Would you like to build an outdoor room, creating a spot where you could take meals al fresco during the summertime? Or perhaps you visualize yourself lounging in a comfortable chair in the yard, reading a book or working on your laptop? Problem is, for you to be able to enjoy these activities on a regular basis, you would need a space that shades you from the scalding summer sun and keeps you dry on rainy days.
Enter Steve Ostrowski, co-founder of Shade Pergolas. Steve specializes in pergolas fitted with shade canopies. The Q&A below is the result of an interview I conducted with Steve. We begin with an introduction to building outdoor rooms, in general, before moving on to look specifically at his covered pergolas.
Q. Steve, what are the top factors homeowners should consider when thinking of building an outdoor room?
A. One major factor to consider in outdoor room design is getting the most enjoyment out of the opportunities of being outside. This means sun and rain protection unless you are in the desert.
Q. What is the number one thing homeowners struggle with when making decisions about building outdoor rooms? Are there any trade secrets you can share to shed light upon this type of struggle, helping to simplify the process for homeowners?
A. I think a lot of homeowners buy nice furniture and accessories, then curse the sun and rain all summer long. The first step to enjoying comfort in an outdoor room starts with sun and rain protection. Another obstacle is the hardscaping. The foundation of an outside room is important and can be a large part of the landscape budget. Unless there is an existing deck or patio, the homeowner must start with the foundation.
Q. Beside pergolas (discussed on Page 3), what are the top items / structures every outdoor room design should include?
A. It is important to know how the outdoor room will be used. Is it for reading, entertaining, dining, or perhaps all of the above? With this in mind, choose the space to be protected / unprotected from sun and rain. From there the furniture choices and layout of the space are almost unlimited. Also, becoming more popular are outdoor kitchens, bars, TVs, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, and water features. Many of these are traditionally thought of as interior décor accessories. It is necessary to invest in a protective covering / shelter to ensure the longevity of these items.
Q. Could you please provide insight into the consumer research being conducted regarding trend shifts in outdoor living that have influenced the concept of shade pergolas and other structures for outdoor rooms (i.e., real estate market, unpredictable weather, staycation factor, outdoor room design changes, etc.)? How have these shifts effected changes in accessory options for outdoor rooms and availability?
A. We have not, currently, conducted independent research on outdoor living trends. But we have observed the trends and have trusted our own judgment in assessing them. Our observations tell us there are numerous forces driving the growth in popularity of outdoor rooms. For instance, staycations are driven by the lack of disposable incomes for travel among the middle-income homeowners in this economy, while higher income earners are less enthusiastic about weekend travel, which can be another source of the stress they want to avoid.
Real estate may be down in some areas of the US, but the premium on square feet of living space will always be a luxury in urban locations. Many homeowners find that expanding into an outdoor room is the most affordable way to enhance your lifestyle three or four seasons of the year. A shade product is a fraction of the cost of a home addition and can offer three-quarters of its benefit, if designed properly.
Disposable income is another force that is driving the baby boomers to grow beyond their walls. Inside their homes they have everything from flat-screen TV's and home theater sound to kitchen islands and stainless appliances. The backyard is a new frontier to be enjoyed, since the indoors can feel enclosed in the summer months. Finally, air conditioning is having its own fatiguing effect on the homeowner. Twenty years ago, homeowners air conditioned their home then escaped into the bowels of its cool at the height of summer. Now, with vacations in the islands and Europe exposing Americans to the benefits of shade canopies, they are coming home and realizing most of the pleasure of going south is in sitting in the shade with a relaxing drink in their hand. And, they can do that in their backyards, too.
I continue my interview with Steve on Page 2, where we discuss, among other subjects, some popular colors used in outdoor room design....