Home Improvements March - Expand your Great Room into the Great Outdoors

Live Life Outside

Expand your great room into the outdoors.

As days get warmer, let your living space flow right out the door and onto your deck, patio or a serene oasis in your yard. With the right furniture and accessories you can create a room outside. “People have been more conscious about bringing their living outdoors, especially in the summer and especially for customers who have a pool,” says Gary Sharpe, owner of Polynesian Pools in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

No pool, no worries. You can still create an open air living area. In addition to furniture, you can get outdoor bars, outdoor fireplaces, rugs and even beds. Before you buy, measure the space where you’ll create your outdoor room, says Kim Wilkinson, manager of White’s Old Mill Garden Center in Chesapeake. “You don’t want to over furnish and you don’t want to under furnish,” Wilkinson says. “Measure what you have and come in with pictures so what you get looks proportional to your space.”

Today’s furniture is not your grandparents’ metal, wood or plastic with cushions that must come inside each night. Manufacturers are using recycled materials, Wilkinson says. “If there’s any trend, it’s recycled material,” she says. One line, Poly-Wood, is made from more than 90 percent recycled plastic bottles. “On each piece, they put how many bottles went into it,” she says. Cushions are more comfortable and stand up better to being outside, Sharpe says. “Manufacturers are bringing indoor comfort outside but with materials that can weather the elements,” he says. “The cushions are almost like a couch, but with an outdoor aesthetic.” Most cushion material can get rained on and will dry quickly, he says. Some are actually cushions surrounded by plastic and then surrounded by plastic material so the actual cushion never gets wet. You won’t have to bring them in until the season’s over.

For the furniture base, you’ll see a lot of aluminum, which stands up well to being rained on. Not so much for cast iron or wrought iron—it looks great at first but will rust after a couple of seasons, Sharpe says. Several manufacturers carry cast aluminum, offering the look of cast iron along with the durability of aluminum, he says.

Umbrellas have gone beyond the pole that sticks in a hole in the table. “Umbrellas have taken on a whole new dynamic and design in the past few years,” Sharpe says. Instead of an umbrella in the middle of the table, the umbrella is cantilevered to hang over a table with a big curved arm so you can move it to where you want shade. Raising and lowering the umbrella is much easier too, he says.

Wood outdoor furniture is still popular, but now the pieces often have a light coat of epoxy to protect the wood so it won’t turn gray as it weathers, Sharpe says. “You get the look and feel of wood without the maintenance issues that arise with exposed wood,” he says. When it’s time to turn in at night you can stay outside if you like. Several companies make outdoor beds, even with canopies for privacy, for sleeping in the night air or for enjoying the sun during the day, Sharpe says.

Manufacturers do a great job these days with warranties, Sharpe says. “I have had companies warranty furniture that is 25 years old,” he says. With warranties in mind, you don’t want to break the bank, but do buy the best quality you can afford, Sharpe and Wilkinson say. “Customers are happier when they invest in quality product and have it last for years and years,” Sharpe says.


Kitchen Creations


Keep your head while remodeling the heart of your home.

Your kitchen is the heart of your home. It is where you cook, eat and connect with friends and family. When you decide to remodel, make sure you carefully consider all aspects of the job so you get the best result for your money.

First, focus on the purpose of the renovation, says Steve Dubanevich, owner of Accent Kitchens in Virginia Beach and Newport News. Do you want to accommodate more family members? Is your family shrinking? Aging? Are you doing more entertaining? “That’s part of what’s going to drive not only the design but the cost of the remodeling,” Dubanevich says.

Next, how long are you going to be staying in your home? If you’re planning to move soon, you likely will want to update your kitchen. Just make sure that you don’t spend too much or get too creative because you may not get a good return on your investment. A well-thought out kitchen remodel will return 65 to 75 percent on resale, he says. But not if you overspend or get too wild. “You wouldn’t want to overspend or over remodel so that your house is priced beyond anything else in the neighborhood,” Dubanevich says. “I’m not talking about five thousand dollars. But I’ve seen it happen where people in a $300,000 house decide they want to go all out and spend 18 to 20 percent of the value of the house to remodel. That’s fine if you’re going to stay your entire adult life because it’s your personal enjoyment.”

But if you think you might be moving within 10 years, don’t go too far outside the box on cabinets, countertops, and other expensive-toreplace elements. “You may love red countertops and they may be in style at that moment, but in eight to 10 years when you go to sell the house, the buyer will be looking to you to replace them,” he says. “You don’t want to go off the deep end on colors or style of cabinets.” The place to be creative, unique and let your personality shine through are in tile backsplashes, in light fixtures and cabinet handles, Dubanevich says. Those are easily and inexpensively changed.

Listen to your designer. Even if you’ve always dreamed of a kitchen island, when your designer says there’s no room for one, consider that he or she might be right. “People will come in with pre-conceived ideas such as ‘I want an island in the middle of the kitchen,’ but there may not be enough walk space around the island for two people to pass,” Dubanevich says.

If your goals outpace your budget, consider what parts of your project can realistically be delayed and what should be done now. For example, lighting should be added while the walls are already open. But you could add a ceramic tile backsplash later.

If you’re trying to save money, don’t switch out your appliances yet—just leave room to install that larger, high-end item you have your eye on. “Appliances are a big ticket item,” Dubanevich says. “You can replace appliances at a later date as long as you plan for it.”

Maybe you don’t need a complete kitchen re-do— maybe you just want to make better use of your pantry and shelves. You can get custom fitted shelving, a retrofitted lazy susan and/or more pullout shelves for additional and easier-to-reach storage space, says Mitch Copeland of Albemarle Shelving Concepts. A lot of times the 30-yearold cabinets are better than what’s being built today,” Copeland says. “To stay under your budget, you could just refinish your cabinets and put pullout shelves in to give you more usable space.”

Such a job could be done in less than two weeks, he says. “You won’t have the cost and inconvenience of pulling everything out,” he says. Keep in mind there may be a reason if one contractor’s price is way out of line. “The materials are such a large part of the job, there’s no way you’re going to get the same or better quality materials for substantially less money,” Dubanevich says. “When there’s a huge disparity of price, there’s usually a reason— whether in the quality of the product or the quality and talents of the design and installation team.”

Finally, don’t pay more than 30 to 40 percent up front, Dubanevich cautions. “A good faith deposit is fine,” he says. “But if you’re dealing with a financially solvent company, there’s no reason to put down more than 30 or 40 percent.”

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