Embracing the Outdoors

Exciting upgrades can bring more enjoyment to your outdoor space. 

By Kate Rader

In 2021, as outdoor gatherings and working at home became more commonplace, homeowners began to look at outdoor spaces as an important extension of their living area. 

Williamsport resident Allen Walters and his wife, Shannon, were early adopters of the trend when about seven years ago, they redesigned their backyard space to enhance their lifestyle and feel closer to nature. “I’ve always been an outdoors person,” Allen says. “I wanted to bring elements of my 12-acre river cabin property to the backyard.”

They’re easy to spot, woven into a yard built for entertaining. Inspired by the elements of “fire, water, and nature,” Allen incorporated all three into his design, built by Hart Landscaping. The focal point, a round stacked stone fire pit, sits on a paved circular patio, surrounded by stacked stone walls and Delaware River stone. The area is lit by tiki torches, and crowned by a large slab staircase leading to the home’s first-floor deck. 

Stone water features, which flank the impressive staircase, resonate from any of the locations in the yard. Much of the stone used was sourced locally, and the largest slabs required the use of a forklift to place them. The entire project took about four weeks to assemble.

The family likes to grill on the lower deck, which has a hot tub and dining area covered by a pergola. And, they enjoy entertaining. “It’s all designed to flow together. We use the fire pit nine out of twelve months of the year. It’s a good place for family and friends to sit around and talk, have some wine or a cocktail. When the kids were younger, we’d gather together to make s’mores and share stories.”

The more personal, covered upper deck—which they’ve dubbed the outdoor living room”—has comfortable reclining outdoor furniture and lighted fans, which keep it cool even on hot days. It’s a perfect spot for eating breakfast or winding down to watch TV. 

Allen feels lucky to have an outdoor space, especially during the pandemic. “We spend so much time at home; we could be outside and follow the guidelines the CDC was recommending. I wanted to integrate the natural environment and make it as nice as possible.”

 

BRING THE INDOORS OUTSIDE

Consider one of these popular ideas to make your outdoor space more convenient and comfortable.

Outdoor Kitchens and Dining Nooks

Noted as the most popular backyard upgrade project for 2021, homeowners are investing in ways to cook—and eat—more meals outdoors. “It’s really a secondary kitchen,” says Mark Reeder, a sales associate from Spicher’s Appliances and Security, which has locations in Hagerstown, Chambersburg, and Winchester. “We’re seeing complete setups with cabinetry, countertops, and built-in appliances such as gas cooktops, or range tops with four to eight burners.” 

Beyond the backyard grill, GE and KitchenAid have introduced higher-end, outdoor cooking islands to compete with specialty manufacturers like Wolf and Sub-Zero, who offer models made for outdoor use with features like warming drawers and refrigerated storage where backyard chefs can keep food chilled before cooking. 

If you’re looking to dip your toe into the outdoor cuisine trend, surround more budget-friendly items like a stone or prefab pizza oven, or a gas or charcoal grill with counter space. 

Outdoor Living Rooms  

Adding comfy furniture and accessories—like a cushioned L-shaped seating area around a coffee table accessorized with lush pillowsis a beautiful way to create an entertainment-friendly gathering spot. Accessories like outdoor rugs, large planters, overhead lighting,or fairy lights can soften up the space and add a luxurious ambiance. 

Add a Water Feature

At a time when homeowners are looking for a calm, relaxing space, a water feature can help to dial down the stress. Even just the sound of water triggers a response in our brains that induces a flood of neurochemicals, increasing blood flow to the brain and heart, and inducing relaxation.

The pandemic sparked a desire for “staycation” spaces and installing a pool—even a tiny one—was one way many homeowners created their own outdoor oasis. Pools continue to remain in high demand, with “cocktail pools,” which are typically no larger than four feet deep and 400-square-feet around, are similar to spas in that heating and jets can be installed. “Plunge pools” are more popular with fitness enthusiasts, as they are generally larger than cocktail pools and allow for aerobic swimming. A waterfall or fire bowl to your pool can add a unique focal point to the design.

Upgrade Outdoor Electronics

While most of us want to spend more time outdoors, we still want to stay connected. According to Sean Hunt, AV Integration Specialist at Hunt Audio in Hagerstown, integrating smart technology can “make a huge difference in making the transition from inside your home to your outdoor space seamless and simple.” The first step, he says, is to plan ahead. Planning can help save money and is key to ensuring your Wi-Fi is adequate.

Sean feels that properly integrating technology can truly transform your enjoyment. “Adding music to your outdoor living space really transforms it into a garden oasis,” he says. Sonance is one of the popular sound system brands they install. “Peering out into the garden with music playing opens up another one of our senses and brings an overall sense of happiness.”

Other popular brands include Séura and SunBriteTV, which specialize in outdoor TVs and accessories that can be integrated into a covered patio or freestanding fireplace or rock wall for year-round outdoor entertaining. Lutron products make it simpler for homeowners to control lighting and save energy with the touch of a button. Sean is excited about the ways technology can transform an outdoor space. “Our goal is to bring people together with music and entertainment by keeping technology simple,” he says. 

Prep for Success

OLD SURFACES LOOK LIKE NEW WITH DUSTLESS BLASTING.

The foundation of a great renovation starts with a clean surface. While it’s probably the least exciting part of any project, making sure your surfaces are properly prepped is one of the most important. About 80 percent of coating failures happen because of improper preparation. Kendrick Eby, the owner of Mobile Media Power Blasting in Hagerstown has seen this first-hand. “It’s important to make sure you get old material off before laying down new paint or it won’t adhere,” he says.

Visions of hours of scraping, grinding and sanding to remove years of caked-on dirt and grime, old paint, or stain haunt even the most experienced home DIYer. Kendrick suggests considering Dustless Blasting, which offers an eco-friendly way to strip and prepare surfaces without using chemicals. Described as a hybrid between sandblasting and power washing, water and a mild abrasive are mixed inside the portable machine’s blast tank and sprayed by a professional onto surfaces to remove paint, stain, epoxy, calcium, or oil stains, mildew, and more. 

Here are a few ways Dustless Blasting can be used to beautify your outdoor space:

  • Removing paint, stain, and weathering from wood siding, furniture, decks, antique barns, or garage doors
  • Masonry, stone, brick, or concrete cleaning and restoration
  • Swimming pool paint or calcium removal
  • Metal powder coat or rust removal on furniture such as metal chairs, and gliders
  • Removal of epoxy coatings and sealer

2022 Spring Home Show Schedule

Home Builders Association of Washington County Home Show

Saturday, March 5: 9am-5pm
Sunday, March 6: 10am-4pm
Hagerstown Community College’s ARCC, 11400 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown, MD
Adults – $2.00 Children 12 and under are FREE

http://www.hbawc.org/homeshow-information/

Berkley County Home Show

Saturday, March 26–Sunday, March 27
Martinsburg Roundhouse, 100 E. Liberty St., Martinsburg, WV

https://easternwvhomebuilders.org

Frederick County Building Industry Association Home Show & Builder Olympics

Saturday, March 19: 9am–5pm
Sunday, March 20: 10am–4pm
The Frederick Fairgrounds, 797 E. Patrick St., Frederick, MD
F
ree Admission

https://www.frederickhomeshow.org

 

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