Gather Outside to Watch the Game this Fall

It’s nearly August which mean we are just a few short weeks away from the NFL and college football season. If you’re like me, you can be found in front of a TV on Saturdays and Sundays taking in all the action. But do you know what’s better than watching the game inside with some food and beverages? Watching it OUTSIDE with food and beverages. With the right outdoor living design you can invite friends and family over to enjoy the sporting events and movies!

Outdoor entertaining is a topic we discuss frequently with our clients. We are always interested to know what type of entertaining they do so we can create a spaced tailored to that purpose. When it comes to hosting sports and movie parties, there are a few items and design ideas that make it even more enjoyable.

Covered Porch in AustinSomething to watch the game on. You can’t watch the game without a screen of some sort, right? Technology has improved and evolved so much that there are a number of outdoor TVs on the market that work beautifully. When designing your deck, porch, or patio, however, you want to discuss with your designer where’d you like it. With the plan in place, cables can be run appropriately. If you aren’t interested in TV, there are also screen and projector options for you to consider!

Space. If you want to host friends and family, you need space for all of them to hang out and enjoy the evening outdoors. Let your porch, patio or deck designer know that you need ample room for everyone to view the screen without obstruction. If you like to have large parties, a 6 ft. x 6 ft. deck just won’t do!

A fire feature. The best games are often played in primetime and in the fall (and winter in playoffs) that can result in some cooler temperatures outside. An outdoor fireplace or fire pit is a great way to enjoy all the action outdoors comfortably (and maybe with s’mores!). If you want the area to really feel like a room, placing the TV above the fireplace works wonders!

outdoor-kitchen-porchFood. What’s a football game or movie without snacks? While your contractor may not be there to help you at kickoff, we can help you now! Here’s an easy recipe for delicious queso for your next party!

When you’re ready to have the ultimate viewing space in your backyard, please reach out to your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Fourth of July on the Deck

Posted by: janegwalker

Whenever we are designing an outdoor living space for a client, we always ask how they intend to use the space. Many of our clients are sure to be using their deck, porch, patio, or other outdoor structure next week to celebrate the Fourth of July. If you are hosting friends and family for the holiday, here are some ideas that may help.

Family Dining Al FrescoMake sure there is enough seating. If you want to keep your party outdoors, you need to make sure there is enough seating to accommodate your guests. We often include built-in benches in our deck designs for those clients who entertain a lot. If you don’t have built in seating, most home improvement stores have outdoor chairs that aren’t too expensive or you can just bring some chairs out from around your kitchen table. As long as you remember to bring them in at the end of the night, you’ll be fine.

Think about the traffic flow. Your outdoor living space may be set up perfectly for its everyday use, but it may need some tweaking to accommodate the flow of traffic for your party. Make sure that your furniture allows for people to move around and go to different part of the space. Consider having the food scattered throughout the space so everyone isn’t always hovering in one area.

Make sure it is safe. If you have an older deck and you know that there is a good chance a lot of people will be on it at the same time, have it checked for safety. The last thing anyone wants in the middle of a Fourth of July celebration is a deck collapse. Call a professional deck builder and ask them to come out for a deck safety inspection. They will be able to tell you what needs immediate attention and what can wait. Trust us, the peace of mind of knowing your friends and family are safe is worth it.

Now that you know your outdoor space is ready for your party, let’s get to the fun stuff:

Make a festive drink. Who doesn’t love a little red, white and blue on the Fourth? Here’s a yummy and easy Sangria that screams Independence Day. Cut up strawberries and star fruit and place in a pitcher. Add blueberries and a bottle of white wine. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours and enjoy!

Get the grill going. If you aren’t in the mood for hamburgers and hotdogs but want something quick and delicious, flank steak is a great option. It doesn’t take a lot of cooking time and you can’t go wrong with this marinade: 1/2c dry red wine, 1/2c soy sauce, 1/4c olive oil, 4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed), 1/4c parsley (chopped) and ½tsp black pepper (more if you like). Mix it all together and place in a container with the flank steak and refrigerate it overnight (or at least 10 hours). Your guests will love it.

Don’t forget dessert. If you or your guests are anything like me, dinner doesn’t feel complete without a little something sweet. Entertaining can be tiring, so make dessert simple. Last year, I was served a Fourth of July kebab for dessert that was delicious. Get some kebab skewers and skewer on some marshmallows, strawberries, blueberries, and brownie or devils food pieces. It’s yummy and patriotic!

From all of us at Archadeck Outdoor Living, have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Patio Design Installed at Archadeck Office

In this next installment chronicling the new deck and patio combination project at the Archadeck headquarters, I’m happy to announce that we can check the hardscape installation off as complete! Our beautiful walkway, large patio, fireplace and retaining walls were finished yesterday and it looks great!

Prepping the ground to lay pavers is a time-consuming process. As we’ve covered in previous posts, the ground first had to be leveled out so that the entire space is even. Once the ground was leveled and the footings for the retaining wall were complete, a layer of base stone is packed on the ground and then a layer of sand. Grading, base stone and sand ensures that the paver patio is level and will stay that way.

The brick-like finish flanked by Dublin Cobble is the perfect segue to the newly completed patio

The brick-like finish flanked by Dublin Cobble is the perfect segue to the newly completed patio

In our case, the majority of our pavers are from Belgard Hardscapes’ Dublin Cobble line. The pavers are very classic but have subtle variations of color that add visual interest. Because the building itself is brick, as is our main entrance walkway, we needed to incorporate another paver design so that nothing looked like an afterthought. Had we done the smaller walkway in Dublin Cobble, it wouldn’t have flowed as nicely. Instead we used a classic brick look lined with the Dublin Cobble. It really marries the two areas and finishes nicely.

retaining-wallsOnce all the pavers are set in place, polymeric sand is brush across its surface, filing the cracks between each paver. Polymeric sand is the best way to lock the patio in place. The sand, while dry, is just like any other sand, working its way into all the small spaces between pavers, but when it gets wet, it hardens and locks in place like cement. Without the sand, the pavers could become loose.

While prepare to lay patio pavers can be time consuming, laying them down doesn’t take too long, unlike building retaining walls. I am lucky enough to have a window that I can see the process and progress on our patio and deck installation. It was very interesting to watch the installation of the retaining walls as opposed to the patio. The team carefully checked the level frequently while building, making sure everything was even throughout. Those repeated checks definitely made it take longer, but it is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked if you want a sturdy and secure retaining wall.

The next step in the build process is the deck. Our team of deck builders will be on site tomorrow to get started. The large deck will be built with TimberTech decking and will abut the patio and retaining walls (the walls will also act as built-in seating for the space).  The deck footings were dug at the same time as the patio footings so that we could have them all inspected at once.

Just to recap, here is what we started with….

photo

And now…

installing-a-patio

It has been really fun for our entire team at Archadeck Outdoor Living to watch the entire design and build process. We’ll keep you posted on the next step!

Deck and Patio Design for Optimal Outdoor Entertaining

Outdoor entertaining has emerged as a large theme in outdoor living. Many people really want a place for family and friends to gather and spend quality time outdoors.

When it comes to outdoor entertaining, it helps to have an outdoor space that was designed to accommodate that. A good patio or deck design will address flow and layout so that your outdoor parties are enjoyed by all.

Before we get into deck design ideas, if you are planning to have a barbecue or outdoor party and have an existing outdoor structure, make sure you have a deck safety inspection if you haven’t recently. The average lifespan of a deck is 10 years, but at Archadeck Outdoor Living, we suggest having your first safety inspection when the structure is 5 to 7 years old. Just because the deck looks OK, doesn’t mean that it is structurally sound. A professional can come and give you an idea of the current shape of your deck as well as tell you what small fixes you can do to make it last longer.

When considering a new porch, patio, deck or combination outdoor project, make sure you tell your deck designer how you intend to use the space, especially if you are looking to entertain outdoors. Be specific so they can create a space that will fit all of your needs and wants. Planning to have your guests sit around in an outdoor living room is very different than needing an outdoor dining room.

DSC_0506Defining the different areas of your outdoor space is key to keeping the flow open and useful. Take this deck for example, I love that the dining area is clearly defined. In this instance it was done by elevating the area a bit, but this can also be achieved by adding a pergola or other roof structure to create a “room” or by switching the material pattern.

A space that is well designed for entertaining takes into account that entertaining means people and people means space to sit. For some homeowners that means an open space where they can place outdoor furniture. That allows for some flexibility if furniture needs to be moved or if you would like to switch out the furniture periodically. Other deck builders will include a built-in seating bench or retaining wall to accommodate guests. Normally benches or retaining walls are used both as a place to sit and a way to designate the use of the space.

287814661210_0_BGWhen people entertain outdoors they sometimes like to do the respective cooking outdoors too. For that, an outdoor kitchen is perfect, however, the design should be able to hold more than just the chef. This outdoor kitchen is perfect for entertaining, for example, because it has space for people to circle around and talk while people cook on the grill or outdoor pizza oven. It keeps the chef in the middle of the action and conversation.

The key to any good patio or deck design idea is that it checks off your list of needs and wants. An outdoor living structure can be pricey, so it is best to be very clear with your deck builder what you want out of the space. If you aren’t sure, download our free Archadeck Design Guide. The guide asks a series of questions that will help you envision the backyard of your dreams.

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 Kitchens – the perfect addition to your outdoor living space

This past weekend brought my college reunion. To make sure that we got the most out of having everyone in one place at one time, a friend of mine hosted a barbecue on Saturday. He has a large deck that provides a great place to sit back and relax, but what we learned was it wasn’t great for entertaining 15 or so people.

To make sure that our host wasn’t doing all the work, all of our friends brought food to snack on or throw on the grill. The problem was there wasn’t a convenient place to put it all. There is a small table outdoors that could fit some of the food, but everything else was balanced on the railing of the deck, resulting in some close calls for the burgers.

Whether it’s the lawn, bathroom or furniture, the host of this party is constantly updating his house. During the party we talked about his plans for the future and he mentioned that he’s interested in adding an outdoor kitchen to make it easier in the spring and summer months when he grills out four or five times a week.

Outdoor Kitchens have become more popular in the last few years as people have looked to upgrade their outdoor living spaces. They provide the perfect place to prepare food for friends and family when the weather is nice and can be as multi-purpose as you’d like. While many outdoor kitchens have some counter space and a grill, refrigerators, sinks and ice makers are becoming more popular for added convenience. If having a place for your friends to sit and chat with you as you cook is important, an eat-in bar can be added as well.

One benefit of including an outdoor kitchen in your space is that you can easily incorporate it into your already existing outdoor living structure, whatever it may be. The size, shape and finish can be completely customized to your outdoor space so that it fits in seamlessly. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we have designed and built outdoor kitchens that include tile, granite, brick, stone and more. Check out these outdoor kitchens:

Stone Outdoor Kitchen

This L-shaped outdoor kitchen includes a built-in grill, burner and seating to provide a lovely place to prepare food for friends and family. It’s finished with stone and tile for a clean look.

L-Shaped Outdoor Kitchen

The brick base of this L-shaped outdoor kitchen complements the brick finish of the home perfectly. It has granite countertops for easy clean up and a built-in grill and warmer.

Galley Outdoor Kitchen

Who wouldn’t enjoy an outdoor kitchen like this? This a classic galley style kitchen. Since it is under a porch providing some protection from the elements, a TV is mounted to the back wall for the viewers pleasure. It has a gas grill, sink and dishwasher so you don’t have to carry the platters, dishes and utensils back and forth. Instead, what’s meant for outdoor dining can stay outdoors.

Custom Outdoor Kitchen with pizza oven

Lastly, this is a custom-shaped outdoor kitchen with everything that a chef may need. Not only does it have, a grill, sink, burner and dishwasher, it also has a wood burning pizza kitchen for that perfect pizza. Yum!

With outdoor kitchens like this, I’m not sure I would need an indoor kitchen (just kidding). If you are interested in learning how an outdoor kitchen could be added to your space outside, please contact your local Archadeck location.

Outdoor Dining Rooms – the Perfect Place to Host Friends and Family

This past Tuesday I got together with a bunch of my girlfriends for dinner. It had been a while since we were all in the same place at the same time, and we decided to take advantage. We all went over to my friend Kerri’s house where we prepared the food together while nibbling on appetizers and sipping on some cocktails. It was a great time until I realized, there really wasn’t a whole lot of room in her dining room for all of us. Just when I was about to say something, Kerri ushered us outside.

Off the back side of their house, Kerri and her husband have small deck that is set up perfectly for outdoor entertaining. It has a large dining table that easily fit 8 chatty ladies and the tree lined fence along the side of the yard provided privacy. It was lovely.

Outdoor rooms, as opposed to just some plastic furniture on a deck, porch or patio, have been gaining popularity in recent years. With all of the furniture and accessories that are now available from both big box stores and specialty store, it is easy to create the same homey feeling you have indoors, out. In the case of Kerri’s outdoor dining room, the table was lovely and she had placemats and accessories that were made to stand up to the natural elements.  She finished off the space with candles and flowers that made it feel like a true room.

In warmer months it’s nice to spend time outdoors and the opportunities are endless. Check out some of these outdoor rooms that were created on some Archadeck Outdoor Living Structures:

Outdoor Living Room on Porch

This outdoor living room looks over the backyard of this homeowners property

 

Outdoor Dining and Living Rooms on Deck

This Archadeck deck has both living and dining spaces to entertain outdoors

 

Covered Porch in Austin

And this covered porch in Austin? With an outdoor kitchen, fireplace and TV, why would I want to go inside?