March 1, 2012

Outdoor Oasis

From barbecuing to billiards, putting practice to surround sound, there are so many ways to expand the enjoyment of your own backyard

BY LESLIE PETERSON

Marvin has just come in from an hour of putting practice; Molly’s relaxing in the hot tub while the teenagers are sitting on the grass, watching Moneyball on the StarGlas video screen. They’ve scheduled a game of outdoor billiards for later in the evening after flipping burgers on the grill. Which resort is this? Their own backyard, recently upgraded from an uninspired tract of scrub to a pleasure oasis – all the perks of an expensive vacation but right at home!

There are all sorts of ways to vamp up your underused, uninspired backyard. Depends on your budget, of course, but a modest hot tub set in the right surroundings can serve as a tranquil refuge, while an upgraded searing station comprising a four-burner grill, tile countertop and stainless-steel refrigerator make any home a popular destination. This year’s BC Home & Garden Show focuses its outdoor attention on the Ultimate Man’s Backyard, with a dazzling display of barbecues, kitchens, gazebos, hot tubs and sound systems.

Coast Spas’ outdoor kitchens have come a long way from the old patio hibachi to Bull Outdoor Products’ BBQ islands, customized cooking centres. The L-shaped, eight-foot-long Gourmet Q, for example, features 75,000 BTU four-burner stainless-steel commercial grills, the island topped with porcelain tiles and complete with stainless-steel refrigerator, sink and lights.

Swim spas and hot tubs have seen a resurgence in popularity over the past several years, thanks in large part to new technologies, manufacturers adding more and more sophisticated features. Coast’s latest luxury tubs – a far cry from the old cedar cylinders – incorporate a push-button, retractable TV, hands-free Bluetooth communication and Wi-Fi Smartphone control.

Oran Wakelam, the company’s marketing and communications coordinator, says Coast has just released a unique, vanishing-edge portable spa, Cascade IV – The Edge, part of its Cascade series and the only tub in the world where water displacement is eliminated. The vanishing edge removes the visual barrier from one side of the hot tub, allowing bathers to see only the waterline.

To set the mood for gatherings of family and friends check out Commercial Electronics’ innovative LightSpeaker, the first product to combine LED lighting and wireless sound in a single unit that installs like a lightbulb. Add to this a couple of AudioRock wireless outdoor speakers and you’ll be all set for some fine listening.

Backyard golf? Why not, given the expertise of B.C.’s Precision Greens, masters of artificial-grass installations. Last year the company designed and constructed 32 artificial-turf golf greens and 46 synthetic grass installations throughout the province.

Prices range from $2,000 to more than $200,000, says owner Scott McCartney. “And it’s not just golfers who are interested in our product. In the last year or two our installations have become more of a focal point in landscape design as they become incorporated with entertainment features such as pools and hot tubs. If you add some lights it really can add a lot to a party gathering.”

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