It's not too far off to say April Case Underwood has remodeling in her blood. A direct descendant of remodeling icon Fred Case, Underwood has been working on projects for Bethesda, Md.-based Case Design/Remodeling since she graduated from college 20 years ago. And while she considers the uniqueness of each project to be a hallmark of her portfolio, Underwood says one trend has emerged as a common bond over the last several years: the moving of indoor living spaces into the outdoor arena.
“Traditionally there had always been a divide between indoor living spaces versus the outside landscaping, and until recently they were most often thought of as separate project areas,” says Underwood, director of project development . “Even on the East Coast there is a growing push to bring the indoors outdoors, and a lot of clients of even kitchen remodels are requesting folding and sliding doors and walls to open an entire kitchen space out onto a deck or pool.”
The Outdoor Greatroom Company
The Vintage Rectangular Fire Pit Table features a Honey Glow Brown colorcoated stainless steel burner inside a wood-look-tile top. The distressed cedarpanel base will continue to age over time. An access door conceals a standard 20-pound propane tank; an optional glass guard and cover are available.
Indeed, the emerging design concept of “outdoor rooms” is breaking down traditional divisions between house and yard and making both remodeling and new construction projects more holistic considerations. Particularly—but not exclusively—in regions that are weather-friendly, designers are bringing kitchens, baths, and even sleeping areas to the outside. The result is an uplift to livable square footage and an opportunity for contractors to create the kind of experiential living spaces that differentiate projects and boost margins.
“Rarely do people call us for just a pool or hardscape job anymore,” says Ryan Hughes, founding principal of Clearwater, Fla.-based Ryan Hughes Design-Build. “Today’s clients want a spectacular, highly functional outdoor space with an outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining, outdoor living, and outdoor entertaining. All the same rooms we have inside, you now have outside, too.”
The ASA-D2 modular kitchen boasts durable craftsmanship and materials such as Dekton by Consentino solid surfacing and stainless steel cabinetry. A central grill from Caliber Appliances and a variety of additional appliances are available. It’s offered in four Dekton colors.
Hughes is among a growing cadre of design/build contractors incorporating a range of interior specs outside. The list includes water and fire features, Internet-enabled kitchen appliances, integrated LED lighting, and full-on cinemas. In short, the aesthetics informing outdoor designs have evolved from palmy, resort-style landscapes to a more urban-hotel-wow-factor experience.
“Overall the trend is people want to be outside doing all the things they are used to doing inside,” says Tim Johnson, principal of Miami Beach, Fla.-based Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design. “People want to cook and eat dinner and entertain and watch their football and be outside when they do it, and we’re seeing a lot of requests for outdoor home theaters for movie nights, too. The backyard has gone beyond swimming pools to include everything you do inside, all day and all night.”
The Alfresco Pizza Oven Plus preheats to 500 degrees in 15 minutes. Made of commercial-grade materials, the oven features a ceramic refractory interior and a ceramic infrared and secondary gas tube burner. It includes an ignition system, a halogen interior work light, and an air-cooled control panel.
At Case, Underwood sees travel and technology as the major consumer drivers pushing homeowners further into their outdoor spaces. With the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University predicting increased spending of a whopping $330 billion on remodel projects through the third quarter of 2018, incorporating easy-to-use, enjoyable outdoor spaces has leading firms poised to claim a good share of business.
“The design trend seeking to mesh the inside with the outside is driven by consumers seeking to capture a luxury hotel atmosphere and overall feeling of wellness with the technology to make it easy and customizable for their lives,” Underwood says. “All the way down to being able to answer the front doorbell via smartphone or Google Home from an outdoor kitchen in the backyard.”
The built-in, dual-zone beverage center can handle 18 wine bottles and 56 12-ounce beverage cans. Offering glass shelves and rolling wooden shelves, it has a dual-zone compressor, double-pane, 24-inch glass doors, and a smart thermostat with LED display. A durable stainless steel door frame and handles and front-venting allow built-in applications.
4 Hacks for Great Outdoor Rooms
1. Get on the same page
“Just like an interior project, it’s incredibly important to have a detailed site plan and use renderings and pictures so everyone understands each other,” says Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design Principal Tim Johnson. “In a discussion about what is Mid-Century Modern and what is not, pictures won’t lie.”
The company partners with kitchen designers, architects, and builders to execute a wide range of exterior experiential living spaces. Alfresco grills, Liebherr refrigeration units, and U-line wine and beverage centers are available. Other branded appliances, grills, smokers, and cabinetry can be combined to satisfy various needs.
2. Make room for furniture
Great outdoor space planning and design accounts for furniture from the outset. Often over-sized and sometimes more expensive than its indoor cousin, outdoor furniture likewise can make or break the usability of spaces. “It’s been one of the toughest things to create awareness of,” says Ryan Hughes, founding principal of the eponymous design/build firm. “From the size of tables and chairs and sofas to getting that perfect cozy space around the fi re pit, it all comes down to space planning of furniture from your initial concept.”
3. Enjoy the elements
Experiential spaces depend on the sensory experiences of water and fi re for wow factor. “Earth, fire, and water are the most crucial elements in life, and you need to have them all,” says Hughes. “You need the sound and texture of the water psychologically to feel relaxed. Fire is the same thing—it mesmerizes and has mystique and creates unforgettable ambience.”
The 42-inch freestanding smoker cabinet features a solid surface countertop measuring 44 inches wide by 32 inches deep and an insulated, gravity-fed design for effi cient heat and smoke. It also boasts a computer-controlled temperature system and three adjustable shelves.
4. Streamline the download
Technology helps clients enjoy outdoor spaces and not feel like they are missing out on anything. From appcontrolled wine refrigerators to programmable lighting, tech can also overwhelm. “We typically set up technology systems with good-betterbest user options,” says April Case Underwood of Case Design. “Even if someone doesn’t use the highest functions, they want something they can use; but too many technology choices can overwhelm, and only one option can make the client feel trapped.”
This story originally ran in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Products magazine. See the print version here.