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360 HOME LIVING: 5 design decisions for a great outdoor area

Life today demands leisure spaces to be incorporated throughout the house, with easy access and convenience for relaxation and entertainment at any time. With that in mind, the outdoor should be an extension of your indoor space. These 5 key ingredients will make the perfect recipe to beautiful outdoor areas that make sense.

1. Location
The back of your house is not always the perfect location for your outdoor project. If it's facing north, the sun exposure that you get is partial, but if it's facing south you will have sun throughout the day. Adding a trellis is a good solution to create partial shade. There are different designs that will create the desired amount of shade and will add style to your patio. Some may even include awnings for extra shade, which can be manually or mechanically retractable.

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2. Elevation

Location relative to the indoor areas is also very important. A lower level walk-out is not the best area for your outdoor hangout, especially if your main level is on a level above. You want your outdoor areas at the same level or floor elevation as we call it where you spend most of your time: kitchen, family room and great room.Don't build a full size patio just to take advantage of the space. Decks are a great solution to extend your second level indoor space and add outdoor functional areas.

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If you are planing on entertaining, you'll need easy access to all your tools and food. You'll also want short distances and no obstacles on your way to serve your guests. Think about sliding doors and seamless flow towards your walkout. You can connect a second level to the ground areas with steps. Just make sure they're not in your way or within the circlualtion area.

3. Integration
Integrate the indoor's design and materials with the outdoors. Transitioning into your outdoors should involve continuity and be easy on your eyes. Match the direction of the planks on your deck to follow the direction of your hardwood floor or your stone tiles inside.
Don''t build a grill right by your bedroom window! Your design should aim to offer the experience of the outdoors from the indoors, but your bedroom dosen't need to smell like a barbecue after a cook-out.

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4. Material
Making an informed decision on materials is key to enjoying your outdoors in the future. Not only should your choice align the interior design with exterior materials and colors, but also with the amount of time and money you’ll want to spend in repairs and maintenance in the future.
These are some of your material options:

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Pressure treated wood is cheap and natural, but demands maintenance including power washing, painting, staining and changing aged pieces.

Engineered wood or composites like AZEK or Timbertech are maintenance free, don’t get hot, don’t rot or bend and you don’t have to worry about splinters or nails. Some may require minor cleaning with special composite cleaner. They cost more but are well worth it!

Natural exotic woods like IPE or Brazilian Walnut are used for giving particular look to the outdoors. Some have added smell and look gorgeous, but can get very expensive. After all, they are exotic!

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Stone can be the most durable material. Obviously it will be costly to install on a second floor but it works best on ground level. Natural stone can be an expensive option depending on your choice of stone. If it's set on concrete instead of mortar (pounded sand or ground under the stone) your cost will increase at least three times. Pavers and brick can also be added to this category as a less expensive option, depending on the set up you choose.

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5. Foliage
Your outdoors have to complement your surroundings. Local plants make a great low maintenance landscape. Work with your local experts to plan your landscape in a way that it is integrated with your outdoor project. If you like gardening, you can add plants that need good care and maintenance. Not everyone has a green thumb!

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Communicate your preferences to your design team. If your plan includes an addition or a new custom home, ask your design/build company and they should integrate landscape design/build in the planning stage of your project. Remember, not all landscape companies do construction work; you need a design/build landscape company if your project includes more than just the grounds. You can find a local professionals in Houzz. You will find that some professionals specialize only on the landscape and others will add the specialty of stone work and decks. Among them you can find Surrounds Landscape Architecture + Construction and Tilson Group. You can also refer to our former blog Landscape Architects & Your Northern Virginia Custom Home Architects for more on this concept!