family and friends are visiting from Arizona and those other hotter climes! It’s a good bet that you’ve got the patio furniture wiped down and the grill fired up by now.
Maybe you’ve also been considering a sound system and pizza oven for your patio, yard or deck. If so, you’d be part of a national trend toward creating outdoor living spaces that rival their indoor counterparts. The great thing is that here in San Diego we get to use ours so much more than other parts of the country with colder winters and crueler summers.
Outdoor living reimagined
“I’ve been a San Diego general contractor since 1988,” says Eric Epifano of Lakeside-based ECEGC Inc. “Over that time, the outdoor living spaces have gone from nonexistent to being the main focus of common areas,” he recalls. “What was once designated as ‘backyard’ is now begin transformed into ‘living space.’ The closer you get to the ocean, the more inviting the opportunity to move your living space outdoors. … Budgets be damned,” he jokes.
Seriously speaking, outdoor living spaces can command serious dollars, but if you’re building a home, creating a major addition or completely renovating your space, these new areas are in high demand and can add tremendous value to your property.
Complete outdoor kitchens and living rooms will often have utilities, entertainment and architectural features that need to be handled with skill and knowledge. You also want them to be visually connected to your indoor spaces; so you need a pro who knows which ones work best in covered and uncovered settings.
“The most popular trend is to match interior floor coverings with the exterior deck covering to create a seamless transition into the adjoining room. It makes the entire space look like one large room,” observes Epifano. You’re also going to opt for maximum access between your indoor and outdoor living areas. “Multi-slide doors that create large openings [and] disappear into a framed pocket have a great impact on the room.”
“A fire pit is my must-have,” Epifano declares. “It’s more inviting than a fireplace, and people can gather on all sides. An outdoor spa is the over-the-top piece that changes the space from casual lounge and dining to ‘let’s party outside.’”
Your outdoor spa and living area should have a professionally designed lighting plan, he says. “The potential a well-designed lighting scheme has to create dramatic and inviting outdoor spaces is an opportunity not to be squandered.”
“Ice makers, microwaves and dishwashers are some of the elements that move your outdoor space into a more exclusive category,” he adds.
And, of course, a great grill! There are many brands and types to choose from, but your high-end project will almost certainly have it built in. “Pizza ovens are highly desirable, but priced outside most budgets,” Epifano says. In response to market demand, more affordable freestanding models are already starting to become available. The same can also be said for smokers. These are scaled for the household that doesn’t want to budget for built-ins and every bell and whistle, and may want to take them along if they move.
Wine captains, under-counter refrigerators, warming drawers, beer taps, sodas fountains, ice cream makers and blended drink machines are also showing up in outdoor kitchens. “Only choose the things that you will use during at least 75 percent of all your experiences,” suggests designer Dawn Davidson, CEO of Del Mar-based Design Line Interiors. “Otherwise, the devoted space, upkeep and worth diminishes.” Like Epifano, Davidson works on luxury residences that make the most of their outdoor settings.
One unique, high-end grill that recently hit the market is from a San Diego-based manufacturer appropriately named iBBQ Inc. This is one you might use closer to 100 percent of the time. The Angara Maximus is a stylish, sustainable Iroko wood grill table that diners gather to cook and eat at. “The word Angara is from ancient Sanskrit, and it means the fire within,” says company co-founder Karim Pirani. “The original designer of this table, Anthony Grove, designed it for the homeowner who loves to entertain at home.”
Outdoor entertainment is another luxury that’s evolving. “It will all be wireless one day,” Epifano predicts. “To most, Bluetooth devices give our cellphones all the smart technology we need, indoors or outdoors.” There are installed systems for those who want them, but a quality speaker paired to your device will deliver ongoing music for your entertaining.
You’re probably going to enjoy it in greater comfort now than ever, too. “Built-in benches and seating with cushy cushions or high-top gathering tables that are extra-long with lots of stools” are trending, according to Davidson. While there are common elements to most outdoor kitchens, she notes, including a sophisticated cooking center with outdoor refrigeration and lighting, the ideal is personalized to each homeowner: “What do you, your family and friends love to do? What do you like to eat? What kind of music? Wine, beer, pizza, kabobs. … Yum! Anything goes!” she declares. “Close your eyes and imagine the perfect Saturday night at home, imagine a party, imagine the perfect Sunday afternoon or a big, juicy turkey being prepared outside. It is really all about you and what you want your life to be.”
Davidson is a big fan of incorporating a garden into your project and siting it close to the kitchen area: “Out of limes for that Mojito — snatch a juicy one off your tree. Need a little basil for your pizza? Voila! There is just something special about what you grow yourself and how that relates to the outdoor experience.”