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July 01, 2019

Outdoor Living and the American Dream

Around this time last year, I talked about outdoor living – what better time to talk about it than Independence Day? That blog is here. Unfortunately (for me), no dining in Italy this year.

Back in the Land of the Free, how do we take outdoor living to the next level? A few years ago, we were honored to design the NEXTadventure Home for the 2017 International Builders’ Show. One of its standout features was the stunning Outdoor Living Space.


We recently had a project in upstate South Carolina where we had an opportunity to take what we learned and amplify it. You’ll have to forgive me for using iPhone photos, there is no professional photography – yet. 😉

The goal of the house was to create a gathering place for family and friends, and to escape the summer heat. As such, outdoor living became a huge focus for the project. I like to plan out the space in zones, as this maximizes the available space without it feeling like a big empty space to fill.

It starts with a phenomenal L-shaped covered outdoor living space with four separating zones:

  1. Outdoor grill (complete with the smell of ribs and corn on the cob cooking away)
  2. Outdoor dining with a large table for extended family and friends (It’s not Tuscany, but it’s close)
  3. Gathering space around the fireplace with the TV above
  4. Conversation area looking out to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance

How it connects

Just as important as designing distinct functions outside is how it connects back to both the house inside and the yard outside.

To facilitate cooking, there are various ways food and the cook can access the grilling zone. The first is a French door leading from the messy kitchen/pantry area of the kitchen. There is also a casement window that opens to allow food (and an occasional chilled brew) to be passed between the main kitchen and the outdoor living space along with facilitating conversation between inside and outside cooks (“Can you hand me the filet knife in there please? Maybe a beer to go along with it.”).

On the rear of the house, the connection to the outdoor living space is via a 9’ stacking sliding glass door that pockets out of sight to create this amazing flow from indoor to outdoor. We showcased a similar door in the NEXTadventure Home a few years back. Like the show house, the flooring here continues from inside to outside, drawing you out. When the weather is right, the screen slides up and out of the way, drawing you out to an amazing backyard playground for grown-ups.

The backyard includes an artificial putting green (no mowing!) with multiple holes for putting contests. There is also ample lawn area for croquet, a family favorite. But perhaps the most impactful aspect of the yard is the adjacent waterfall. Using large indigenous rocks, the water flows down the hillside, adding a soothing backdrop to the outdoor experience. Outdoor speakers buried in the landscaping fill the mountains with music.

The fun continues on the second floor deck for family and friends to gather and take in the sunset. Once the sun sets, it’s time to move once again. On the opposite side of the lot, using the space created by the driveway rock retaining wall, a fire pit was added for roasting marshmallows making s’mores while waiting for the fourth of July fireworks above.

I know, camera phones really don’t do justice. Stay tuned for professional photography! The question is, how do we apply these concepts on a larger production-scale? Whether you happen to be in Tuscany, the Blue Ridge Mountains, a downtown apartment, or small town USA, outdoor living can be one of the most personal spaces in (and out) the house. I believe we can make the American Dream more accessible while simultaneously making it more desirable!

Wherever you choose to spend this 4th of July, I hope it is spent with those you cherish. Happy Independence Day!

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters