Creating rooms without walls for year-round
Photos courtesy Scioto Valley
A charcoal grill, wooden picnic table and a concrete slab used to constitute a back patio. They served their purpose during summer, but were out of sight and out of mind the rest of the year. That’s all changed.
Dubbed outdoor living rooms, these open-air oases have no ceilings. And the sky is the limit when it comes to adding amenities that provide both comfort and convenience.
“It’s gone from people just wanting to eat a meal out back to people
wanting to cook the meal, eat the meal and sit down in the living room outside and entertain after the meal,” says Kevin Sayre, sales manager with Scioto Valley in Hilliard. “It’s another room on the house now, and people are using it more often and for longer periods of time.”
Sayre says the evolution from “being outside” to “outside living” involves bringing outside the amenities and sources of comfort people enjoy within their homes. Oftentimes, multiple levels are incorporated into the format.
“People might want an upper level with a kitchen, a lower level with a fire pit and then another level for dining or a lounge setting,” Sayre says.
John and Denda Martino, who live in north Columbus, started out with a large pool in their backyard. They had much bigger dreams for the space and worked with Scioto Valley to make it a reality.
“It occurred over a period of several years, and we just envisioned the area as someplace where we wanted to spend a lot of time,” John Martino says.
The transformation included a large outdoor fireplace, refrigerator, a bar area with high-back chairs, a hot tub and a grill.
“We can seat 20 people around the fireplace rather comfortably and it’s a great place to gather with neighbors and friends,” Martino says. “And we have a pretty significant heater in the pool, so we usually open it up from mid-April until October.
“The kind of setting we have makes it easy to unwind. I don’t need to go anywhere else to relax.”
Steve Graham, a design salesman with Yard Solutions, says HGTV is a driving force in the advancements and growing popularity of outdoor living.
“[It] has opened eyes on what is possible with elaborate cooking stations with sinks and warming drawers, hot tubs, pools and lounge areas,” Graham says. “Anything that people can imagine, there are companies that will do it.”
An increasing number of clients are requesting weather-resistant televisions, sound systems and speakers, he adds.
As homeowners go to great lengths to create these outdoor spaces, they want to be able to enjoy them for longer periods of time. As such, weather-resistant structures and climate-control gadgets factor into the design.
“You can utilize the areas by incorporating pavilions or roof structures that are open on the sides,” Graham says. “And then you can have curtains pulled down to block out some of the elements and allow you to be outside when it’s raining.”
New Albany residents Elliott and Gail Tobias worked with Yard Solutions to make a seamless transition from the inside of their home to their large outdoor living space.
“We wanted the lines to be blurred, because we entertain a fair amount and we like to do it indoors and outdoors,” Elliott Tobias says.
The project incorporated three separate areas. There’s a dining space, where up to eight people can sit around the table under a large umbrella overlooking the yard. There’s a cooking area featuring a state-of-the-art grill and granite cook station countertop with a more informal dining area. And there’s a casual, relaxing area with sofas, large chairs and an open brick fireplace where guests can gather around.
“We also put in a sunken Jacuzzi that seats eight and is sort of secluded,” Tobias says. “There are a couple of stone walls around it and some arborvitaes. It’s really a great thing that we use year-round, even in the winter months.”
The setting at the Tobias home is perfect for being outside comfortably for a large portion of the year, entertaining and hosting parties.
“It makes it so much easier to have people over, especially with kids, when you can be outside,” Tobias says. “You don’t have to worry about things spilling or breaking, and when it’s over you hose off the patio, wipe down your cushions and you’re back in business.
“When you’re sitting out there you see other families, people you know in the neighborhood and over at the pond.”
If you can create an inviting room without walls, he adds, you are more likely to use it.
“If you just have a table and six chairs outside, you rarely feel compelled to use it,” Tobias says. “But if you’ve got a couch, a couple of cozy chairs and a fireplace, you’re pretty quick to want to go outside and read a book for 45 minutes.
“It’s really a wonderful way to relax.”