May 29, 2015
Outdoor living with indoor style
Forget CHEAP plastic chairs, coolers and tacky lanterns — stylish patios and decks now have all the comforts of home
By LESLIE PETERSON
The lanterns are lit, glasses clink, hanging baskets sway in the soft breezes. Muted voices mingle with cool jazz, pineapple ham
kebabs sizzle on the barbecue, blackberry mint juleps are passed around. Friends and family are gathered for the occasion. It’s just another day in paradise for Lower Mainland residents fortunate enough to have easy access to outdoor living.
And times are changing on the backyard patio. No longer a wooden deck with cheap plastic chairs and a string of lanterns, it’s now a focal point for gatherings of family and friends — an outdoor room, in effect, complete with deep-seated sectionals, fire pits, chandeliers and infra-red heaters. More and more builders, designers and renovators are acknowledging this, incorporating architectural elements that allow indoor living to expand outdoors, blurring the visual barriers between inside and out.
Key to this are the increasingly popular Eclipse or nano doors, folding glass-door systems that generally span 10 or 15 feet but can accommodate 48-foot-wide openings. When folded, the exterior wall disappears. Also assisting the transition is exterior paving at the same level as the interior floor with similar patterns and textures, as well as the echoing of the home’s kitchen appliances and countertops, proportions and site lines in the outdoor space.
“Homeowners are definitely looking for covered outdoor spaces that connect and expand their living areas; it makes them so much more usable in our wet but mild climate,” says award-winning designer Sarah Gallop. “Outdoor spaces are far more than a patio table now; they really are outdoor living areas, with soft lounge seating, fireplaces and outdoor kitchens.”
Some of Vancouver’s best examples of combined indoor/outdoor spaces have been showcased in the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association Ovation Awards, handed out late last month.
These new and renovated homes — some custom, some spec — show marvellous design diversity, from an open-air atrium and sunken patio to meticulously designed mini-decks and whole outdoor rooms set on mansions’ grand terraces.
As one might expect, these outdoor playgrounds are often decked out in style, with brick pillars, timber trellises, travertine-limestone walkways, fully automated fountains, chandeliers, landscape lighting and heaters. Food preparation — in pizza ovens, barbecues and cooktops — takes open-air cooking to new dimensions, assembled on granite countertops, on stoves with hoods and warming ovens and with labor-saving devices such as dishwashers, trash compactors and ice makers. And let’s not forget a bar counter thoughtfully wired for a cocktail blender for daiquiris on demand.
The Mayfair in Shaughnessy underwent a major renovation by Teragon Developments and Construction several years ago, then sold last year with an impressive $22.8 million price tag. The 9,800-square-foot Tudor-inspired mansion sits on a half-acre lot with five sets of French doors leading from living, dining and family rooms to a magnificent terrace.
This spectacular backyard paradise has been designed with stone walls, brick pillars and elegant tossed-travertine walkways, while glass-covered fir-timber trellises serve as a canopy for grape vines sheltering a seating area. Landscape lighting, as well as two fountains, two electric heaters and the courtyard fireplace, are tied into the home’s environmental-control system.
Cooking is effortless on a fully equipped outdoor kitchen’s high-end barbecue with side burners, a wood-fired pizza oven, fridge and sink. There’s no problem finding a place to eat since French doors lead from the home’s indoor dining room to a second backyard table.
Adjacent to the pool on one side lies a hot tub and chaise lounges; on the other is a spacious pool house complete with outdoor and indoor showers, a full bathroom and a multi-purpose room. All of this is in a beautifully landscaped setting, surrounded by mature trees, shrubs and a profusion of flowers.
At the recent Ovation Awards, The Mayfair won People’s Choice, Best Renovated Room and Best Outdoor Living Space: New or Renovated.
Not surprisingly, Infiniti Pacific Custom Homes’ Capitol Hill Contemporary home in Burnaby was singled out for Ovation recognition. In the design of the 2,406-square-foot project, Paul Blakley and Chantalle Elliott took advantage of the fabulous view from the home’s sloped lot as outdoor living space wherever possible.
Leading off the kitchen to the central stairs, a glass-enclosed, 95-square-foot open-air atrium features a private Zen-like garden in the centre of the upper living space. The atrium provides access to the 460-square-foot roof deck, accessed by the glass, aluminum and fir exterior staircase.
At the front, a 15-foot Eclipse door opens the living room to a breathtaking view of Burnaby Mountain and an additional 200-square-foot deck with a protective eight-foot roof overhang, infrared heaters and pot lights. Speakers just inside the living room make it the perfect place to entertain friends and family.
“Extending the space from indoors outdoors is a big trend in Vancouver because our summers are so nice and the winters aren’t that bad,” Elliott says. “And Vancouverites tend to entertain a lot so we built to suit our clients’ needs.”
Everything’s coming up green on a former derelict Mount Pleasant site where the Vanglo Sustainable Construction Group collaborated with Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture to design a unique 2,250 square-foot house. It’s one of only three Energy-Star certified homes in Vancouver, according to builder Martin Warren, and was the winner of the Ovation award for Best Custom Home ($750,000 to under $1.5 million).
With vaulted geometric ceilings and a sleek, futuristic exterior, built without interior load-bearing walls, the home posed many design challenges. A focal point of the reverse-floor-plan home is its 350-square-foot outdoor deck, which reaches out from the third-floor living room to create a treehouse feel. A wall of bamboo effectively blocks sight lines to the neighbouring property.
A fibreglass-frame folding-door system helps create an indoor/outdoor flow and renders the deck usable almost year-round. A Solus Décor firebox provides warmth in inclement weather.
For the past six years, builder Troy Van Vliet of Tavan Developments has been responding to more and more requests for folding doors. “Every home we build now includes an Eclipse system so we can open up the house,” he says. “Once they’ve seen them in our spec homes, they want one in their custom home.”
Photos of his company’s South Granville Estate show an imposing 7,500-square-foot home, with 1,500 square feet of indoor/outdoor living. French doors lead to a second-floor deck off the master bedroom while on the main floor, 15-foot Eclipse doors open the living room and kitchen to an elegant indoor/outdoor lounge. Its focal point is a striking white-granite fireplace flanked by large, ornamental wrought-iron screens and floor-length drapes that separate the area from the backyard.