Bringing the outdoors in is part of a larger trend of homeowners tailoring their homes to suit their lifestyle, says Craig Durosko, founder of Sun Design, in McLean, Va. Just as homeowners want to tear down walls to create open interiors, they want to break down the barriers to the backyard. It’s usually part of a kitchen remodel, Durosko says, or one of the phases in a whole-house plan.
Mark Franko, co-owner of Franko-LaFratta Construction, says that outdoor projects in Richmond, Va., are driven by the area’s pre-1960 housing, built without “any great connectivity to the yard.” His homeowners want to “make the back wall of the house more transparent,” he says.
Like Durosko and Franko, other remodelers are also responding to interest in outdoor projects. In St. Louis, Mosby Building Arts’ outdoor-only projects have increased from 2% in 2012 to 4% in 2013. “Easily 40% of our projects touch on outdoor living,” says marketing coordinator Toby Weiss. Designer Adrienne Nienkamp says that high-end clients think more about the outdoor space, in part because they have larger properties and the space for outdoor living areas, and also because most have already remodeled interior spaces.
Clients with modest budgets still want outdoor features, but they are scaled back, Weiss points out, or might stem from an exterior repair or involve enhancing or expanding an existing deck or patio.
Though outdoor living has always been of interest to Todd Jackson’s San Diego clients, now many want an outdoor space that is seamlessly integrated and looks like it was part of the original house — essentially a “room addition without walls,” says the president of Jackson Design & Remodeling.
Six Tips for Outdoor Projects
1. Plan ahead. Bring up the idea when you are designing an indoor project so you can plan connections to outdoor areas. Often, these outdoor areas are an afterthought to an interior project, where if you “extend the axis of travel right on outdoors,” Franko says, “you can make this space amazing.”
2. Consider the impact that outdoor features will have on interiors. A covered porch will darken the interior space. A new deck railing might block a view from an interior window, so consider dropping the deck a few feet to maintain the unobstructed view. Lighting the exterior at night will expand the sight lines from the interior and make the room feel larger, he says. Expand a design theme from the interior to the exterior. “Use the ceiling of the new outdoor space to complement the existing to make it look seamless,” Durosko says.
3. Team up with a landscape professional — especially if you haven’t done many outdoor projects before.
4. Make managing water a priority. “Having repaired so many failed outdoor living projects, we know that the key to a successful project is water management,” Weiss says. “While it’s not as glamorous as designing pavilions or outdoor kitchens, if the deflection and movement of water is not done properly, the project is doomed down the road.” Educate yourself about low-maintenance products. Warn your clients that outdoor living areas and kitchens will require some maintenance or weatherizing before the winter season.
5. Look for cost-effective ways to replicate high-end features. Houzz and Pinterest are powerful tools that allow homeowners to see projects from around the world. Your clients might fall in love with a $300,000 outdoor project that’s beyond their budget, but you can “extrapolate features or concepts that you can incorporate into theirs,” Durosko says. A Nanawall folding glass wall might be beyond your client’s budget, but now window manufacturers such as Jeld-Wen and Marvin are offering large sliding doors that can imitate that look for less.
6. Make sure that products meet code. “Many products sold at your local stores might not be approved in your county,” Durosko points out. Glass, aluminum, or cable railings, composite decking, and outdoor fireplaces may not meet code or be approved by homeowners associations.