Home & Garden Style

Backyard Brilliance: New Ideas in Outdoor Design

ShadeCraft Robotics’ Bloom is a fully automated product that attaches to patio sun umbrellas, converting them into smart hubs.
Luxury Living Tampa Bay

Innovation abounds in the latest designs for outdoor living.

Small backyard patios are so old school. Luxury living in Tampa Bay calls for amazing outdoor living spaces that are an extension of the home, with all of the amenities you would expect to enjoy inside: comfortable, stylish furniture to lounge on, drinks and snacks on hand in the kitchen, Netflix on the flat screen and surround-sound for your favorite tunes.

Party Outdoors

An outdoor suite from Ethan Allen’s Vero Dunes line.

Today’s spacious outdoor rooms are perfect for entertaining, says Rick Green of Ethan Allen.

“When I grew up, my parents had cocktail parties in the living room,” says Green. “Today, people want their guests to enjoy the party outside. It’s easier. Drinks spilled on the white carpet or furniture inside might be a disaster, but outdoors there’s less worry.”   

Outdoor rooms might be more relaxed, but they are just as decorative as the inside of the home. Ethan Allen offers an extensive collection of outdoor furniture, from dining room tables and chairs to extra-long sofas, ottomans, end tables and chaise lounges. The company’s new Vero Dunes line melds traditional and contemporary, with frames made of rustproof aluminum and all-weather wicker, finished in an onyx shade that lends them an aura of unexpected chic.

The company’s new high-performance fabrics are designed to be durable. “We even carry outdoor rugs that can be hosed off and allowed to dry in the sun,” says Green.

Fire Up The Grill

Cooking outside has never been so much fun. 

“When you’re hosting a party outdoors, people gather in the outdoor kitchen just like they do indoors,” says Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “We’re also seeing distinct zones — a food prep area, cooking area, grilling area, dining and then a separate seating area with built-in fire pit or fireplace.”

Although Kalamazoo continues to offer free-standing grills, the new trend is toward designing a complete outdoor kitchen just like the one inside, says Faulk. That means built-in appliances and outdoor cabinets to store dishes, glasses, utensils and everything else you might need.  “It’s all about the convenience,” says Faulk. “When it’s easier to use and to live with, you tend to use it more often.”

Must-have products? A Hybrid Fire Grill and at least one specialty appliance like a pizza oven, beer tap, or under-counter refrigeration.

Protect Yourself

A louvered roof system from A-Niks.

Outdoor comfort means protection from the sun, wind, rain and bugs — and privacy from the neighbors, says Al Erturk, president of A-Niks.  Fortunately, there are a lot of products to choose from. Structured retractable awnings, roofs and screens. Shade shelters and shade canopies. Turbo cooling systems and automated insect misting systems. 

“We first brought our automated bug control system to Tampa Bay in 2004,” says Erturk. “We offer a timed-automated system that delivers a botanical-based spray to take care of mosquitos, noseeums and spiders. We typically custom-design a system that is built around the perimeter of the property, such as the fence line, or in the planters and landscaping so it blends in with the environment.”

One of the company’s newest products is a permanent louvered roof system, which offers the flexibility of lounging in partial or full shade, or even full sun. “It looks like a traditional pergola, but the louvers pivot to give you the perfect shade at any angle, or you can close them — the louvers interlock to provide protection against rain,” says Erturk. 

Are you a tech geek? In June, ShadeCraft Robotics will be introducing Bloom, a fully automated product that attaches to patio sun umbrellas, converting them into smart hubs. According to CEO Armen Gharabegian, Bloom is voice-activated, allowing you to open and close the umbrella automatically, and it integrates with smart home devices. Play music music through the embedded Bluetooth speaker, or charge your phone with the USB charging port.

Stay Entertained

Rockustics Music Garden speakers blend into the landscape easily.

If you enjoy having a home theater, why not have that same level of quality of entertainment outside as well?

“The first step is to make sure you have good outdoor WiFi coverage,” says Rick Shook, president of Rick’s Electronics Boutique. “A lot of times you may not have a strong signal outside. We can increase the range so you get the outdoor coverage you need to stay connected.”

The next step is to select the right kind of TV — one that is durable and weather-resistant. SunBrite TV is one of the top-of-the-line products for outdoors, says Shook. The company offers three different outdoor models. Which one is best? That depends on where you intend to place the TV. Each model is designed for different types of lighting, from full shade under a covered roof to partial sun under a pergola, or full sun against an outdoor wall.

In order to create the right sound, you’ll need the right speakers. Rick recommends both Rockustics and Origin Acoustics for their durability and quality. Rockustics has a cool line of speakers designed to look like rocks that come in brown, gray, sandstone, terra cotta and grey to blend perfectly with the landscape. The speakers can be placed just about anywhere: on pillars, under eaves, on exterior walls or even furniture. They can also be hidden in shrubs in the landscape, placed in the pool area or set up in the outdoor kitchen to keep the chef entertained.

 Let There Be Lighting

The right lighting can definitely bring the drama. Photo courtesy Coastal Source.

Lighting is an integral part of creating a beautiful outdoor space. 

There’s the aesthetics, of course. The right lighting can definitely add drama. “We can paint with light and highlight the areas we want and leave dark those areas that are less attractive. We can also create an entirely different mood from day to night,” says Franco D’Ascanio, president of Coastal Source Landscape Lighting & Outdoor Audio.  

Landscape lighting is more than making the backyard attractive; it’s also about making the outdoor living space more functional, says D’Ascanio. That means taking both safety and security into consideration.

“If the property is not well-lit, it could be treacherous for guests, especially if there are steps or uneven terrain,” he says. “Good lighting in the right places can also deter suspicious activity.”  

Coastal Source custom designs and manufactures its own proprietary lighting products, including LED step lights to illuminate walls and steps; Tiki torch lights for drama; and small, high-performance niche lights — micro-lights that can be hidden in the landscape and are perfect for “downlighting, moonlighting and shadowing.”

Stay Cool

The Gulf Coast Raindance Fan from Dan’s Fan City.

Scott Wetmore, advertising manager for Dan’s Fan City, calls an outdoor fan a “Florida staple” for lanais, porches and patios, as well as gazebos and birdcage pool enclosures. 

“Outdoor fans have to be able to withstand Florida’s humidity and salt air,” says Wetmore. “Wood blades don’t last long outside, so make sure to use a non-warp plastic blade, preferably UV-resistant to reduce fading in sunlight.”

He recommends several models, including The TroposAir Tornado, Gulf Coast Raindance, the Liberator and the Bombay. 

Get Out There

With a little creativity, some protection from the elements and the right products, it’s easy to create an outdoor space that you’ll never want to leave.

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