What is an Architect… And How Do I Work With One?

What does an architect do and how do you know if you need one?
The core tasks for an architect is to design, plan, and develop the ideas and final outcome for a house, apartment or building.

Most often, people think of using an architect when they are building a new house entirely from scratch. This is usually termed a ‘new build’.

However, an architect can also be retained to do a redesign or major rebuild on an existing house or building.

Architects are also trained and qualified by government bodies to do other necessary works like environmental impact or feasibility studies, cost analysis and land-use studies.

According to William Ng from Studio Wills + Architects, quoting from the Singapore Board of Architects: “No person shall use verbally or otherwise the word ‘architect’ or any of its derivatives in connection with any business designation that will lead to the belief that the person is an architect unless the person is registered with the Board of architects in Singapore.”

Using an architect for your new or renovated home, particularly if you want to do major works, can help ensure that your project is done right according to building regulations, on time, on budget and creatively.

“Architects are trained not only to design but to execute the design,” explains Singapore architect Catherine Loke from Lander Loke Architects.

“This involves detailing, documentation, cost control, procurement and contract administration.”

Casey Chua, director of ADX Architects, agrees with Loke: “Architects are creative individuals who are professionally trained. Take time to communicate your needs to your chosen architect, and they should be able to deliver a product suitable to your needs with a high degree of professionalism.”

How do you know if you need an architect?
You probably need an architect if you are doing any sort of structural work, whether on a new-build or a renovation.

Yes, you can work with an interior designer, however, you will also need to contract a structural engineer, a builder etc. particularly if you are making major changes to a space.

“Engaging an architect for the full scope of services – design, documentation, contract administration and authority submissions – is the best value for money,” says Loke.

What you need to tell your architect
As with employing any building professional, you need to be very clear about what it is that you want to achieve, how much money you have to spend, and any other specifics regarding timelines, or physical requirements.

And you also need to have some sort of idea of the overall design style.

“I think the one thing to consider before hiring an architect is to decide the process and outcome that you desire,” says Chua.

“Architects are trained both in design conceptualisation and design implementation. Basically this means, architects are responsible for both making the design, and managing the process to ensure the design is built to expectations.”

Ng suggests that you carefully consider whether or not you actually need to use an architect for your job, and if you do, ensure “he or she a qualified architect registered with the respective Board of Architects”.

How do you choose the right one?
As with working with any professional, you need to find someone who ‘suits’ your needs and personality.

“Choosing an architect is not unlike choosing your family doctor,” says Loke.

“The architect will be working closely with you for the duration of the project and should be someone who is ‘in sync’ with you.

“The architect can also help you work out your design brief and offer solutions that you never imagined.”

Chua agrees: “The architect you choose should be well-suited to your style and taste. Review their portfolio and make sure the architect can deliver solutions and products that fits your needs.

“Choosing an architect who you can get along with and understands you is important in ensuring good communication. This will allow for a smooth working relationship.”

Ng has three tips to follow before you choose your architect. First, gather a shortlist of qualified architects whose work you like, then “review their portfolio so that you have a good understanding of their works in terms of scale, type and for a lack of a better word, their style and if that is aligned with your personal style and preferences”, he explains.

Next is the all important communication chemistry. Finally, Ng adds that you should “request testimonials or the equivalent so that you can gauge if the architect is capable of providing the services you are looking for.”

If you are looking for an architect, have a look at our comprehensive list of Professionals.

Was this information about working with an architect helpful? Tell us in the comments below.

In this new series we help you define the different types of professionals you will come across as a new homeowner: whether that’s an interior designer or stylist, or a renovation contractor. Here, we talk about the architect.

This content was originally published here.


How to Make Your Kitchen Island Your Favorite Dining Spot

The Basics

Technically, any island can be used for dining as long as it has seats and an overhang that allows those seats to tuck in for comfort. A 6-inch minimum overhang is sufficient for dining, although 9 to 12 inches will be more generous, especially for legroom.

Using seats that look and feel more like chairs will give the island more of a “dining room” vibe, and seating with backs will be more comfortable for longer meals.

Keep in mind that comfortable dining also requires a little elbow room. The fact that your island technically can fit a certain number of seats doesn’t mean that that many people can sit comfortably without knocking into each other. The typical shoulder width of a person is 24 inches, but try to give each seat closer to 30 inches if you can.

For example, a 60-inch (or 5-foot) island could fit three 18-inch-wide stools if they’re pushed together, but it would be better to use just two seats so that each person has 30 inches.

Extended Islands

The island style shown here features a typical built-in island with storage in the base but with a deeply extended top to create a large surface with lots of room for seats.

Notice how the end of the island in the foreground has room for seats on three sides. (Only two sides are in use for this photo, but a chair could easily be pulled around to the other side, near the fridge.) This can allow a small group of people to sit facing each other and chat easily, rather than sitting all in a row, which is a nice option to have.

Extra-Extended Islands

In a long, narrow kitchen, sometimes the island can only extend in one direction, parallel to the cabinets. In this case, rather than widening the island to allow for stools around the edges, the island can be extended a long way in one direction (50 to 80 inches), creating a dining-table-length extension adjacent to the main work surface. In other words, the island top is very long, but the base with storage only extends halfway and the other half is left open for seats.

This solution gives lots of extra prep space for convenient day-to-day cooking, and when needed, the dining half can be cleared for a proper sit-down meal.

You can create a similar effect by pushing a table up against an existing island. The pairing will look best if the table and island are the same width so they meet neatly. Again, the advantage here is that now the table can easily be used for both dining and food prep, so it does double duty.

Consider using a different material for the tabletop so the contrast looks intentional. Warm wood will add a welcoming air and coordinate easily with a stone countertop.

Also, notice here how the chair fabric ties back to the cabinet color, which gives the eclectic mix of materials a bit of continuity.

This kitchen takes a more unusual approach, but the result is very cool. A custom dining-height table wraps around an L-shaped island, making the two pieces look architecturally integrated. Having a custom piece made will ensure it’s the exact length, width and shape that suits your kitchen, so it’s a great option if your budget allows

Note: Adding an island extension at a lower level makes the surface a little less convenient as extra counter space but more comfortable as a dining table, a trade-off that ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Bubble Islands

The previous concept works well for a long, narrow kitchen, but what about a more square or open concept? An island with a “bubble” or “node” on it, such as this one, creates a dining space that allows guests to face each other, and also face the chef, so everyone feels included in the conversation.

This setup takes less floor area than having a separate circular table off to the side, so it’s a great compromise between counter space and open circulation space.

Use a 36- to 48-inch diameter for the semicircle to seat two to four people.

Perpendicular Extensions

This kitchen places a picnic-style dining area right against the back of an island, creating a layout similar to the previous “bubble island.” This works if you have a lot more space next to the kitchen than in the kitchen itself and almost cheats the kitchen out into the rest of the room to make it look and feel a bit bigger.

Here’s the same approach but in a larger kitchen and more modern style. The table is clearly a custom built-in that uses the same counter material that wraps the island’s waterfall sides, and the effect looks very luxurious.

Another advantage of this sort of layout is that it creates a little workspace that’s out of the main cook’s way. One person can work on a simpler dish at the table (such as mixing a salad) while another person works uninterrupted in the main prep space.

Peninsula Extensions

Don’t have room for a true island? Try adding a dining peninsula like the one shown here that touches the main counter instead of having open circulation on all sides. Again, it could be a built-in extension at counter height or dining height, or an actual separate table pushed into place.

Use stackable chairs that can tuck away in a closet when not in use, or use a low-backed option that’s easy to reach over and doesn’t get in the way during cooking.

Furniture Islands

If you have a smaller space, are on a lower budget or prefer a breezier look, you can skip the traditional island altogether and use a dining table in its place as a multifunctional piece.

Obviously, a slim table is not as usable for a prep counter as a wide, deep island, but it can be serviceable as an extra space to do a little chopping, mix up a drink or set out some baked goods to cool, which sometimes is all you really need.

Again, the decision of whether to use a dining-height or counter-height table will depend on whether you’re more focused on kitchen and prep space or on frequent dining.

The previous kitchen had a lower table and chairs with backs, which prioritize the dining. In this kitchen, the table is counter height, with stools that can tuck completely underneath to be fully out of the way. Both approaches are very effective, so it may just come down to whether or not you enjoy sitting with your feet off the floor.

Circular Tables

A circular table may not seem to “fit” with the straight lines of a kitchen, but there are actually some great reasons to consider it. Besides introducing a new shape, which can add a lot of interest, you also get the flexibility of being able to move the seats around to wherever is out of the way.

Notice here how none of the seats are pointing directly at the back counter. This means people can sit in them without taking up so much of the aisle, so someone can still move through the kitchen while others eat or do homework.

In this modern blue kitchen, the round table works great with an odd number of chairs. There’s no denying that space is tight here, but at least the round table isn’t adding any sharp corners to bump into.


Bench seats are very trendy in dining areas these days, and they work well here too. A properly sized bench will be able to completely disappear under a dining island, even one with drawers, as shown here, so the seating isn’t in the way when not in use.

Choosing Materials

As I mentioned before, wood is often the best option for a dining-table island, as it can pleasingly contrast with other materials and works well in both modern or traditional styles. Choosing dining chairs that color-coordinate to the cabinetry helps tie the two areas together, as the dark charcoal black of these Eames chairs mimics the soft sheen of the cabinetry.

Who says it’s a bad thing to eat dinner in the kitchen? These days, with spare time and square footage at a premium, many people are ditching the formal dining room and celebrating the kitchen as the hub for not just cooking but eating as well. A smart and beautiful dining island can serve all your kitchen and dining room needs, helping you really get the best of both worlds. Whether you’re fully renovating or looking for a quick update, you can use some of these tips to incorporate dining into your kitchen island without compromising your workspace or your style.

This content was originally published here.


Where to Stash the Stand Mixer in Your Kitchen

Solution: Out in plain sight.
Who it works for: You use your stand mixer not only for baking but also as a fun, colorful accessory. It’s like the statement necklace of your kitchen’s outfit.

Part of the reason I’d shell out a few hundred bucks for one of these mixers is because they are very cool-looking and come in super cute colors. I don’t know how anyone could buy a happy pear-green KitchenAid mixer and then not want to look at it all the time. But I can relate to needing the counter space it requires, so we’ll go through a variety of options.

Solution: Tucked under an upper cabinet.
Who it works for: You want to look at your mixer but want it to live in a tucked-away space.

These homeowners can still enjoy looking at their turquoise mixer, but if they need that primo counter space for unloading groceries or laying out ingredients next to the refrigerator, they can shove it out of the way.

Solution: A pullout drawer.
Who it works for: You think stand mixers add to countertop clutter. You have a strong back, don’t use the mixer often and want to add a little arm workout in with your kitchen duties.

A sturdy pullout drawer like this one keeps the mixer close by without taking up prime kitchen real estate. Be sure to let your cabinetmaker know you plan to store something heavy here so he or she can check the weight rating for the drawer slides.

Solution: A mixer lift.
Who it works for: You want super easy access to the mixer with minimal physical effort. You’d rather give up lower cabinet space than countertop space, or you want to use your mixer on an island in the middle of the room.

Open the cabinet door and — voilà — you can pull the mixer up and out with ease, do your mixing right on the shelf it sits on, then stash it away when you’re done. Installing an electrical outlet within the mixer’s cabinet makes things even easier. Also, think about where you’ll be doing your baking tasks when you install this. For example, being able to do plugged-in mixing at an island is a relatively new option that might not have been available the last time you remodeled your kitchen.

Your cabinetmaker should be able to source the hardware for you, but if you’re more of a DIY type, Hafele and Rev-A-Shelf are good sources.

Solution: A custom pullout shelf that’s lower than standard counter height.
Who it works for: You use a wheelchair or need a seat while baking.

This custom setup is for a home that follows universal design principles. The cabinet door flips up and a shelf that houses the mixer pulls out. As you can see just behind the mixer, there’s an electrical outlet in the back of the cabinet.

Solution: Appliance garage with a sliding shelf.
Who it works for: Youwant to use the mixer on a perimeter countertop but don’t want to look at it all the time.

This arrangement is so easy: Lift or roll up the appliance garage door and slide out the mixer, which sits on its own pullout.

Here’s an example of an appliance garage with bifold doors that blend right in with the rest of the cabinetry.

Solution: Stash it in a baking cabinet.
Who it works for: You love to bake and you want a dedicated station for gathering ingredients, rolling dough, measuring and mixing.

A baking station is a dream for those who love to bake. With all of today’s clever storage solutions, you can set up a baking cabinet complete with stand mixer, ingredients, baking sheets, muffin tins, measuring cups and everything else you need efficiently in one place. It also provides a surface where you can roll out and knead dough.

Solution: An appliance garage that opens on two sides.
Who it works for: Your kitchen may have more than one small appliance working at once, and you cannot stand wasted corner space.

Sometimes corners in a kitchen are full of wasted or blind space. This designer made the most of that, which left a lot of room for a nice adjacent window. This solution is smart because you could pull out the coffeemaker and the mixer at the same time and have plenty of space to do so. And hey, it can even suit different moods. Want to look outside and watch the birds or gaze lovingly at that killer Heath Ceramics tile while you mix? It’s your choice.

Stand mixers weigh a lot and are not easy to move around. Here are some easy-to-access storage solutions for this heavy small kitchen appliance. Be sure to share your ideas with us in the Comments.

This content was originally published here.


Kitchen of the Week: Wood and Black Cabinets and Better Flow

“After” photos by Sarah Baker Photos

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: Mike and Stacie Duke
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Size: 300 square feet (28 square meters)
Designer: Jennifer Strickler Design

Before: Dark distressed cabinets and dark granite countertops weighed down the previous kitchen. And travertine tile floors gave it a chilly feel.

The load-bearing wall on the right, where the fridge is located, separated the kitchen from the dining room, while the peninsula in the foreground cut off the kitchen from the living room. Not an ideal setup for a couple who like to entertain.

An electric cooktop took up most of the minimal island space, and there wasn’t much counter space elsewhere. The built-in desk area to the left of the microwave never got used.

“I immediately saw the flow wasn’t working,” Strickler says. “The fact that the island was so small and taken up by a cooktop was not practical for them.”

After: Strickler took the kitchen down to the studs and started fresh. She removed the load-bearing wall to open the space to the dining room. And she ditched the peninsula for a central island. Those moves created much better traffic flow into and around the kitchen for guests, and the generous island countertop can act as a hub and buffet space. “[The wall] was keeping people separated from the dining room and kitchen,” Strickler says.

She also rejiggered the appliance layout, placing a paneled refrigerator to the left of the new gas range, which sits on the back wall, and a spacious sink in the island, creating an efficient work triangle.

With the function in place, she turned her attention to the style. Dark black cabinets and island base (Onyx by Benjamin Moore) add a touch of drama, warmed by stained maple cabinets and solid red oak flooring.

Light greige walls and ceiling (Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore) and bright white trim (Extra White by Sherwin-Williams) keep things from veering too moody. “She expressed pretty early on she was thinking of stained cabinets, but also a wood floor,” Strickler says. “The black cabinets offer a contrast for the wood floor. And I love the contrast of the gold hardware with the black cabinets. It’s classic and rich, and adds warmth.”

Glass fronts on the maple upper cabinets flanking the custom maple range hood help visually break up the look. “We wanted to try and lighten up how everything felt,” Stacie says. Electrical strips under the cabinets keep the backsplash free of outlets.

The 36-inch Fisher & Paykel range has a vintage-modern vibe that adds to the dressed-up style of the kitchen.

The couple rarely use a microwave, so they chose to put a small one in an appliance cabinet in the laundry room, around the corner from the kitchen.

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Marble elongated hexagonal tiles in a honed finish form the backsplash. “I knew I didn’t want a slab,” Stacie says. “I wanted something with character. We opted for the horizontal pattern for a juxtaposition with the reeded doors on the refrigerator.”

The countertops are polished marble-look quartz.

Backsplash: Daphne White marble, Daltile

This interior side of the island includes four drawers that hold silverware and utensils, a pullout cutting board over a dish towel drawer, a paneled pullout trash and recycling center, a stainless steel sink workstation and a two-drawer dishwasher. A pull-down faucet in a champagne bronze finish coordinates with the brass cabinet hardware and other brass details.

Faucet: Trinsic in champagne bronze, Delta Faucet

A pair of 30-inch conical drum pendant lights over the island have aged brass details and white linen shades, offering a modern take on a vintage look. Undercabinet lighting over task areas and relocated LED ceiling fixtures add layers of light.

Modern backless bar stools feature warm ash frames and saddle-style seats with distressed black faux leather. “We have deep cabinets there by the stools,” Stacie says. “That’s where I store kitchen items I use less often.”

The paneled fridge features a reeded door design. “We felt since we couldn’t have a symmetrical look, we decided to go with decorated doors that you don’t see anywhere else in the kitchen,” Strickler says.

“We took the reeded design up to that cabinet above the refrigerator, so it looks like a piece of furniture,” Stacie says.

The cabinetry wraps around to the former desk area, now a coffee and beverage station. Two shallow pantry cabinets with 12-inch-deep shelves sit around the corner from the refrigerator. “We didn’t want them to stick out too far because we needed that space for the beverage center,” Strickler says.

The same marble elongated hexagonal tile used in the kitchen forms the beverage center backsplash. The countertops are also the same marble-look quartz.

An upper glass-front cabinet stores glasses. Three drawers hold entertaining supplies. And a two-zone wine and beverage fridge keeps drinks cold. “Since we removed that other wall and lost storage, we thought about how we could better use that nook,” Strickler says.

Drawers on one island end hold notepads and pens, as well as snacks for the Dukes’ grandkids. Drawers on the other end store baking pans, cookie sheets and cutting boards. Stacie didn’t want these items stored above her refrigerator. “I’m short and didn’t want to get a step stool every time I wanted to get a baking pan,” she says.

Electrical strips are tucked under the counter on both ends of the island.

This content was originally published here.


What to Know About Starting Your First Native Plant Garden

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a fairly adaptable native plant.

1. Native Plants Are Less Maintenance When They’re in the Right Place

You’ll hear a lot about natives being easy to take care of, but you sometimes won’t hear about matching the plants to the right soil, light and drainage conditions. You wouldn’t put a water-loving plant on a hillside that has sandy soil, would you? Knowing the site for your proposed garden is key — everything from where the light is spring to fall, to how rainwater flows or collects, to doing a soil test on your growing medium.

Then you need to research plants. Make sure to use Latin names since many plants share common names. What do respected institutions say about where and how the plant grows? Is it competitive or a behaved clumper? How does it spread?

2. Site Prep Can Be Handled in Various Ways

If you’re matching plants to soil and drainage, you shouldn’t have to amend that soil, adding expense or labor. If you’re converting part of a lawn into a native plant garden, a sod cutter can be used to remove grass once you’ve mapped out the edges of your garden border with a garden hose, rope or spray paint. If you have an established garden area and want to add native plants, there’s even less prep work to do, unless you want to remove some tired, old plants or river rock mulch.

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Many species of Rudbeckia, shown here with other flowering plants, provide alternating bloom times to ensure constant flowers for wildlife.

3. Try to Have Blooms All Season Long

You’re more likely to help pollinators and other insects if you always have flowers blooming — plus it looks good. When choosing plants, plan to have at least one plant blooming from spring to fall, with a bit of overlap. Large parts of the U.S. share the same native plants, but you’ll need to be careful when researching bloom times, as a specific plant will bloom earlier in the south than in the north. Local landscape designers, cooperative extension offices and native plant nurseries can help, and some native plant societies and garden clubs even have handy bloom-time charts, so reach out to ask if these are available.

Without food for the young, there would be no butterflies, moths or bees. Here, a monarch caterpillar enjoys milkweed (Asclepias sp.).

Without foliage to eat, many youngsters and future butterflies, moths, flies and beetles would starve. The same can be said about pollen, which a lot of native bee species use to feed their young. Shallow flowers like asters and sunflowers tend to attract a greater diversity of adult pollinators, but that doesn’t mean you should stick to that one form.

Additionally, try to use straight species where you can. These are native plants that have not been crossed or bred with others to produce new leaf colors or new flower colors and shapes. When plants are altered, the chemical makeup of their leaves may change and be unable to support as many caterpillars.

5. Leave Plants up for Winter

Standing plants not only add beauty to a winter landscape, but they also serve a greater purpose for the ecosystem: providing homes to overwintering insects, spiders, amphibians, birds and more. Within many stems are slumbering bee larvae, and under leaf litter are butterfly and moth caterpillars — and even some winged adults. Standing plants also help gather snow, which can insulate their roots and add moisture to the garden during springtime melts.

When spring arrives, cut down perennial flower stems and grasses to about 12 to 18 inches tall, which will leave future homes for spring and summer bees to nest. Whatever stems you do cut down can be used as mulch to spread over the bed, returning the nutrients your plants need to thrive to the garden.

Fall is my favorite time to start a garden. The temperatures are cooler and rain is more likely, helping plants settle in with less stress. In addition, soil temperatures usually remain warm for a while, which also helps plants get established and develop a strong root system before winter sets in, making them ready to pop in the spring. Here are a handful of things to know about starting a first native plant garden that’s both sustainable and helpful to wildlife.

This content was originally published here.


New This Week: 8 Stylish Dining Rooms

1. Bright Idea

Designer: Valeria Albino of Dwell Lane
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 240 square feet (22 square meters); 12 by 20 feet

Homeowners’ request. This was a new-build home for a couple relocating from Chicago.

Main feature.
“The chandelier added so much to this room,” says designer Valeria Albino, who uses Houzz Pro business software to manage projects. “We sourced a fun table as well, with a solid oak surface and a live-edge design that showcases the wood’s inherent natural qualities.”

Other special features. Stylish wet bar. Vibrant abstract art. Walnut veneer sideboard with black corduroy wood detailing.

Designer tip. “Make sure you have the correct measurements for adding furniture, area rugs, artwork and lighting in a room,” Albino says. “I see all too often people putting the incorrect size of dining table or fixture in a room and it makes it look incomplete.”

“Uh-oh” moment. “Ask any designer currently in the industry and they will tell you all about the challenges we experience lately,” Albino says. “There were furniture delays, closing delays and many setbacks that we had to navigate during this time, including an ice storm in Texas. At one point, one of the trucking companies lost track of the dining table. We couldn’t locate it anywhere, so we worked with the vendor to locate another one. It was the last one we could find anywhere so we tracked it daily and held our breath that it arrived not damaged.”

2. Blue Origin

Designer: Andrea Giles of Andrea Leigh Interiors
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 140 square feet (13 square meters); 10 by 14 feet

Homeowners’ request. “My clients purchased this historic house and brought their existing furniture that was neutral,” designer Andrea Giles says. “We needed to add color while still keeping everything classic.”

Main feature. “The fabric on the back of the chairs was our jumping-off point,” Giles says. “Our client loves blue, but the Rebecca Atwood fabric allowed us to introduce the fun red on the Currey & Co. light fixtures.”

Other special features.
The chair rail detail is original to the room. Giles added textured wallpaper to make the detail stand out. The rug is custom.

“Uh-oh” moment. “We definitely dealt with the old original wiring when moving from one dropped fixture to a set of two lanterns,” Giles says. “Our electrician had a good time with that one.”

3. Old Meets New

Homeowners’ request. “The homeowners wanted high impact and lots of color,” designer Marina Case says. “I get a lot of requests for this. And we wanted to marry history with style, which is our expertise. This house is a 1767 Georgian that we wanted to look modern, comfortable and up to date.

Main feature.
“We went for high-impact wallpaper,” Case says. “Much of it resembles styles that might have been used in the 18th century had they been available. Colors in England, which influenced the Colonies, were often bright because of the rainy and cloudy climate. Also, color was harder to control because of limited supplies, so often it was a bit more intense than the many options and more subtle shades that we have today.”

Other special features. “The homeowner wanted a combination of old and new, so that is how we selected the combination of furniture and accessories for each room. There are some vintage older items and some new items.”

Designer tip. “Be bold in your choices,” Case says.

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4. Black-and-White Beacon

Designer: This was a collaboration between designer Jennifer Strickler and homeowners Stacie and Mike Duke
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Size: 120 square feet (11 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. “They wanted to get their dining room out of the 1990s,” designer Jennifer Strickler says. “The space was dark and heavy, and they wanted a brighter, more airy feel. They host parties on a regular basis and needed the room to be current and stylish but still cozy.”

Main feature. “This dining room is directly off of the home’s front entry, so it was important that it make a big style impact,” Strickler says. “I proposed that they cover the largest wall in the room in a striking statement wallpaper, and they loved the idea. Thibaut’s Herriot Way was the perfect choice because the curvy black-and-white pattern really catches your eye. It’s playful and elegant at the same time. This feature wall ended up being the jumping-off point for the design of the whole room.”

Other special features. “The layered textures of the brass metal tabletop, cane sideboard, antelope pattern rug and woven texture of the wallpaper all add up to an alluringly inviting room,” Strickler says.

Designer tip. “To create a visually interesting space, choose a statement piece as the foundation and use it to inspire your color and texture selections to build onto the design,” Strickler says. “Don’t be in a rush to put it all together at once. Have fun collecting treasures, and if there is a unique piece you can’t stop thinking about, it’s a sign to bring it home.”

“Uh-oh” moment. “The homeowners wanted to keep her grandmother’s china cabinet in the space but were unsure if it would be an eyesore in a room full of fresh new decor,” Strickler says. “They ended up sanding down the deep red mahogany color and painting it in Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black. They opted to modernize the way they filled the china cabinet, and now the keepsake looks fashionable in the corner of the room.”

Dining table, chairs and sideboard: Four Hands; wall paint: Pale Oak, Benjamin Moore

5. Sisal Style

Homeowners’ request. “This project was a gut renovation,” designer Samantha Heyl says. “The homeowners had just moved in, so everything in the space was way too traditional for their taste. The crystal chandelier was removed and the floors were refinished to a lighter, more natural ash tone from their former amber color. Taking a more modern approach with the furniture and utilizing natural materials and finishes created a soft but high-end look. We included more sculptural pieces, such as the sideboard, dining table and chairs, to emphasize silhouettes.”

Main feature. “The most significant detail and the last piece to be installed was the chandelier,” Heyl says. “It was fabricated and designed by a local Richmond artist, Wendy Umanoff, and really ties the room together by adding contrast and interest to the muted backdrop.”

Other special features. “We specified Schumacher Haruki Sisal wallpaper in Mocha to add depth, texture and warmth to the walls,” Heyl says. “The triptych by French painter Francois Bonnel serves as the main focal point, and the hand-woven Italian silk curtains tie all of the elements together.”

The barrel-back dining chairs are upholstered in blue performance velvet. The dining table is reclaimed Douglas fir.

Designer tip. “I highly recommend ripple-fold curtains if you’re opening and closing them on a daily basis,” Heyl says. “They fold evenly and pull smoothly on the track, and it’s especially functional for heavier-weight fabric.”

“Uh-oh” moment. “The home is over 100 years old, so anytime you are working with a historic property you are bound to open up the walls and find something unexpected,” Heyl says. “Not to mention working with original plaster walls that crumble to the touch. It’s a labor of love that requires determination and communication from everyone involved, from designer to client to contractor.”

6. Live-Edge Luxe

Homeowners’ request. “The clients craved a cozy, layered home to welcome their newest addition to their family,” designer Clara Jung says. “The flow of the home felt off with a late-’80s addition to the home. We did something fairly unusual and removed square footage from the home, which allowed the backyard to feel more natural and expansive. We also opened up the kitchen to the dining room to ensure that there was an open, airy feeling throughout the home.”

Main feature. “The live-edge custom table was the jumping-off point for this room,” Jung says. “We went to a slab yard on the coast of Northern California and were able to choose the perfect slab for a dining table that will last for years to come. It’s really nice to know that the homeowners can share family meals there as well as entertain large dinner parties with ease.”

Other special features. Bamboo plywood and American walnut credenza with brass details. Brass six-light linear chandelier.

Designer tip. “Keep it minimal and let the statement pieces speak for themselves,” Jung says. “Homeowners sometimes feel like they need to place an item in every corner and wall. Make room for negative space. It’s needed to really appreciate the room as a whole and give it some breathing room.”

7. Beam Me Up

Homeowners’ request. “The previous owner had been a professional caterer and had two kitchens — the client didn’t need both,” designer Alexandra Ford says. “The second kitchen became the new dining room and mudroom. The client also wanted more storage for their family of three children and craved rich colors and vibrant patterns. Their aesthetic is influenced by an appreciation for Asian art and love of gardening.”

Main feature. Exposed rough-hewn wood rafters and posts.

Other special features. Reconstituted stone table. Lantern-style light fixture. Rattan-wrapped chairs.

Designer tip. “Custom built-ins not only offer storage options for the family, they also serve to divide large open spaces and create degrees of privacy,” Ford says.

This content was originally published here.


Make This Fall’s Garden the Best Ever

Most trees, shrubs and perennials can benefit from being planted in the fall, but frost-tender plants do best when planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Once plants have grown enough roots, they begin concentrating on their top growth, which is a sign of a healthy root system.

For areas that experience hot, dry summers, fall planting is especially important, since plants have more time to grow a sufficient number of roots, allowing them to soak up much-needed water to keep them alive through summer.

Research Plants Before Buying

Taking some time to research plants (on your own or with a landscape designer) before you buy will save you time, money, maintenance and buyer’s remorse more than anything else you do. Find out the answers to these important questions before purchasing a plant for your garden:

1. Is it native or adapted to your climate? Plants that are ill-suited for your climate will require a lot more resources (water, fertilizer, maintenance) to keep them alive, often with disappointing results.

2. What exposure does it require: full sun, partial shade or total shade? One of the most common gardening mistakes is placing a new plant in the wrong light exposure, where it struggles to survive.

3. How large will it grow? Once in the ground for a few years, that small plant in a nursery container can grow exponentially. A 1-foot-tall and -wide shrub can quickly grow to over 6 feet tall and wide, leaving you with an overplanted landscape. Make sure you are prepared for the mature size of the plant you select and allow enough room for it to grow.

4. What type of maintenance will the plant require? Most native plants are generally low maintenance, but those that aren’t may require a lot of pruning, watering and fertilizing that you may not want to do.

The answer to these questions can often be found on the plant label. Your local nursery professional can be a good resource to ask these questions of as well. Or, work with a local landscape designer to learn more about the plants that do well in your area.

Select Healthy Plants

This particular tip may sound quite simple, but you need to look at both the top and bottom of the plant to determine how healthy it is.

Look for healthy foliage without brown or yellowing leaves, which can be a sign of under- or overwatering. If the soil in the container is soggy or smells, leave it alone and walk away.

Check for signs of insects or disease on the foliage and stems. Chewed leaves and webbing can be signs of insect damage. Plants with pale or dark spots on the leaves can be infected with a disease, and it’s best to avoid them and keep them from inadvertently contaminating the existing plants in your garden.

While you may be tempted to purchase a plant that is in full flower, it’s best to skip it in favor of the one that has unopened flowers or none at all. At first that doesn’t make much sense, because we all want a beautiful flowering plant rather than one without blooms. The reason to select the plant that is not in full bloom: The flowers will usually drop soon after planting due to the stress of transplanting. Besides, a good portion of the bloom time was already used up while the plant sat at the nursery. Once in the ground, the plant with unopened blooms will soon start to bloom, allowing you to enjoy the entire bloom period.

There is more to examine than the top in regard to a plant’s health. You should also check out the roots before buying a plant. Sometimes nursery plants have been sitting around for a long time in their containers, and as a result the roots have grown around the root ball in a circular pattern, slowly causing the plant to become root-bound (shown).

Root-bound plants have a hard time when planted because the roots keep growing around themselves instead of out into the soil, where they would have access to water and nutrients. Eventually, root-bound plants can die.

If you do have a root-bound plant, you can try to correct the problem by taking a sharp knife and making vertical cuts about 2 to 3 inches apart around the entire root ball, extending from the top to the bottom of the root ball. This helps to disrupt the circular growth pattern and will help the roots grow outward into the soil.

Choose Smaller Trees and Plants for Easier Transplanting

While you may be tempted to plant the largest tree in the nursery, you may be surprised to find that larger plants take a longer time to become established after being transplanted in comparison to smaller ones. The reason is that smaller plants are younger and don’t need as many roots to support their top growth. Once they’re planted, their roots will grow outward and top growth will soon follow. The same plant in a bigger size has a larger amount of top growth for its roots to support, and containers limit how much its roots can grow. Because of the plant’s age and large size, it can take a longer time for it become established in the landscape.

This is a popular tip because it not only saves money but also makes digging holes easier.

A proper-size hole, three times as wide as the root ball

Dig Your Hole Three Times as Wide as the Root Ball

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of a plant’s roots grow outward. Digging a hole that is wider than the root ball helps the roots grow more quickly, and as a result the plant will become established more quickly. It’s important to note that the depth of the hole should be the same depth as the root ball or even 2 inches shallower, as settling can occur after planting.

This is an example of a hole that is not wide enough. While the tree will grow, it will take longer to grow a healthy root system, and its upper growth will also take longer to grow.

Blackfoot daisy, which is native to the Southwest

Improve the Soil With Compost When Planting Nonnative Plants

Compost improves the water-holding capabilities of sandy soils while helping to lighten clay soils. It also adds nutrients and microorganisms to the soil, which benefits nonnative plants. A good guideline is to add one part compost to one part native soil to the planting hole and mix them together before planting.

Adding soil amendments is generally not necessary for native plants, which are adapted to the soil in your area, unless you need to improve the drainage or water-holding capacity of your soil.

Attaching drip irrigation to a new plant

Don’t Add Fertilizer to Newly Planted Plants Right Away

When a plant is first transplanted, it devotes most of its energy toward growing more roots. Once it has a good root system, the plant then begins to focus on its top growth (the part we see aboveground). When you add fertilizer just after planting, you disrupt the natural cycle and force the plant to concentrate on its top growth when it doesn’t have the roots to support it.

  • For nonnative plants wait until you see new growth before adding fertilizer.
  • For fruit trees it is best to wait until one year after planting before adding fertilizer.
  • Native plants usually do not need any fertilizer, even once established. Adding fertilizer to native plants can actually have the opposite result of what you want — it will promote the growth of more foliage, but you’ll get fewer flowers.

Water New Plants Deeply and Often

New plants need more water than plants that have been in the landscape for more than a year. You may need to water every day during the first week after planting, gradually reducing the frequency until your plant has been in the ground for one year and can then be watered on the same schedule as your other plants.

The frequency of watering is dependent on the type of plant, your climate, your soil and the type of irrigation you use (hose, sprinklers, drip irrigation). The nursery where you purchase your plant should be able to give you detailed instructions on how often to water your new plant. You can also contact your local master gardener’s office for free advice. Many local city governments have helpful information on how often to water plants, customized for the area.

Add a Layer of Mulch Around New Plants

Mulch adds an extra layer of protection for plants — especially new ones. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will help retain soil moisture, keep the soil cool in summer and warm in winter, and help keep weeds away.

When applying mulch it is important not to let it touch the base of your tree or plant, because it can create a warm, moist area where disease and insects can flourish. A general rule is to keep mulch at least 3 to 6 inches away from the base of a plant.

Be Patient While New Plants Grow

This can be the hardest tip of all to follow. After all the work we put into selecting and planting our new landscape, we want to see instant results — not small, scrawny plants with large amounts of empty space. The temptation at this point is to overplant the area. If you do this, your garden will look great at the beginning, but as your plants grow to their mature size, they will quickly become overcrowded, ruining the nicely designed landscape you worked so hard on. If those empty spots in your new landscape keep bothering you, plant short-lived perennials or annuals in between young plants until your new plants fill out.

This content was originally published here.


Houzz Barometer Shows Continued Confidence Despite Record Delays

The 2021 Q4 Houzz Renovation Barometer looks at fourth-quarter residential renovation market expectations, project backlogs and recent business activity among firms in the construction and architectural and design services sectors, based on responses from 1,350 small businesses on Houzz. The survey was fielded Sept. 28 through Oct. 8.

construction and design firms reported challenges with product and material shortages and increased costs at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

While only half of businesses anticipated heightened costs for raw materials, such as lumber, copper, steel, plastic and aluminum, more than two-thirds reported that these materials had increased in cost over the past quarter. Following recent price hikes for lumber, only 2 in 5 businesses expect that costs will continue to rise through the end of the year.

More than 9 in 10 construction firms reported moderate to severe shortages of skilled labor for Q4 (91%). While fewer pros reported shortages across all categories this quarter than in Q3, carpenters, laborers, framers and cabinet specialists continue to be in shortest supply (52%%%%, respectively).

Read on to find out more about what remodeling industry firms said about current business conditions. We’ll look first at construction companies and then at firms in the architectural and design services areas. We’ll start with what these firms expect for the next three months, then look at their project wait times. Lastly, we’ll review their business activity over the previous three months.

A score higher than 50 indicates that more firms reported increases in their business expectations than reported decreases. Q2 2020 marked the first time since the Houzz Barometer began in2015 that scores fell below 50.

1. Expectations for business activity decreased somewhat. The Expected Business Activity Indicator, related to project inquiries and new committed projects, decreased to 74 in Q4 from 76 in the third quarter of 2021. Notably, the expectations for project inquiries declined, from 79 to 73 in Q4. Expectations for new committed projects increased 1 point from last quarter (73 to 74).

Build-only remodelers reported a 1-point decline in expectations for project inquiries and new projects (from 77 in Q3 to 76 in Q4). Expectations for design-build remodelers decreased significantly (from 76 in Q3 to 71 in Q4).

The Expected Business Activity Indicator for construction firms is steady compared with a year ago, with a 1-point increase from the fourth quarter of last year.

The Expected Business Activity Indicator is based on survey questions that ask businesses to report whether they expect the number of project inquiries and new projects to increase, decrease or be unchanged in the coming three months compared with the prior three months. A score higher than 50 indicates that more firms expect increases than decreases.

2. Project wait times continue to rise nationally. The demand for construction services is strong, as the average wait time for new midsize projects to begin rose to 11.7 weeks among the construction sector overall. Build-only remodelers reported a wait time of 9.6 weeks to take on a new project (down 0.9 week relative to Q3), while the average wait among design-build remodelers was its longest (13.7 weeks) since Houzz began reporting on project backlogs as part of the Barometer in Q3 2017.

The overall backlog for the construction sector has been increasing for seven consecutive quarters and is more than a month (4.5 weeks) longer than in the same period last year.

Backlogs range quite a bit by region, as this map shows. The Mountain division of the U.S. (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) has the shortest average wait time (9.2 weeks), while the New England division (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) has the longest (13.8 weeks).

Backlogs in the construction sector are longer than a year ago across all nine geographic divisions as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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A score higher than 50 indicates that more firms reported increases in their recent business activity than reported decreases.

3. Recent business activity declined significantly. A decrease in new project inquiries and new committed projects in July, August and September dropped the Recent Business Activity Indicator of the Barometer to 73 for construction firms, down 9 points from the previous quarter. Both build-only remodelers and design-build remodelers reported significant decreases in recent business activity over this period.

Relative to a year ago, the indicator is down 2 points.

The Recent Business Activity Indicator looks at actual activity over the previous three months. In contrast with the Expected Business Activity and Project Backlog indicators, which look forward in time, the Recent Business Activity Indicator looks back. It’s based on survey questions that ask businesses to report whether they observed the actual number of project inquiries and new committed projects increasing, decreasing or staying the same in the previous three months relative to the three months before that. A score higher than 50 indicates that more firms reported increases than decreases.

Architectural and Design Services Firms

1. B
usiness activity expectations declined slightly. Architects and interior designers reported slightly lower expectations for new business activity for the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the start of the previous quarter. Their score of 69 for the Expected Business Activity Indicator shows that more firms are expecting increases in new business activity than are expecting decreases. This measure is down 1 point from the start of Q3 2021, when it was 70.

The score now stands 7 points higher than it did one year ago, which indicates architects and interior designers are more optimistic than they were this time last year.

After high expectations among interior designers in Q3, the group has significantly tempered its anticipation of project inquiries and new committed projects in Q4, with a 14-point decrease in overall expectations, to 64. Architects reported a 6-point increase in overall expectations, to 72, relative to the start of the third quarter.

2. Wait times increased nationally. The Project Backlog Indicator for architectural and design firms averaged 9.3 weeks nationally at the start of the fourth quarter of 2021, up 2.1 weekscompared with the start of the third quarter.

Compared with a year ago, when wait times were 4.5 weeks, wait times are up by more than a month (4.8 weeks).

Taking a closer look by professional type, architects have significantly longer wait times to take on a new midsize project (11.1 weeks, up 4.7 weeks relative to the start of the previous three months) than do interior designers (6.1 weeks, down 2.4 weeks relative to the start of the previous quarter).

Again, backlogs vary by region, as this map shows. The West North Central division of the U.S. (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota) has the shortest average wait time (6.1 weeks), while the New England division (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) has the longest (11.1 weeks).

Compared with the same quarter a year ago, backlogs in the architectural and design services sector are longer across all nine census divisions.

3. Recent business activity decreased slightly. Compared with construction firms, architecture and design firms saw a smaller decline in recent project inquiries and new committed projects in July, August and September. Their score for the Recent Business Activity Indicator of the Barometer decreased to 70, a 2-point drop from the prior three months.

Relative to the same period a year ago, the indicator is up 9 points, which indicates business activity has significantly improved since this time last year.

The just-released Q4 Houzz Renovation Barometer reveals that residential construction and design professionals anticipate strong activity through the end of the year, even as wait times to begin a new project have steadily increased across the industry since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Confidence prevails across the industry through year-end despite the Expected Business Activity Indicator dipping slightly compared with the very high level last quarter,” says Marine Sargsyan, Houzz senior economist. “We’ve seen some settling of home renovation and design activity following record-high performance earlier in the year. Yet many businesses are struggling to catch up with heightened demand as they navigate supply chain challenges and labor availability, leading to record-long backlogs.”

This content was originally published here.


Yard of the Week: Room for Swimming, Lounging and Entertaining

Photos by Effie Edits

Yard at a Glance
Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Size: 3,700 square feet (344 square meters)
Who lives here: A family with children
Designer and builder: Pro-Land Landscape Construction

The design team incorporated a lot of the existing backyard features into the new design. “Because they didn’t really have a lot of usable space around the pool — the interlock paving was really tight and was more of a walking path — they didn’t really have a usable lounge space at all,” says landscape designer Nicole Porco. “We wanted to square things off and modernize it for them.”

They added a hot tub to the back corner of the property adjacent to the existing pool to fill what used to be wasted space. “It was going to be a daybed space, but when they talked about wanting a water feature, we brought up the idea of having a spill-over hot tub,” Porco says. “The water sounds are really nice.”

The revamped outdoor space also includes laser-cut privacy fences from Ikonik around the pool and on the deck for consistency. “The homeowners are higher up than everyone around them, with a lot of properties backing onto theirs, so these added some filtered privacy,” Porco says.

With their pattern on top and solid base, the screens prevent the space from having a boxed-in feel. “At the bottom, they’re full privacy, and at the top, there’s a filtered pattern,” Porco says.

Adding to the homeowners’ existing trees, Porco’s team planted some ‘Fastigata’ European hornbeam trees (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’), and lilac shrubs that will eventually grow tall enough to cover the whole fence line. ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) provides soft texture between each privacy screen.

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Porco’s team installed interlocking pavers around the pool deck and throughout the space, breaking things up with a transitional border to add interest.

The homeowners wanted a dedicated spot for a gas fire pit they had already purchased, so Porco tucked the seating area into the natural corner of the pie-shaped lot. “It worked perfectly there,” she says. “I like how cozy the fire pit feels.”

This corner of the yard is shady, so the team planted hydrangeas, rhododendrons and hostas to fill in around the mature pine trees. “They like mostly white and green, and these plants will give them pops of white at different times,” Porco says.

For the new upper deck, Porco chose Trex composite decking in Island Mist, so the homeowners would have zero maintenance to do. “We did framed glass railings so we’re not cutting the view off as much; it makes things feel lighter,” she says.

They reused the homeowners’ existing steel staircase, relocating it so the pool isn’t blocked off for guests entering the yard.

The team closed part of the area under the deck to provide storage space for pool toys and other outdoor gear. To make sure the deck didn’t feel too overwhelming, they left some space underneath open and created a bonus clubhouse area for the homeowners’ children to hang out in.

The original deck had stopped at the edge of the house. The crew extended the deck past the house by about 10 feet to give the homeowners extra seating plus a lounging area under a covered pergola. “That let them do a longer, thinner dining table and still have room for the outdoor kitchen and the couch,” Porco says. The team worked with the existing deck frame. “We just expanded it,” she says.

The hand-cranked SunLouvre pergola can stay open on nice days or be closed when it rains. “The top louvers close, and then it becomes waterproof; it allows in as much or as little light as they want,” the designer says.

The pergola also features its own lighting and heating elements, extending its use into fall or on colder evenings.

The homeowners didn’t want a huge outdoor kitchen, and Porco wanted to be sure there was still plenty of access down to the stairs. To make the space work, they nestled the clients’ existing stand-alone barbecue into a corner of the deck and added some prep and serving space, plus a built-in fridge.

They added the same privacy screens used near the pool and along one edge of the covered lounge space. “When you’re standing at the barbecue or sitting at the dining table, it doesn’t feel like you’re staring at all the houses around you,” Porco says.

A new pathway of armor stone leads from the driveway down to the yard, bridging the grade differences between the front and backyard.

“We planted some hakone grasses [Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’], hostas and hydrangeas so that they’ll eventually get some height and color along the fence line,” Porco says. “And there’s a wood privacy screen at the back so that they can tuck their recycling and garbage bins away.”

To create better flow throughout their pie-shaped lot, which included an irregular-shaped pool, a family in Mississauga, Ontario, turned to Pro-Land Landscape Construction for help. The existing yard felt cramped and didn’t suit the family’s style. As part of the redesign, the family wanted a low-maintenance garden and a larger upper deck for dining and entertaining.

This content was originally published here.


8 Toasty Outdoor Seating Areas Have Us Ready for Fall

1. Covered Indoor-Outdoor Living Area

Enclosing a porch or patio can be a great way to extend the use of an outdoor room in cold-winter climates.

This enclosed lounge area in Dallas feels like an outdoor room — it’s one step down from the house and is furnished like a luxe patio — but it can be used year round. What could be more cozy than sitting by the roaring fire and watching the rain fall outside?

2. Blankets at the Ready

Adding warmth to your outdoor seating area can be as easy as bringing out blankets from the house.

For this house in Jackson, Wyoming, plaid blankets draped over the backs of outdoor dining chairs bring a hit of color and warmth, tempting guests to linger past sunset.

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3. Heated Roof Deck

This Seattle rooftop is designed to be extra inviting at twilight, as glowing lanterns dot the perimeter and an outdoor heater casts radiant warmth. Guests enjoy the view of the sunset behind the Space Needle.

Freestanding patio heaters can warm up a patio area of 115 square feet. One heater is enough for a smaller patio; two heaters would cover a larger outdoor lounge.

4. Warmed-Up Common Space

This cozy fire pit and bench seating area sits in a shared outdoor space for residents of a bungalow complex. One could only imagine that the inviting area would help foster community among residents.

If you live in an apartment building with a shared outdoor area, or in a home that is governed by a homeowners association, it could be worth suggesting a communal outdoor heating element.

Portable fire pits, like this one by Modfire, are often less-expensive than large fire features and can be less-contentious additions to shared spaces, as they can easily be removed. Choose a model that’s gas-burning for a nonpolluting option.

Place the fire feature in an area that is fire-safe, on a spark-proof floor material and away from structures or any potentially flammable plants.

5. Suntrap

A southwest-facing terrace is not just a great spot for watching the sunset, it’s also oriented to provide maximum evening light and warmth.

This Spanish-style courtyard acts as a shady spot during the heat of the day and a suntrap in the evening. With rich-colored pillows and the flicker of nearby fire, the seating area invites you to spend an evening appreciating the last rays of sunshine and cooler temperatures of fall.

6. Outdoor Fire Lounge

A fire feature adds a focal point to an outdoor seating area and when lit, it increases evening coziness as the weather cools down. Look for smoke-free models that run on natural gas for a cleaner alternative to wood.

If you’re using a fire feature as a piece of furniture as well as for warmth, choose one with a rim that’s 6 inches or wider and can double as a place to rest a glass, a small plate or a narrow tray.

7. Heated Seating

It turns out that “being in the hot seat” is the prime spot for this San Francisco patio. The cast stone and steel bench plugs into an outdoor outlet and offers gentle radiant heat to anyone sitting on it. The heated bench helps extend time spent outdoors on a cool fall evening or when the fog rolls in.

8. Cozy Courtyard

Cushy seats, warm throws and soft lighting help this courtyard in North London feel like a cozy retreat. The metal paneling behind the seating area can be lit from behind, with light casting a patchwork glow along the exterior brick wall that encloses the courtyard.

This content was originally published here.