Warming up your Backyard for Fall

Happy Fall everyone! Welcome pumpkin spice everything, apples, football and changing leaves! I’m so excited to welcome autumn; it is my favorite season! Just because the weather gets cooler this time of year, doesn’t mean you should move indoors. Here are some tips to warm up your backyard from your outdoor living experts: Archadeck.

Fire features are one of our favorite outdoor structures and, not surprisingly, have been growing in popularity over the last few years. Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits easily become the center point of any outdoor living space and provide enough warmth to keep friends and family outside (not to mention great to roast s’mores in). At Archadeck, we design and build custom fire features that complement your existing outdoor structures.

If having a permanent feature on your property isn’t an option, but you’d still like to have an outdoor heating option, there are some choices. Propane fueled outdoor heaters are available in a number of sizes and can easily be added to or removed from a space very easily.

For some homeowners a fire feature or outdoor heater may be too much to add to their outdoor spaces, but you can still stay warm. Have a few warm blankets available for you and guests and you can still enjoy your backyard. Since it’s fall, look for blankets in warm reds, yellows and oranges.

When all else fails, have a warm drink for people to sip on outdoors on a cool night. It doesn’t need to be anything difficult, just delicious. Here’s a great apple cider recipe to enjoy:

What you’ll need:

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange
  • 2 T whole cloves
  • Rum (optional)

Poke holes around the oranges and poke cloves into the holes. Place the orange in a crock pot with the cider and cinnamon sticks. Cook on low for 4 hours. Add rum to each glass as desired.

Happy Fall!

Creating More Living Space in a Small Backyard

IMG_6883This is an all too familiar sight: a backyard with a small concrete slab off the back of the home as the only true outdoor living space. As you can see with the fire pit, Adirondack chairs and outdoor dining table, these homeowners enjoy spending time outdoors. While there isn’t a lot of backyard space to work with, they needed to update what they had. Archadeck of Charlotte created the perfect patio design for the size.

The clients on this project knew there wasn’t a ton of space to work with, but they felt like their existing outdoor living areas were disjointed, primarily because some of it was on the grass. They were willing to lose a lot of the grass space as long as the new outdoor living structure felt open and addressed their current design dilemmas.

DSCF1317The patio designers at Archadeck laid out this curved paver patio that gives them all they wanted without losing their entire yard. The owners were clear in their desires: space to eat outdoors as well as a built-in fire pit around which to sit.

When planning the space it was clear that a standard square or rectangular patio wouldn’t work. Significant space was needed to fulfill the owners’ outdoor needs, but squaring it off would take up too much space leaving them with no lawn. It also may have resulted in less flow to the patio. By curving the edges of the patio, it gives a it a clear direction, not to mention it gives it a little more style and makes it feel more open.

DSCF1318By moving the fire pit closer to the home and making it a permanent feature, it not only gets more use but also becomes a focal point in the backyard. The feature was finished in the same paver color and design as the patio. A wide edge around the pit was created to give it more weight and provide additional seating when the fire isn’t lit.

Patio designs should be created with the homeowner in mind as each one is different and will use the space in their own way. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we pride ourselves on getting an idea of what our clients’ dream backyard would entail and create a space around it. If you’d like to discuss improving your outdoor living space, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

What are the Top Outdoor Living Trends in 2014?

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyGone are the days of lawn chairs on a concrete slab in the backyard, in are the days of beautiful outdoor living spaces. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently released the results to their annual Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey. Each year, the ASLA surveys residential landscape architects about what aspects of outdoor living will be big for 2014. I must say, we at Archadeck Outdoor Living aren’t that surprised, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t excited by them!

The survey is lumped into different categories. Number two in the Outdoor Design Elements in category is outdoor living spaces (kitchens, entertainment spaces, etc). 92% of the surveyed landscape architects said that outdoor living spaces will be popular or somewhat popular in 2014. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we’ve been building custom outdoor structures since 1980, but we’ve seen an evolution of what that means in the last 5 to 10 years. What once was thought of just a simple deck is now considered an outdoor living space that serves a particular purpose.

More specific is the Outdoor Living Features category of the survey. The ones that we are often asked about the most are seating and dining areas (97.7%), fire pits and fireplaces (95.4%), grills (94.3%), and installed seating (89.6%). Not surprisingly, this goes well with outdoor living spaces, as to have a useful space it has to fulfill a need. The features are what make them living areas and not just a structure.

Nancy Somerville, ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO explains the interest in outdoor living: “Homeowners known that designed landscapes add value to their lives as well as their property values…They’re interested in livable, open spaces that are both stylish and earth friendly.” Source.

When designing a structure for a client, we at Archadeck Outdoor Living talk to the homeowner about the way the space will be used and how they envision it flowing. With the goals in mind, we can create a patio or deck design complete with the features to make the backyard of the client’s dreams.

If you have any questions on designing outdoor living spaces, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Gas or Wood Fired, what’s best for your Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit

One of the growing trends in outdoor living is fire features. More homeowners are including either an outdoor fireplace or fire pit to their decks, porches and patios to allow them to use the space more often. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we design both fireplaces and fire pits that work seamlessly with your outdoor structure.

Archadeck_Story_002AWhen considering an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, one of the questions that commonly comes up is: should it be gas or wood fired? While some people have strong feelings for or against an option (I can’t blame someone who loves the smell of a wood fire), here are some questions to consider as you make your decision:

Where do you live? Wood burning fireplaces or fire pits aren’t made for all parts of the country. If you live in a dry area of the country, you may not have easy access to firewood, making gas a better option. Conversely, gas is usually a better choice for heavily wooded properties as well. If there isn’t a clear opening above the fire, you’d want the control of a gas fire feature as opposed to wood. Wood fires give off more smoke and embers that shouldn’t go up into branches from trees.

What will be the cost of running it? Wood fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are more cost-effective to have if you have easy access to firewood. If your property abuts a wooded area for instance, you could probably grab wood for the fire for free. Conversely, with gas fires you do have to pay for fuel costs.

Outdoor-Fireplace-DenverDo you need easy control and convenience? This question is especially important if you have any small children that may be around the fire. Gas flames are much easier to control and use. They are easy to turn on, off, up or down. So, if you need to turn it off in a hurry, you can. Additionally, there is no smoke and you don’t have to clean up any ashes. Wood burning fires cannot be easily turned on or off and there is always smoke. You have to watch it more carefully to make sure it isn’t getting too big or hot and from time to time, you will want to clean out any built up ashes.

Are you adding it on to an existing space? At Archadeck, we try to plan for all parts of your outdoor living space (even future additions) when we design a deck, porch, patio, etc. When you plan ahead, the choice of gas or wood can be easier due to gas lines. If you know you want a gas fire pit on your patio in the future, for example, you should have the line put in as you build the patio. If you are adding a fire feature to an existing space and hadn’t planned for it, it may cost more if anything needs to be torn up for a gas line. In that case, a wood burning fire feature may be your best option.

Is the flame important for you? Personally, I love the sound of a crackling fire and I love the smell of wood burning. A gas fireplace can’t give me that. If having the characteristics of a real fire isn’t important to you, however, you’ll be happy with what a gas fire pit or fireplace can provide you.

If you are looking to enhance your outdoor living space with a fire feature, please reach out to your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office. With our knowledge and expertise, we can help you to create a space that you can’t help but love.

Trends in Outdoor Living Ramp Up Comfort and Warmth

Home magazines, television shows and websites are showcasing outdoor living trends as never before. So it’s no wonder you’re itching to transform your old-school patio or cookie-cutter deck into an impressive and functional space. Start by looking at trends that fit your lifestyle and have the legs to make your home irresistible to future buyers. Here are some things to consider:

Seating Clusters

Tops in the comfort category are seating clusters. Thick, comfy cushions and strategically placed outdoor furniture arrangements can spark conversation and help build relationships with family and friends. Designers are big on outdoor furniture that brings people together, stands up to the elements and showcases personal style.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyFire it Up

Fire pits and fireplaces are still all the rage, adding both fashion and function. By night they create summer-camp ambiance from early spring right through the fall. A fireplace, paired with an outdoor television that has integrated speakers, adds a whole new dimension to game-day get-togethers.

Landscaping that Fits the Land

To give your outdoor living areas maximum appeal, choose an overall landscaping look that makes sense for your home, the weather and how busy you are. If you live in a dry desert climate, choose succulents that need minimal watering. If you’re retired, you may want to add a flower or raised-bed vegetable garden that becomes a favorite hobby. If you’re always on the run with work and your family’s schedule, don’t put in a complex landscape or garden that will need lots of maintenance.

287814661210_0_BGGet in the Cooking Zone

Goodbye grill, hello cooking zone. Whether you call it your outdoor summer kitchen like they do in chic, seaside resort communities, the trendiest outdoor living areas all have places to let your inner chef loose in the great outdoors. Just like gourmet indoor kitchens, your outdoor kitchen can be built with warming drawers, outdoor cooking stations with integrated storage, even a prep station and mini fridge, along with a more traditional gas grill. Newer amenities include a hybrid grill that lets you cook both gas and wood or charcoal.

Easy-Care Conveniences

Kitchen appliances, advanced deck materials and high-tech spas are making it easy to adapt new design trends into your great outdoors. But be careful not to overlook the big picture. Your primary goal is to enjoy your new outdoor living space, rather than spend money maintaining it. Always ask if products are low-maintenance and easy to take care of.

It’s always best to talk to your deck builder about how you intend to use the space to ensure your patio and deck design works well for you and your family. If you have any questions, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

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.

Firepits and Outdoor Fireplaces Most In Demand Outdoor Living Feature

Posted by: janegwalker

In the last few years, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of projects that are including an outdoor fire feature, whether it is a firepit of fireplace. It’s not surprising when you look at the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) Survey of the top Outdoor Living Features for 2013, firepits and fireplaces is at the top.

According to the ASLA, more U.S. homeowners are enhancing the outdoor areas around their home for added entertainment space. Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of the ASLA 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.” Source.

As people look to improve their outdoor living spaces, it doesn’t surprise us that firepits and fireplaces are at the top of the list of trends. Fire features are a great way to make a space feel more intimate and cozy.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyAt Archadeck, we see an uptick in interest in firepits and outdoor fireplaces in the fall when the weather begins to cool down. Personally, I love gathering around a fire on a cool fall or winter night with friends and family.

Outdoor fireplaces and firepits are great add-ons to existing structures that will extend the amount of time you can use your decks, patios, sunrooms and other outdoor areas. You may be forced inside as it cools off in September for instance, but with a fire feature, you can enjoy it into November possibly.  At Archadeck, we custom design outdoor fireplaces and firepits to fit the spaces they are incorporated in. We’ll talk to our clients about how often it will be used, if it should be gas or wood burning and other aspects they may want to include.

The other outdoor trends mentioned on the ASLA survey align pretty closely with what our clients are asking us about. Here are the rest of the top 5:

2, Grills – Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity and in most cases the grill is the focal point (you need somewhere to do the cooking, right?). Grills can be as simple or as complex as the client wants. Personally, I just need to know it can cook a mean burger.

deck-design-ideas3, Seating and Dining Areas – Outdoor living is truly about that, living. A deck or patio without a way to enjoy it is just a structure. The key to making sure that the space is as usable as possible is the design. Talk to your deck builder about how you intend to use the space so the size, shape and flow allow you to have the space you’ve always wanted.

4, Lighting – Gone are the days of floodlights attached to the side of the house. In are the days of beautiful outdoor lighting that accentuates the space entirely. Lighting will also allow you to spend more time outdoors and will illuminate traffic paths for safety and security.

5, Installed Seating – Installed seating can take the appearance of benches, seat walls, ledges, steps, etc. This plays into the seating and dining areas at number three. It is sometimes easier and better to create seating that is installed in some areas as opposed to pieces of furniture.

If you have questions on outdoor living spaces, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.