Monday, February 22, 2016

Outdoor Living - Creating your Outdoor Kitchen

Creating your Outdoor Kitchen

When we think of an outdoor kitchen we should think about our indoor kitchen.  What do we like or not like about the indoor kitchen which can be related to how you create your outdoor kitchen.  An outdoor kitchen takes a lot of planning.  You need to think about many factors including the type of cooking you will do – charcoal, smokers, pizza ovens, gas/propane and then the other aspects; chilling – will you want a refrigerator, ice makers, water, counter top for preparation, bar, seating, and storage.

Ultimately the look is important and how all of the elements fit together and of course your budget. As in creating your indoor space, you should select one element/area to be the focal point and build around it.  Keep in mind the following – Fence lines and setbacks; the type of greenery; lighting, landscape currently in place; accessories.  Also keep the location of your barbecue so that the smoke does not drift into the seating area.  Don’t block views when you select your location as the view and surrounding floral and greenery add to the ambience.

Create this outdoor space with attention to details and incorporate appropriate furniture.  Will you have a roof over your kitchen? What type of flooring will you want?  Think about your indoor kitchen and try to incorporate some of the best features of it to your outdoor kitchen. 


The addition of the outdoor kitchen and appropriate sitting area to your home will give you many years of enjoyment.  Outdoor kitchens, when done right can add to the value of your home.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Outdoor Lighting and AV

Outdoor Lighting and AV

A great presentation by Moonstruck Lighting left me incredibly inspired.  A beautiful garden is lost at night without proper lighting.  There was a lot of technical information but I will focus on general information that will help you when lighting your outdoor space. LED has come a long way and you no longer are limited with the cool blue light. 

When you decide to light your outdoor space there are factors to consider that will affect the performance.  Look at the surfaces you wish to light; is there texture; is the finish smooth; or is there colour?  Lighting will direct the eye to where you wish it to go. Something many people may not realize is that you require a permit unless the lighting is self-contained or low voltage plug in.
There are many lighting techniques; some of which I will describe.  

Up lighting is the most common which provides a focal point.  When lighting a large tree it is more balanced if you have three lights around so it doesn’t look flat.  

Try down lighting on floral plantings while angle lighting is very effective on textured materials.  

Path lighting is usually no more than 18” and is a safety option.  When lighting stairs try lighting from above so you do not have the shadows presented if you light from below the step.  A very beautiful technique is to light water and sculptures.  Some other types of lighting include shadow lighting, silhouette lighting; sign lighting but one of the most important lighting options is to have light that highlights your house numbers.  Overall it is better to have several types of lighting rather than only one very bright source.  It is important to have balance in your lighting system.
In the end it is important to consider hiring a professional to do this for you as they have the skill needed to create a favourable lighting scheme for your home.

Outdoor AV has become much more mainstream these days as people are using their outdoor spaces for longer periods of time.  They are now the outdoor version of the living/dining room.  There are a full range of outdoor speakers available that can be hidden among your plantings for a better ascetic.  You can have one full range speaker or component speakers spreading the sound more evenly.  There are now outdoor Televisions available that are waterproof; have anti-glare glass and some have a built in fan or heater.  When you get into a sophisticated system it is best to consult with the professionals.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Outdoor Living - Outdoor Fabrics

If you follow this blog you will have read my first entry about outdoor living.  Now I want to focus on outdoor fabrics.  Barb Nyke, a colleague of mine presented some fabulous information.   I would like to share.some of what I learned at the conference.  I have many pages of information but will focus on the major issues.

We all have heard of Sunbrella, however that is not the only product available to be used successfully outdoors. Outdoor fabrics should be high performance and offer the following factors -
durable, water resistant, water repellent or waterproof, stain resistant, mildew resistant, colourfast: which means they will have UV resistant pigments.

We use outdoor fabrics in many ways - awnings, umbrellas, cushions, shade sails, flooring and marine.  One of the great factors is that nowadays this fabric is not stiff and can easily be used indoors.  In fact it is difficult to tell indoor from outdoor in many cases.

Fabric content can be  Polyester (good); Olefin (better) and Acrylic (best).  All three are appropriate with there being some differences.

The type of foam is very important.  If one used regular foam the water would sit on top and cause mold to form.  Using a marine grade allows for water to penetrate and drain out at the bottom, thus no mold.

There was a lot of technical information shared by Barb and I am just giving you an overview  so you have some basic knowledge when sourcing your outdoor furnishings.

Enjoy your summer when it gets here!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gresham House Furniture

This morning I had the opportunity to visit and take a tour of the Gresham House showroom and workroom where all of the beautiful furniture is made.  They create everything from sofas, sofa beds, ottomans, chairs, headboards, bed rails and so on.  Yes, it is Canadian made hardwood with all of the very best in construction as well as fillings.

It starts with Canadian hardwood which is corner blocked, dowelled, screwed and glued.  Sinuous springs and web and coil are offered.  The arms and backs are padded with cotton felt and green soya foam to offer comfort that lasts.  A single upholsterer works on each piece individually from start to finish. 

The seat cushions are made with eco friendly foam, soya, which is extremely durable and is wrapped in a soft fibre channeled so that it won't move around, and finished in a cotton casing to ensure futher durability. It is much nicer if one opens the outer fabric to see a nice white casing rather than just the foam.  


If you prefer feather cushions, for their luxuriousness, there is a feather blend.  100% waterfowl feather wrap for seats with a foam core and 60% waterfowl feather, 40 % fibre for the backs.  The ultimate in luxury is down fill (20% down, 80% waterfowlfeather in the backs and enveloped wrap on seats.


Each piece is hand cut individually in order to ensure that patterns are matched and then passed to the sewers.  The sewers do their part and then it is passed to the upholsterer who as mentioned earlier does the entire piece.  When sewing, the piping is cut on the bias for a better look and fit.





Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Outdoor Living

Last week I attended a wonderful and educational two day conference on Outdoor Living at SOFA which was filled with a plethora of valuable information.  The venue was filled with designers, decorators, landscape and gardening professionals all interested in learning more about the ever growing area of Outdoor Design.    Outdoor spaces have come a long way from some folding chairs, a picnic table and hibachi.  We want to extend our time enjoying the outdoors and do it in the same comfort at our indoor spaces.  Many of the outdoor ‘rooms’ rival our indoor rooms.  Not only do these outdoor rooms add to our enjoyment but, if done well,  they add to the time we can spend outdoors.  We are so lucky to have so many options available nowadays and so many professionals who focus on this valuable added space to our homes.

Why create an outdoor space?  It can extend the time we have outdoors; it can increase the value of our homes and, add to our general wellbeing by offering a place for relaxation without the usual distractions found indoors; such as promoting communication when sitting around a fire.  We live in such a fast paced world it is just nice to venture outside and spend time doing nothing.  It becomes a retreat.

Where do we start to create this space?  To build a successful outdoor space many factors must be considered.  The very first thing to consider is how you want to use the space.  What is essential to your needs and wants? Is it for relaxing or entertaining?  How much time do you want to be outside? You then need to have a ‘space plan’ just as you would when designing your indoor space.  This helps with dividing the different outdoor rooms you will create.  Think about how you will enclose the space – fences or shrubs and how you will create privacy.   

Let’s consider the following elements -

Heating - There are many heat sources available and of course checking with your individual municipality by-laws is crucial before thinking of any type of fire.  Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning; fire pits or fire tables, electric heaters are all available.  Do you have a safe area on your property to have a live fire?

Cooking – Barbeque grills, wood-fired pizza ovens, bars, a complete outdoor kitchen which could include a refrigerator, sink, grill, storage cabinet, etc.

Seating – Do you want a place to eat and have dinner parties?  Then a table and chairs will be on your list. Do you like to relax and read outside or sunbathe? Lounge chairs and sectional seating have become very popular.  In fact some of the outdoor furniture seating arrangements are very similar to those we find inside.

Flooring – Will you have a deck or porch? Perhaps brick, stone, slate, stamped concrete. There are so many options available and depending on your property size and grade a professional will help you in making the best selection.

Landscape Materials and Plant Materials – this is where it is in your best interest to consult with the professionals on how to best add soft and hard surfaces to your property
Water – will you want a swimming pool, hot tub, pond or waterfall?

AV – Many of us want to listen to our music outside.  There are a full range of speaker options available which can actually be hidden within your plant material for a clean look. Some people desire an outdoor television which is available but, be sure to purchase one that is waterproof and has an anti-glare surface.

Shelter – will you want a covered porch, a sunshade, gazebo, sunroom or will an awning or umbrella be sufficient?

Lighting & Accessories – as is the practice for indoor decorating, the same principles hold for outdoors.  Lighting is one of the most important features for your space.  We see many types of pathway lighting and of course you can hire a landscape designer who will assist in offering you many other options.  Lighting can highlight certain features in your garden – deck, path, shrubs, fountain, pool, steps and so on.  Accessories are the fun stuff – garden sculptures, tabletop d├ęcor items, area rugs within the seating area.

By working with the professionals you can achieve a completely wonderful and useful outdoor living space.


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