Decorating Your Outdoor Living Space for the Holidays

The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. Not only is it the season to get together with friends and family, but it’s also a time to add to the cheer. Beautiful outdoor decorations make everything so festive in the winter months when it is usually dark and cold. If you are looking for ways to dress up your outdoor living spaces, here are some ideas to consider.

What areas should you decorate? Because the holiday season tends to be cooler, focus on the outdoor areas where you either spend time or can be seen from the street. The goal is to not waste your effort and make sure your decorations can be appreciated. Your front porch is a great area to start with, then focus on the other spaces, like sunrooms, porches and decks.

Archadeck of Greater Atlanta's Christmas Deck

This deck by Archadeck of Greater Atlanta could even put Scrooge in the holiday mood.

Trees. Evergreen trees have become synonymous with the holidays. Growing up, my mom went crazy decorating with trees. Not only did we have some trees that were wrapped in string lights in our yard, but we put Christmas trees on our outdoor living spaces. Our front porch was just big enough for a Christmas tree that we decorated with outdoor ornaments. It was the perfect way to welcome visitors. And since we had a small sunroom off the back of our living room, we had a simple tree there that we could see from our couch.

Garland is a common way to dress up your outdoor living spaces. Garland can be strung over doors, around columns or along railings. They are beautiful if left in their natural form, but you can also dress it up if you wish. For example, if you have garland along your deck railings, consider adding bows where the garland connects to railing posts. Pinecones and holly berries are also popular decoration ideas.

Ornaments. While the majority of ornaments may be made for the indoors, there are some that you can use outside as well. If you have a covered porch, you can hang some ornaments with beautiful ribbon from the eaves and ceiling at different heights. Additionally, they can be hung in between railing posts.

Incorporate your favorite things about the season.  We all have our favorite memories of the winter season. Why not try to fit that into your outdoor décor? I grew up in Maine with a lot of snow. When I think winter and the holidays, sledding is one of the first things that comes to mind, so I actually placed a sled on my deck a few years ago (which we can see from our family room). I put holly leaves and berries on top to dress it up. My friend, on the other hand, will hang bells instead of a wreath from her front door because it reminds her of Santa bells.

Lights. Personally, when I think holidays, I think lights. From simple candles in the front windows to stringing lights amongst all of your decorations, adding lights to your holiday décor instantly makes it more festive.

The most important aspect of holiday decorating is that you love it and it makes you happy. Have fun! From everyone here at Archadeck Outdoor Living, have a very merry holiday season.

What to Invest in and what to DIY in your Outdoor Living Space

The best outdoor living spaces provide for just that, living outdoors. But with home and property obligations, it can be too expensive to have the best of everything from the beginning. We’re often asked what to invest in and what you can wait to save for. Well, here are thoughts and some ideas to make your space look fantastic without spending the big bucks.

When it comes to saving your dollars and investing in the outdoor spaces of your home, you definitely want to invest in the actual structure. While you can switch out furnishing relatively easily, you can’t do that with a deck, porch, patio, screened in porch or sunroom. You also want to know that whatever you have is built to code and will last for years.

If you are looking to add on smaller structures, like an outdoor kitchen, fire pit or fireplace, this is something we also suggest investing in because it will add value to the space and be there for a long time. Anything this isn’t mobile, we suggest investing in.

In terms of furnishings, this is where you can save in some areas and spend in others. If you are going to spend over a few hundred dollars, make sure that you absolutely love it and it will last. When my husband and I were looking for a new outdoor dining table, for instance, we set a threshold. We said if we were going to go over $XXX dollars, it had to be great quality and something we both loved. Below that, we could consider purchasing knowing that we may upgrade in a few years.

The smaller items in your outdoor living space are great places to save and create some easy Do it Yourself pieces. Here are some ideas that are cost effective, but also chic…

iStock_000004874324XSmallPlant it in something unique. Anyone can go into a home improvement store, buy some planters or pots and plant some flowers in it. Some homeowners however may want something a little more special. Look for things that can function as a planter, but have some visual interest. My aunt has a birdbath on her property that she didn’t want birds in (too many mosquitoes) but was too beautiful to get rid of, so she planted some herbs in it. I’ve also seen people plant in old wheelbarrows like this one.

Don’t forget about the pots. Just because planting in a terracotta pot may be predictable, doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your space. They are great bases for side tables. You can either flip it upside-down and place a piece of Plexiglas on top or sit it upright and do the same thing. If you keep it upright, you can also add something special in it, like shells or sea glass. Pots are also great ways to add color into the space. They not only are available in fun colors, but they are easily updated with spray paint.

Keep those pallets. Old wooden pallets are as multipurpose as they get. They can be used in so many different ways. Using a pallet as the top of an outdoor coffee table is just one idea. You can sand and stain it or paint it any color you want. They are a great option that fulfills the purpose and looks great while you find something that you love.

Think about it before you throw it away. Just because something wasn’t initially purchased for the outside of the home doesn’t mean it can’t end up there (this isn’t the case with all things). Take an old bureau or bookcase for example. If you treat it with an outdoor protectant to ensure it doesn’t rot, it could work incredibly well in a covered outdoor area, like a porch. An outdoor wet bar perhaps?

A gorgeous outdoor living space is normally a mixture of some “investment” pieces and some quick finds. The more important thing is that at the end of the day, you love it. If you have any questions, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

We Have an Outdoor Fireplace!

S’mores anyone?

It’s week two of our patio and deck build here at the Archadeck Outdoor Living corporate office and a lot of work has been done. The once grassy patch to the left of our building is now a construction site with bulldozers, dirt, sand and holes! Continue reading

Outdoor Kitchen Tools that Enhance Your Cooking and Dining Experience

At Archadeck, we love creating custom outdoor kitchen designs that fit our clients’ needs, tastes and budgets. The majority of the outdoor kitchens we build include a built-in grill and counter space.  Having a space outdoors to prepare and cook your food is great, but a set of simple tools will enhance your outdoor cooking and dining experience even more. Here are some tools and accessories that we find incredibly helpful.

A good grill set. When it comes to cooking outdoors, you need more than just a spatula. At the very least, we recommend a high-quality grill set that includes a spatula, tongs, basting brush and grill fork. There are some sets that have upwards of 10 pieces, but these four pieces will cover the majority of your grilling needs. When choosing your grill set, make sure that they’re sturdy (stainless steel is a popular choice) so they last for multiple seasons.

A good grill brush will clean away this built up grime and crust

A good grill brush will clean away this built up grime and crust

Grill brush. Have you ever looked at a grill that had the burnt crust on the grates? I sure have. That happens when a grill isn’t properly cleaned before or after cooking. A grill brush with steel bristles will remove the majority of if not all built up dirt. The grates should be cleaned off after each use to make it easier as you go.

Meat thermometer. This is especially important for those picky eaters. It can sometimes be difficult to determine how well cooked a piece of meat is while grilling. A reliable meat thermometer will ensure your meat is prepared just how you like it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrill Basket. When it is grilling season, I like to cook the majority of my meal components right on the grill. That, however, can be difficult without a good grill basket. Baskets for the grill come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I have a simple square one that I use to cook veggies, but there are options for specific purposes as well, like fish and corn. Baskets make sure that whatever you are cooking doesn’t fall through the grates and become inedible.

Barbecue Light. Don’t let the sun going down stop your grilling fun and keep it going with a grill light. Custom outdoor kitchen designs often include some type of lighting component, but there are plenty of light fixtures that are specifically designed to be around the grill. When looking for one, make sure that they are indeed built to withstand the heat (there are specific barbecue lights, like these, that are made for grilling).

Unbreakable dishes and glasses. For me, it’s always easier to use unbreakable dishes when entertaining or eating outdoors. You never know when something may slip and fall and it’s more difficult to clean up glass outside than in. Just because you aren’t using glass dishes doesn’t mean you have to abandon your sense of style, however. There are a ton of great outdoor dishes, like these options from Pottery Barn. Melamine and plastic are both good materials for outdoor dining.

These are just a few of the outdoor cooking accessories that are available, but we at Archadeck are big fans of anything that makes your outdoor living experience more enjoyable. If you have questions regarding outdoor kitchens, contact your local Archadeck office.

2013 Outdoor Living Trends

As Spring is just around the corner, it is time to look at what is hot in the outdoor living category for 2013. Every year we at Archadeck Outdoor Living find our clients asking for different finishes or types of projects that would enhance their outdoor living spaces. The America Society of Landscape Architects, or ASLA, recently released survey results on what is hot for this year. Here are some of the highest ranked projects:

outdoor-fireplace-charlotteNinety-seven percent of respondents rated fire pits or outdoor fireplaces as in demand. We’ve discussed the growing popularity in fire features over the last few years. As outdoor living spaces have evolved into true extensions of the home, we see that outdoor fireplaces are being added to include the homey feeling outdoors. Not to mention they allow homeowners to use the space well into the fall. Who doesn’t enjoy bundling up by the fire and enjoying s’mores or hot cocoa? I know I do.

Rated just under outdoor fireplaces and fire pits were grills. Grills have been popular additions to outdoor living spaces for years. When it comes to grills, and outdoor kitchens, the possibilities are endless, but they should also be planned for. We’ve all seen grills that are placed on a deck or patio but don’t really seem to have a place. Even if the grill isn’t built into the outdoor structure, make sure to tell your patio or deck builder to create a space for the grill. When it has a designated space, it increases the flow and design of the space.

porch_drapes1Third and fourth on the list were seating and dining areas and outdoor lighting. This doesn’t surprise us at all. For an outdoor living space to be an extension of the home and to be used, it has to have purpose. No one spends time in the empty rooms of their house, why would they outside? When considering adding a deck, porch, patio, sunroom, screened porch or other outdoor structure to your property, make sure you tell the designer how you intend to use the space. You may find that you want separate areas for different purposes: one place to sit and read a book and another to dine with friends and family. And, if you want to use the space after dark, add outdoor lighting. Outdoor lighting can be added to outdoor living spaces at any time in most cases, but will be more seamless if you plan to add it while the project is being built.

The trends in outdoor living spaces do change, but as Nancy Somerville, ASLA’s executive vice president and CEO explains; “In this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards. They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.”

If you are interested in enhancing your outdoor living spaces, contact your local Archadeck office.

ARCH_7117 Dream Backyard Makeover BlockAnd in case you’ve forgotten, it’s not to late to enter Archadeck’s Dream Backyard Makeover Contest! The first set of finalists will be announced in just a few days. Make sure to submit a photo of your backyard and let us know why your yard deserves the $70,000 grand prize!

Outdoor Kitchen Design Ideas for the Ultimate Cooking Experience

As many of you know, Archadeck Outdoor Living is in the middle of the $70,000 Dream Backyard Makeover Contest (make sure you enter!).  The entry form asks for a 250 word description of a photo of your backyard. Many entrants have included what they would like to see in the backyard design. One common theme is the outdoor kitchen, a perfect place to cook and entertain friends and family.

This custom outdoor kitchen design has space for several outdoor chefs to help prepare dinner

This custom outdoor kitchen design has space for several outdoor chefs to help prepare dinner

There are number of outdoor kitchen design ideas to consider. With different sizes, shapes, layouts, finishes and appliances to look out, the possibilities are practically endless. So how do you decide what is right for you? Answering these questions may help you define what exactly you want in your outdoor kitchen?

How do you pictures using your outdoor kitchen? If you are simply going to throw your food on the grill, a big outdoor kitchen may not make sense. A built in grill and small counter space may work just fine. For those people that like to prepare, cook and eat outside, more space is needed in the layout.

outdoor kitchen design ideaWhat appliances are necessary? Most outdoor kitchens include a grill of some sort, but outdoor appliances go well beyond the grill. We’ve designed and built outdoor kitchens that have included sinks, ice makers, small refrigerators, smokers, pizza ovens, stoves and more.  When thinking what appliances you need, think about how you like to cook and what you would rather have right there with you as opposed to those things you can walk inside for.

How many people will be cooking with you? No one likes to feel crammed, especially with the heat and dangers that may accompany cooking. Consider how many people may be with you while you are cooking. Some of our clients will add a place to sit so that whoever is cooking can have company. If several people in your family are known to man the grill simultaneously, you may want to look at larger outdoor kitchen designs.

outdoor kitchen designWhat finishes should be included? We at Archadeck Outdoor Living are big believers in integrating new outdoor living features in with the old structures (and the home) seamlessly. We don’t want a new outdoor kitchen, for example, to look like an afterthought. When thinking about your outdoor kitchen, think about what is needed to make it complement what’s already there? Do you have a brick patio? Maybe a brick finish will work. What color counters would look good?

Outdoor kitchens, like indoor kitchens, can be very personal to the homeowner. What seems extremely functional to me, may not work for my best friend. A professional outdoor kitchen designer and builder should ask you questions like these to make sure you get the most out of your new space. If you have any questions regarding outdoor kitchens, our outdoor living in general, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Decorating Your Outdoor Spaces for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again, Christmas time. I love to go on walks and drive around neighborhoods this time of year to see the different outdoor decorations on display. Some are traditional while some have wonderful themes. When growing up, there was a house in our town that every year had a who-ville theme from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

If you are looking for some ideas to decorate your outdoor living areas this holiday season, take a look at these:

Christmas Trees. Instead of lighting up the trees in your yard, buy a Christmas tree for your deck, porch or patio. You can get outdoor string lights and ornaments that can withstand the harsh winter elements. Doesn’t this deck in Atlanta look beautiful with the tree?

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Use what you have. If you have outdoor features that mainly go unused in the winter, dress it up for the holidays! Placing greenery with berries or pinecones in a bird bath and planters or around a statue will make it stand out and it’s easy!

This is a great example from Better Homes and Gardens of how to use garland in a new way

This is a great example from Better Homes and Gardens of how to use garland in a new way

Garland. While garland is beautiful when placed around columns, railing and doors, hanging it in unexpected places can dress up your outdoor living spaces. For example, if you have an open porch, arbor pergola or gazebo, hang garland from the roofline or in the lattice as seen in this picture from Better Homes and Gardens. You could also hang it off the back of your outdoor furniture.

Wrap it up. If you have outdoor pillows, tie a Christmas ribbon around them making them look like presents. To see what I mean, take a look at this post from Worthing Court.

Lights. Lights are obviously a key component of the holiday season. Placing lights in, above or around a space instantly dresses it up for the holidays.

Anyone else have some ideas?