Outdoor Living Spaces For Your Custom Home

Outdoor Living Spaces For Your Custom Home

Greg:    Jason, good to see you.

Jason:    It’s good to have you back, Greg.

Greg:    Thank you. I’m very excited about this week’s topic. You’ve been teasing me for weeks and weeks talking about outdoor space and how it leads from the kitchen to the outdoor kitchen for me, but I really want to know what you think about outdoor spaces, how you think about them, how you put them together, what needs to be out there, and just from a builder’s point of view, what goes into … in your mind, the perfect outdoor living space.

Jason:    It’s funny. A few years ago, the perfect outdoor space may be a spot for the grill and possibly a covered porch. I throw that out the window now. The game is changing, and the requirements for outdoor spaces has gotten really popular.

Greg:    Every bit is important it seems. A part of the house, a living space is … I guess years ago, people have said the bathrooms and the kitchens were the most important rooms of the house for resale or for comfort, but I get the impression that you think this is every bit as important as the kitchen and bathroom.

Jason:    Absolutely. Next to kitchen and baths. People even sometimes are like, “We spend a ton of time outside. We’ve got to have a great outdoor space.” For me, what makes up that great outdoor space is, one, it has to be well-connected to the indoors, so you have a good flow to get outdoors, but definitely, some type of covered porch, for sure. Sometimes, there’s going to be a fireplace on the porch. Other times, we may do a fire pit out on the lower portion of the patio. Sometimes, people prefer the fire pit. You can get more people around the fire pit, roast marshmallows, hotdogs, that kind of stuff. You get more of a sitting arrangement around the fire pit versus the fireplace. Sometimes, you can only get a couple of people around the fireplace.

Greg:    This all goes back to what you’ve said over and over, you need to talk to your clients to figure out how they’re going to use the space, so if you have … I’m just guessing, a family who likes to eat dinner together and they’re not big socializers or party throwers, then maybe a fireplace on the covered porch would be the thing to do versus someone who’s going to have a big social get-together, then maybe they need a different kind of patio. This is all …

Jason:    That’s right, all part of our design process and question-and-answer session we have. Yeah. If you go for the fireplace, and a lot of people will solely pick the fireplace on the back porch because they want to hang a flat screen TV, and they want to … they know they’re going to spend a lot of time out there. Yeah, it all plays in.

Greg:    Do you have a preference? We’re talking about fireplaces. Gas versus wood burning, or is that again go to the client?

Jason:    Almost all the time, when we do an outdoor fireplace, it’s going to be a wood burning application just because people want to throw wood in there. It’s a little more hassle, so we still do have some going with the gas, but the vast majority is wood burning, roaring fire. A lot of times, we’ll put an actual hearth on the fireplace, so you can sit in front of the fire, warm your back, and really again, roast those marshmallows and really get that heat out.

Greg:    Or your backside, right? On a cold night, people stand up on that hearth, I bet, and warm up.

Jason:    No doubt, no doubt.

Greg:    In your mind, you said a covered … you wanted it to be covered. Is that the transition you’re thinking through the artistic change from the interior of the house to the outside? Is it a practical application for you, or an artistic, or both?

Jason:    It’s all of those, and it’s functional. If you want to utilize your outdoor space, you want to use it all throughout the year. If it’s raining, you can go directly outside. Talking to one of my guys who’s a relocation guy from Denver who’s joined our team, he loves being back in Louisville because of the rain, so he sits out on that back porch and listens to the rain …

Greg:    While it’s raining. Yeah.

Jason:    Absolutely, absolutely.

Greg:    Okay, so then the size of the space. How do you figure out how big a connection you need? In my mind, I’m hearing you say you have the kitchen in the back of the house or wherever it’s going to be, and then the covered space is for the transition to the outside. How big does that transition need to be?

Jason:    It’s going to depend on the scale on scope of the project. We do some Norton Commons homes that may be only 2,500 square feet, so we might have an outdoor space that’s 12 by 14. If we get into some of our larger luxury custom homes that we’re building in Glenview or Anchorage, we may have a covered porch that’s 20 feet deep by 30 feet wide.

Greg:    It is more important to you, I suppose, that it needs to fit rather than be a certain size for you to enjoy, right? It’s the way it works.

Jason:    That’s right, that’s right. You have to be cautious with doing too large of covered space off the house. You don’t want to block too many of the windows, and you got to keep the transitions clear, and it all factors in on the design.

Greg:    What about the materials you use? Is there … some are better than others, or it all depends on the budget and the client?

Jason:    It all depends on the budget. Our standard application would be a traditional poured concrete. It could be brushed finish or an exposed aggregate application. A nice upgrade might be brick pavers, or we use a lot of Belgard pavers. It’s one of our sponsors that is part of the Southern Living Builder Program that I’m associated with, so we like to use the Belgard paver.

Greg:    What is a Belgard paver?

Jason:    They have a wide offering of tumbled pavers, smooth pavers, brick pavers.

Greg:    It’s a brand name, and they have almost anything that’s going to suit my fancy?

Jason:    That’s right.

Greg:    Okay.

Jason:    Then also, if you want something even nicer than the paver application, you can get to a limestone or a bluestone application, which is probably going to be your most expensive application because that’s going to be applied on top of a poured concrete, so it’s just an additional cost. You can get into $20, $25 a square foot for a nice limestone patio.

Greg:    But it looks awesome.

Jason:    They’re gorgeous. You can’t beat it.

Greg:    That’s right. As most of the high-end finishes do look, shocking, but it looks great.

Jason:    Yeah, yeah. If you like it a whole lot, then it’s probably a little bit more expensive.

Greg:    That’s right. Okay. What about cooking outside? You and I both like to cook and eat, so I know there are going to be a lot of people listening who also like to cook and/or eat. Do you like to have cooking equipment on this covered space we’re talking about or one step further out on the open air?

Jason:    It’s a 2-pronged approach, Greg. If you’re going to do cooking on the covered portion, which a lot of customers do, they want to have the cooking really close to the kitchen. If it’s on the covered area that’s a lower ceiling and more enclosed, ventilation is very important. You don’t want to smoke out your guests when you’re cooking that burger and it starts flaming up. Sometimes, we will put a small step-down to a lower patio or a separate portion that may be uncovered or have a different height on the coverings.

Greg:    Just to take that into consideration again?

Jason:    Absolutely.

Greg:    Okay.

Jason:    I met with some clients that just did a large renovation on their home and added a $600,000 renovation pool house and covered structure, and they’re like, “We can’t grill and entertain because those spaces are connected, but the grill puts off so much smoke, it smokes out the covered portion.”

Greg:    They lost the functionality?

Jason:    Absolutely.

Greg:    Okay.

Jason:    We’re designing a ventilation system for them now that …

Greg:    Okay, nice. Then, I’m sure a lot of people cook outside. They don’t even try to put it on the covered space.

Jason:    That’s right, so we’ll have it outside. We’ll do maybe a lot of brick work and building the grill. We may add an additional sink out there.

Greg:    Are you seeing that more often than not? I’m going to guess more so often than the price range you’re working in that things are built in as opposed to rolling around the …

Jason:    Yeah, definitely built in and more of an outdoor kitchen. The outdoor space evolves into a covered area as well as a covered outdoor kitchen, and potentially, some bar seating. You’re going to have a separate sink out there, maybe some refrigeration, possibly an additional icemaker, and some trash storage, and just some covered storage under the counter.

Greg:    Again, this always … it seems like I bring this up every week. This all comes up in the beginning when you’re talking about how someone is going to use a space. It’s easier for you to know where to take the refrigerant lines, and the water lines, and the gas lines if you know this all ahead of time.

Jason:    That’s right. It’s all again part of our process we go through when a client comes and we design their home. We want to know … Some people don’t care necessarily about an outdoor kitchen. Other people, it’s a must have. I’ve had cases where people are building a new home just because they want better outdoor space and an outdoor kitchen.

Greg:    That’s funny, but when you build for me, I’m going to start outside, and then work my way in, so I’m curious. Are there some people who have maybe more than one cooking apparatus outside, or am I daydreaming here and really, people start and stop at one, and then they get into the house like most people should?

Jason:    No, you’re not daydreaming.

Greg:    Okay.

Jason:    The evolution of the Big Green Egg has come in, and so a lot of people will have a traditional grill, but then they’ll have their smoker, and they’ll have a spot for their Green Egg, and we’re actually building those in, setting them in the countertop. Pouring either a concrete countertop around them or a granite countertop.

Greg:    Wow, okay.

Jason:    Then, you’ll have the rare few like yourself, Greg, that may even want the addition of an outdoor pizza kitchen.

Greg:    Now, you’re killing on me, aren’t you? Okay.

Jason:    That’s right. We talked a little bit about Belgard. They make a great … a one-stop shop unit that you can pre-assemble, but it’s an outdoor pizza kitchen.

Greg:    You were saying that Belgard, they’re the brick that you would use on the flooring, right? I guess it makes sense that, basically, pizza ovens are just made out of high-temperature refractory brick, right? It would make sense that they also have …

Jason:    Yeah, you get a coordinating pizza oven that matches your flooring or [cone suds 00:10:15] would be …

Greg:    I like it, so I’m going to have a 1-bedroom house, but my outdoor kitchen is going to be ideal. What else are people doing? Are these wrapping all around the house? Do they have a position in certain ways? What are some of the trends that you’re seeing in outdoor space?

Jason:    Usually, against off the back of the house. People usually want some type of sound, speakers in the ceiling or in the walls. Sometimes, we’ll put a hose bib out there, so you can wash off the surface after a hard rain. TVs are almost a must-have outdoors.

Greg:    Now, I’m guessing that’s in the covered section, right?

Jason:    That’s correct, that’s correct.

Greg:    Okay. You just said that you might need a bib to wash off the surface. Is there something actually that people need to be concerned about, about some of these surfaces? Does it take a little bit more upkeep, or is it basically the same as …?

Jason:    Yeah. Most of these are hard surfaces that we’re going to use. We very seldom do a deck off the back. If we do, it’s more of a trek-type material that’s not going to need maintenance, but most of the hard surfaces. It’s just a cleaning after a hard storm or windstorm, something like that, but it’s pretty maintenance-free.

Greg:    Okay. Then, one last question. Now, we’re coming up on the end of time, but how do you …? I’m curious about the artistry, I guess, in the design. How do you know how far to take some of these patios where you want it to be substantial and beautiful? Do you take it all the way around the house to the driveway, or do you stop short, or do you keep it right in little corner? How do you make these decisions?

Jason:    Obviously, you want them to look good and fit well with the design of the house, so you’ll have a main covered area, and then there’s usually like an extension or two off that main covered area for a lower spot. Usually, it will have a connection to the driveway. If you have guests come over and you’re having a cookout, they don’t have to trumps to the house. They could come straight to the backyard. Talking about aesthetics too, it’s … We put a lot of thought into the design of these outdoor structures. We’ll get into some decorative ceilings. It’s not going to be your typical vinyl ceiling. We’ll have like a wood beadboard ceiling. Occasionally, we’ll pull in a coffered ceiling or even a vaulted ceiling with some rustic maybe cedar wood beams.

Greg:    You really weren’t joking in the beginning? This is every bit as serious a room as any other room in the house?

Jason:    No doubt, no doubt.

Greg:    All right. I can’t wait to see some of these. I’m sure you’ve mentioned some of the Homearama homes that are coming up. I’m going to guess at 1 or 2 of your Homearama homes in 2016 are going to have some finished outdoor space?

Jason:    Without a doubt, without a doubt. We’ve got some great spaces coming up in some of our show houses. Again, it’s pretty prevalent in all the homes we do.

Greg:    Wonderful. I can’t wait to see some of those.

Jason:    Thanks, Greg. I look forward to showing them off.