Work With The Space You Have!
If you have a single family home, townhome, condo with a balcony or anything along these lines, you have an opportunity to create better outdoor living space, maybe even an outdoor living room. Explore the array of outdoor living products. So, your enjoyment of this area will increase as you give some thought to improving the space you have.
OK, let’s start the discussion with a simple balcony… say 6’x12’ with an aluminum deck railing around it. This space can be brightened with some high quality solar lighting midway up the posts that will softly illuminate the area for safe and comfortable usage at night. As a result of keeping the solar lights lower on the posts the walking area is lit for safety while at eye level there is an intimate more private ambiance.
Right Size Table And Chairs
Consider a small round table and a couple of matching chairs off to one side of the balcony, perhaps tucked into a corner, for a more private coffee nook. A planter hanging off the inside of the railing with greenery and some colorful flowers is a great way to create a natural garden setting even in the heart of the city. Corners can often be wasted space, fill it with a two tiered planter and different types of perennials on each level. Get creative. Have fun.
Whatever you decide to purchase to improve your outdoor living space, don’t go with the cheapest quality made in China products you can find. The wind might just blow them off the balcony, or the sunshine’s ultraviolet light will break down the cheap plastic in less than a few years. Buy products that are made in America, heavier duty, better quality and they will last much longer. Consider a High Density Polyethylene box style bench with a storage bin hidden inside. It has multiple uses, and that is a good thing. Particularly for creating multiple uses for limited spaces.
Architectural Shade Products
If the balcony is facing south or west, shade products are a good idea that will contribute to your enjoyment and best use of your outdoor living space. Fiberlite Umbrellas gained the first U.S. patent for a fiberglass frame umbrella in 1987. Since then, they have refused to compromise the integrity and values that founded the company upon more than 30 years ago. Still family-owned, Fiberlite is the only umbrella manufacturer to design, source and handcraft our fiberglass frame umbrellas exclusively in the United States. Fiberlite is proud to be made in the U.S.A!
These may have the option of a jointed pole that enables tilting the Umbrella for the most protection from direct sunlight while dining on your balcony. They may also be collapsed for storage when not in use. The weighted umbrella used in conjunction with a table that has a hole in the center is a wonderful idea.
Shade Is The Best Friend Of Sunshine
Shade is the best friend of sunshine. During the summer months of June through August most people enjoy being outdoors. It is a great time of year to sit out on your balcony, patio or deck. The problem is that the direct sunlight can burn your skin, this stops many people from staying outdoors during the day. Architectural shade products come in many shapes and sizes.
Over the years many people have told me that they would love being outside sitting on their deck, reading or listening to music and enjoying a cold drink…but it is just too hot! So they don’t come out until after the sun is going down. Shade is often able to fix this situation. Generally, it is much cooler and much more comfortable to sit in the shade that it is to sit under direct sunlight. So installing an awning, an umbrella, a pergola or some sort of architectural shade product is a viable solution. This enables people to extend their daily and seasonal use of their cherished outdoor living products space.
Consider the idea of sprucing up your block patio with colorful long lasting High Density Polyethylene Outdoor furniture. Perhaps a rustic fire pit. All of these products are made in the USA. There is no doubt they are well built and will likely last for generations. Each of these outdoor living products will work well in this situation.
High Density Polyethylene Furniture
First let’s look at the HDPE Plastic furniture, there are so many natural woodsy earth tone colors to choose from. Or you may prefer to go with the brightly colored pastels and swirl colors that are available from the modern HDPE Extruders today. No matter what color you hope for it is likely readily available.
Secondly, there is a wide array of styles from classic Adirondack to the cozy Outer Banks varieties. Chairs with built in cup holders and gliders with stainless steel hardware. Be choosy about selections and pay attention to the details. Even among the manufacturer’s in the USA there are some furniture builders that combine hand crafted details with modern production processes and equipment. Folding chairs and spinning stools that rotate 360 degrees. Bar stools with or without backs and wet bars with sinks and water supplies and storage for additional beverages.
Next is the outdoor furniture with cushions that make you feel like you just moved your living room to the backyard. This often inspires one to add outdoor rugs as an additional accent for an extra touch of character. Furniture for outdoors with cushions, what a way to live. Comfort and style second to none. Such an amazing choice of fabrics and colors. There are even a myriad of the stiffness of the foam inside of those wonderful cushions. So you can create that custom feel of you sofa or easy glider or chair. Rocking chairs and Settees, the list goes on. One can spend days exploring the offerings.
Let’s move on. To begin with the cozy and inviting fire pits that are often the center of attention. Above all everyone loves the glow of the fire. As well as the added warmth on a cool evening. In short a Fire Pit expands the outdoor living season. More in the Spring and more in the Autumn.
There are many styles to choose from in the world of fire pits too. Fire Pits with real wood fires or propane fires. Cooking surfaces or fires for beauty and warmth alone. Stainless Steel or Cast Iron, Aluminum or Crystal Fires surrounded by glass.
Make Seasonal Changes
Therefore with many of us entertaining outdoors it only takes the addition of a few simple items to make your outdoor fire pit area stand out for the autumn and early spring. Start by placing a couple of tartan or plaid pillows as well as a few fur throws on your outdoor seating areas for a quick pop of color and warmth. With this in mind, brighten and add a sophisticated glow to your outdoor living space by placing outdoor lanterns with candles near seating areas. The addition of industrial string lights to a porch or a fence will also create a fun atmosphere that will also illuminate your outdoor space.
Pick up a few potted trees and add some magnolia leaves to the base of the pots to welcome your guests. Use natural elements around your garden to create simple centerpieces with votive candles of different sizes scattered about. Drape garland around a designated bar area so that guests will know where to grab a drink. Place holiday mugs and festive warm beverages out to warm your guests on a cold evening.
Make sure to have plenty of wood to throw on your fire pit so guests will stay warm and when your fire pit is not in use wrap fairy lights around birch logs to create a whimsical alternative to a roaring fire.
Double Walled Fire Pits
Once again we find American Craftsmen creating and refining this ever expanding product category. So there are double walled fire pits that bring air in from the bottom between the walls. Thus this air is heated as it rises between the walls and enters the fire at the top. In short, this added oxygen increases combustion and nearly eliminates the smoke. Hence, you will notice how much more enjoyable it is to sit around the fire and not be chased away by the smoke that traditionally is moving through the people gathered around the fire. Many of these fie pit models are heavy and difficult to overturn. These steel fire pits will last a lifetime with a little routine care.
Retaining Walls And Fall Protection
Many block patios have retaining walls due to steeper inclines of properties. In order to make use of the steeply graded property at all a retaining wall may built and back filled to create the area for a stone of block patio. This is a great way to create incredible outdoor living space. There is one particular life safety issue that should be solved while creating this wonderful outdoor living space. Along the retaining wall there is often a knee wall to create a border and a seating area as well. However, when the drop off on the other side of the retaining wall is greater than 30” a railing is required. This railing must be 36” high in residential situations and 42” high in commercial applications.
Often people will substitute fence products along the edges of block patios with drop offs. The fact is that it may not meet the local building codes. So be sure to check with your local building code officials before spending a lot of money on a block patio with a retaining wall. With this in mind make sure to ask about what type of fall protection will be installed. Fences are not subject to the same rigorous testing as railing. You have a lot of choices here. Outdoor railing choices abound. Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Vinyl. Consequently there are numerous styles to choose from using each of these materials. Glass railing, cable railing or traditional balusters to name some of the most common forms of railing.
Railing And Third Party Testing
The better choice for railing is one that is third party tested and with a CCRR code approval. Exterior railing that is code approved and properly installed is the one sure way to protect family and friends from falls in outdoor living areas.
Lighted Stairs Prevent Falls
In the first place, did you know steps are the number one safety concern in outdoor living spaces? Outdoor living products like steps on block patios or decks are the number one source of homeowner insurance claims. So how do we prevent falls on outdoor steps? Lighting of course.
FireFly LED lighting added to your UltraMax Railing from Ultra Aluminum is a great way to light up stairs on a deck or block patio. A great way to start is with a light in the riser of the first step from the ground level. Having enough light to clearly see the first step the number one way to reduce the chance of someone stumbling on the stair. Additional LED deck lights in the railing post caps is another way of lighting a broader area and lighting up the entire set of steps. Another choice is installing riser lights above every tread. This is very effective for safety purposes as well.
Solar lighting is also an effective way create safe walkways and stairs. No electric wiring or transformers needed with this method. There is one problem, most exterior grade solar deck lights are the result of cheap manufacturing and don’t last very long. There is one classic style stainless steel solar light that is fine quality and can be mounted on the side of railing posts or fence posts for ambiance and walking safely around the backyard oasis at night.
Decks Become Screened Outdoor Living Rooms
In the first place, elevated Decks are often in use in combination with block patios. Additionally the deck may be free standing or have a ledger attachment to the home and provides direct access to a back entrance. With this in mind many homes come with a vinyl sliding glass door in the back wall. Initially this is often fine for entry onto a deck. The junction between indoor and outdoor living space. At some point a screen room with a gable roof and open rafters or a finished ceiling may be a good idea. At this point the dynamics of the space changes, it becomes an extension of the home. The door is now more of a focus. A top end french door is a wonderful upgrade to the PVC stock sliding glass door. The ambiance and flow of the entire space benefits from this thoughtful improvement. Finally you have an outdoor living room.
Outdoor Living Products -Decking, Plastic and Wood
Today WPC (Wood Plastic Composites) and PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) decking products account for the majority of decking projects in some areas. Conversely in other regions pressure treated southern yellow pine or exotic hardwoods are in greater demand. The main advantage to WPC and PVC decking products is that they will likely outlive wood decking. One thing is certainly true, outdoor living products like plastic decking will require less maintenance. Due to the plastic content, static charge can be a concern under certain conditions. Although for the most part this is not a problem.
Decks can be multi-level and provide many destinations as a part of the backyard oasis. For example, consider these, a dining area with a table and chairs, a breakfast bar along the railing with backless stools to create a high top setting with a view or a small round table and two small “English garden style chairs” to create the perfect coffee nook. In addition consider a corner pergola with a corner bench under it. As this can become a favorite spot for personal conversation or reading. Add a bench with a built in storage box beneath it is another common addition to functional living space on the deck. Many people combine decks and hot tubs along with some privacy fence for relaxing hot soaks under various seasonal starry skies.
Outdoor Living Products Party Steps Are A Destination
Multi-level decks generally have at least one stair leading to the ground level. This landing area often becomes the block patio that was discussed earlier. The common stair has a rise and a run of approximately 7” risers 11” treads. Stairs when built properly outdoors can become a destination of their own. Have you ever heard of party steps? These are truly multi-purpose, not just as an egress but a destination as well.
To begin with, imagine you are at an outdoor gathering at a home. Next, check out the picnic table, there is a person in every seat. No open seats anywhere. If this deck is 5’ above grade and each riser is 6” high there can be 9 treads in the stair. Below this deck is a block patio that boasts a design which flows from the 10′ wide staircase of party steps. Finally, outdoor living products like stairs, are multifunctional and indeed a destination.
Comfortable Seating When Needed
Notice that a standard seat is approximately 16” deep. This is deep enough to support the rear end and the thighs of most adults. This is enough support to be comfortable. So, build the treads of the stair 16” deep and it can now provide comfortable seating. As a result a person can sit on one 16” deep tread with their feet resting two treads below. This is a pretty comfortable seating arrangement when needed.
As you can see, this would even work well with a plate of picnic fare in the lap and a drink setting on the tread beneath your knees. Build this stair 6′ to 10′ wide and it is easy to see that you can provide additional seating for a lot of people if needed. This style of stair has also become the destination for countless family portraits. These are party steps. Heavy duty construction methods are a must to carry the maximum load without squeaking or sagging. Subsequently, great carpenters build these party steps and they become a focal point any backyard oasis. Finally the use of angles and curves enhances the beauty of a party step destination.
Outdoor Living Space Is A Journey Only An Imagination May Limit!
In conclusion we have discussed some ideas of what can be done with a balcony, a block patio and a deck are presented here in brief. Outdoor living products make our lives better. Accordingly even steps can become destinations as a part of the good planning. So every bump out and offset may present design opportunities. Thus a feature or existing element that looks like an obstacle regularly transforms into a focal point or destination. As a result of this one sees the opportunity to personalize outdoor living space is a journey only an imagination may limit!