With outdoor entertaining season on the horizon, shifting your home design aspirations to the exterior may be the energy shift you need to get through the last legs of winter. For entertaining aficionados, make 2019 the year you create an additional living area—al fresco.
From resort-worthy pools, to outdoor fireplaces, to backyard kitchens that will make your main kitchen jealous, it is truly possible to create an entertaining haven outside of your home’s four walls. This summer, it’s all about bringing the comforts of the indoors, outside.
With nearly limitless possibilities in pool design, skip the airfare and hotel hassles, because there is no reason to book a summer vacation—you can have a dreamy pool at your own place if you have the room.
“We build many custom pools,” says Mike Murillo, sales director for Barrington Pools. According to Murillo, this level of custom design ranges from in- pool sitting areas, to tanning spaces and infinity edges. If you still don’t believe you can skip the summer vacation, Murillo says swim-up bars are trending features that give backyard pools an extra edge.
To elevate the basic to the exquisite, it’s the details—functional and finishing—that make all the difference in a backyard pool.
“Using LED lighting in pools is energy efficient, as well as convenient,” says Rene Huston, president of Patio Pleasures. “Large, in-pool LED lights can work with home automation systems. Turning on the lights can be as simple as asking Alexa to light up the pool.”
For finish details, Murillo focuses on using Italian porcelain tile for the deck surface, and uses Pebble Tec interior finish as an alternative to plaster pool floors.
Additionally, to spend less time maintaining the pool and more time enjoying your guests, saltwater pools are an alternative to chlorine, as they require less maintenance. “Many of the new pools being installed are saltwater versions,” says Dawn Shaw, co-owner of Shaw Building & Design, Inc.
As the afternoon sun turns into cocktail hour, Murillo also sees fire bowls decorating outdoor pool areas. With this level of luxury combined with the comfort of home, a backyard staycation is calling your name.
Thoughtfully selected outdoor lighting can elevate the space and lend a warm, ambient feel to the area. Lighting provides additional dimension to the backyard, long after the sun goes down.
“We continue to see outdoor-friendly string lights with Edison bulbs, as well as soft lighting throughout the backyard to give the area an inviting feel,” says Shaw.
Incorporating a soft warmth throughout the backyard brings a sense of comfort. “A light bulb that resembles a flame is a low-voltage landscape lighting alternative. Fire elements bring a sense of intrigue to the area, and since it is low-voltage, the lighting is inexpensive and relatively easy to install,” says Huston.
An outdoor fireplace can extend your time outdoors, whether it’s spending cool summer evenings outside, or carrying your backyard season through the fall, courtesy of the fire’s warmth. But, one negative of an outdoor fireplace can be the post-fire smoky smell that lingers on clothes and hair. According to Murillo, many people are turning to gas fireplaces instead of wood, to avoid that telltale fire smell.
Fire tables can be a lower-maintenance alternative to a full fireplace, while still providing the warm ambience.
“Outdoor fire tables are a quick and convenient way to ignite a fire, especially if you are entertaining,” says Huston. “The range of fireplaces [you can find] incorporates so many tastes and styles, from a shiplap farmhouse vibe, to cement.”
Summer in the Midwest is fleeting, so taking advantage of the limited window of outdoor living is a priority for many. Thanks to the ability to design a full-service kitchen outdoors, there’s no need to give up indoor comforts.
“The backyard vision often starts with a pool and hot tub, and expands to include an outdoor kitchen,” says Huston. “Wood pellet grill units are becoming more prevalent, as well as more standard amenities such as refrigerators and built-in seating.”
“Anything indoors can be outdoors,” says Murillo. “Backyard kitchens can be outfitted with dishwashers, warming drawers, kegerators, refrigerators and anything else you would include indoors.”
As the kitchen is the heart of the home, the basis of an outdoor kitchen is no different. “It really comes down to how can people best entertain and maximize time with family and friends,” says Huston.
Creating your outdoor oasis—whatever that may be—will be well worth it. There’s something about the outdoors that makes you slow down, focus on face-to-face conversations and live in the moment.
“We live in a fast-paced world and creating an outdoor environment helps us come together and eliminate distractions,” says Huston. “A well-designed backyard can create that endless weekend atmosphere. By including an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace and gathering family, friends, you can really create those connections. It’s also a great way to naturally de-stress.”
Even the most dedicated entertainer needs a retreat sometimes. There are unique ways to create additional privacy, such as deco panels made of Australian eucalyptus trees. “These can be used as privacy panels, in addition to other purposes such as a kitchen backdrop or to hide pool equipment,” says Huston.
Private backyard refuges also come in the form of a separate structure, such as a garden shed, but not used solely to store equipment. Garden sheds are becoming more prevalent as a refuge to pursue leisurely activities, such as gardening, according to Huston.
By Deanna Kane | Photos courtesy of Barrington Pools
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