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Extending the Outdoor Season Acton MA

Not so long ago, outdoor living spaces rarely received much attention from homeowners in Acton, and usually were sparsely furnished with less-than-attractive items - a white metal table, simple aluminum-framed deck chairs with nylon webbing, a kettle-like grill and perhaps a patio umbrella.

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Extending the Outdoor Season

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Not so long ago, outdoor living spaces rarely received much attention from homeowners, and usually were sparsely furnished with less-than-attractive items - a white metal table, simple aluminum-framed deck chairs with nylon webbing, a kettle-like grill and perhaps a patio umbrella. Today, design and furnishing options for outdoor living abound, and homeowners are paying closer attention to this previously overlooked space.

Many homeowners now realize that an outdoor living space can be a seamless and inviting extension of a home's interior, and are opting to upgrade patios or decks with such features as deluxe fireplaces, fire pits, patio heaters, spas, furniture collections and unique lighting, many of which not only make these spaces more comfortable but also extend their usefulness as outside temperatures drop.

Whether you are about to launch a campaign to redo your outdoor living space to gain more time outside or are still in the dream-about-it stage, here are a few pointers to consider before you begin your project.

Talk to a Professional Designer
There are a number of good reasons to spend more time outside, even as the weather turns cooler, says Lisa Bonneville, a fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers (FASID) and principal of Bonneville Design, an interior design firm located in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. One reason is that it's simply healthier. "Lots of people who close up their houses too early in the season trap moisture and germs inside," Bonneville notes. "It is always good to maintain fresh air in your house."

By upgrading an outdoor space, you can also create a cozy, comfortable place to relax outside, provide an alfresco location for entertaining guests and improve your home's value.

When a client comes to her with a desire to upgrade an outdoor space, Bonneville asks several questions before proceeding with design plans, such as how the homeowner intends to use the space and how many people will be involved in that use. "I also need to know how to preserve a clear path of travel to the outdoor area from the house, and what lighting is needed to preserve safety, especially if there are stairs involved," she says.

For one homeowner in New England, Bonneville designed a teahouse-type, screened-in porch with a canopy, wood flooring and a spa in one corner. When the weather turns cooler, the homeowner can replace the screens with glass sections that block the wind and reduce the chill factor, so the space is usable longer into the fall season.

Northern California nights also can turn chilly as the fall months arrive, notes Bruce Goff, principal of Domus Design Group, which has offices in Reno, Houston and San Francisco. If a client wants to extend the use of an outdoor space, Goff focuses in on a couple of key considerations that include how long into the fall season the homeowner wants to use the space and what activities will take place outside.

"If the client only wants to barbeque on the deck, then darkness is the key issue [as days get shorter]," he notes. "But if they want to eat outside also, then the issue becomes one of wind and climate."

Architect Jim Winer, AIA, LEED (American Institute of Architects, LEED-certified), of Menefee + Winer Architects in Atlanta, says he also needs to know specifics before he can design a space appropriately. "Is the client looking for a space that can be enclosed and heated in the winter months?" he asks. "Is it predominantly an enclosed space with walls and a roof, or is it open to the sky? Would an outdoor fireplace or fire pit provide enough heat, or do we need to look at space heaters or radiant heat in a terrace floor?" Of course, these fundamental choices will have a significant impact on the project's cost.

Winer, who was the 2006 winner of the ASID Southern Accents Residential Design Competition for outdoor living spaces, also suggests that homeowners "consider solar orientation and plant material carefully for your outdoor space." The ideal outdoor space will be designed so it's warmed by sunlight in the winter and shaded by vegetation during the hot summer months.

Focus on Function
A fireplace can become the centerpiece of an outdoor space, especially during cool weather in the fall and spring seasons. "We've found that just about everyone enjoys an outdoor fireplace," says Winer. "People gather around, watch the flames and it's almost like being a kid again at camp."

A fireplace, outdoor fire pit or patio heater can help extend the usefulness of an outdoor space as much as six weeks later into the fall season, and enable homeowners to start moving outside as much as six weeks earlier in the spring. In cooler climates, that means an extra three months outdoors.

"I have a term I've started using, called "zone specific' heating," says Ross Johnson, vice president of sales for Fire Stone Home Products in Burnsville, Minn. "A gas-heated outdoor fire pit will not heat the entire yard but will heat a zone-specific area, and help keep you warm if you're sitting nearby. I've turned on my fire pit and fireplace [during cooler weather], and even if it's snowing, it's just gorgeous."
One of Fire Stone's newest products is the Crystal Fire, a granite-topped fire pit with a "glassfire" burning unit that makes it appear as if small, clear crystals are producing the flames. With its top in place, the unit resembles a granite coffee table, but lift the circular insert and you have a heat source that produces 60,000 BTUs.

Companies such as Rumford, Lennox, Heat Thu, 18 Oct 2007 00:00:00 By Smart-Homeowner Staff High-Performance High-Rises .

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