Water Feature Makes a Yard Special

wBackyard-Sycamore-Warner-Groves-at-Morrison-Ranch-057 - CopyIf you want your backyard to feel unique, consider a water feature. Take a look at this one from the Sycamore model at Warner Groves at Morrison Ranch. This water feature, and this yard, have much more going for them than the standard approach. Let’s take a look at the elements that make this space special.

Dramatic waterfall trio: By positioning the three waterfall fountains along the back of the yard, this space has a unique focal point. Living in the desert, we are naturally drawn to water, and this arrangement provides a cooling look and sound as well as a refreshing place to sit and cool off.

Pavers used in hardscaping: Pavers are versatile and attractive and hold up extremely well in Arizona’s tough weather conditions. They are also a cost-effective alternative to tile and stone.

Raised planter beds: Raised beds allow plants to stand out in a landscape and make it easy to plan a drip irrigation system. They also allow you to make the most of your water use, by planting in the richer soil that is used in raised bed gardening. They also create a sense of intimacy in a backyard.

Comfortable outdoor furniture: Thanks to the new outdoor fabrics and fillers, you can have cushioned furniture outside year-round. This arrangement invites guests to relax for an evening of conversation and fun.

Start with a significant water feature and continue adding elements until you have a backyard like this one – a place to relax, entertain and enjoy.

 

Cozy Outdoor Area for Two

wWarner-Groves-at-Morrison-Ranch-067 - CopyMost people think about a table and chairs when planning outdoor areas, and that’s always terrific so that you’re ready for meals outside when our weather begs us to get out of the house. But this photo shows another delightful option, an opportunity for a special tete-a-tete in your own backyard.

This patio, right outside the master bedroom, provides the perfect place to relax in the morning before work with a cup of coffee. It’s also a great place for a rendezvous later in the evening. Imagine lingering here before bed, catching up on your day in the privacy of your backyard.

It doesn’t take much to make this idea a reality. Look for outdoor chairs with cushions so that you are comfortable enough to want to spend time there. The shared ottoman means that you can both put your feet up and relax. Other than that, a small table just large enough for a couple of cups of coffee or tea and you’re ready to go. All you need is a little time and an invitation.

So let the kids watch TV in the family room or play video games. You have a chance to get away from it all in peace and quiet, without ever leaving home.

Want to get a feel for this outdoor oasis for two? Visit our Sycamore model at Warner Groves at Morrison Ranch. You’ll be glad you did.

An Upstairs Balcony to Enjoy

Cooley-Station-093-webMost of us appreciate outdoor living. A front porch or back patio make spending time outside more enjoyable, particularly with an overhead roof to provide shade from the Arizona sun. But what about having an outdoor living space upstairs? Here are some of the advantages:

Privacy: Most people don’t look up. With this balcony tucked away at the corner of your home, you can enjoy outdoor time without drawing attention. There’s also just enough room for you and your spouse or significant other. Here’s a nice opportunity to get away together, just the two of you, for a few minutes in the day.

The view: Whether you’re facing East or West, you will be able to enjoy a birds-eye view of the sunset or sunrise every day. With a second-story balcony you have a vista when you’re outside. While this photo was taken during construction, soon the view will include a well-settled neighborhood with green belts and other amenities.

Morning coffee break: With a balcony just outside your master bedroom, it’s easy to step outside in the morning to drink a cup of coffee, maybe read the [paper, and plan your day. Everything is better when you’re outside.

Evening relaxation: Spending a bit of time outside before bed can help relax you and enable you to let go of the stresses of the day. No need to worry about daytime clothes. Instead get into comfy PJ’s and have a seat, maybe with a cup of chamomile tea, and breathe deep. You’ll feel better and more able to fall asleep.

However you use this balcony, it gives you another outdoor space – cozy and personal – providing another way to enjoy the best of Arizona outdoors.

Outdoor Entertaining

outdoor-entertainingwThe weather will be warming up shortly and we’ll be rolling right into outdoor party season, so here are a few ideas to make your outdoor events shine.

Seating: Look for ways to provide plenty of seating. From large tables that encourage groups to gather to a scattering of a few chairs here and there for smaller conversational opportunities, be sure to make seating available. Take advantage of your current outdoor furniture, but consider bringing out folding chairs or buying some less expensive resin outdoor pieces that can be stacked out of sight when not needed. Notice also that the water feature and planter provide plenty of room for guests to perch on the edges, a nice bonus from this lovely focal point.

Food and Drinks: People don’t realize that the sun can dehydrate them even in cooler weather. Be sure to provide plenty of food and various types of drinks. Consider offering spring water with slices of lemon and lime or a favorite combination of cucumber and mint infused water to make it even more tempting.

Shade: Many people can handle only a short time in the sun before they start to burn, and once again that’s easier to forget in cooler weather. Provide plenty of shady areas for people to retreat to before sunburns become an issue.

An Indoor Alternative: Some people would rather not spend much time outside due to allergies or other reasons. Be sure to open some of your home for those people who would rather gather indoors. Also make sure people know which restrooms are available for guests.

Your home’s outdoor area can really expand the square footage available for your next party. These steps will help make your outdoor event a success.

“Eating Out”

outdoor-entertaining2wIt’s hard to imagine with the cold weather we’re encountering right now, but we are probably only weeks away from the perfect time to eat and entertain outside. Here are a few suggestions to make “eating out” easier and more fun.

Choose comfortable outdoor furniture: Today’s outdoor fabrics lend themselves to plush cushions and pillows in bright colors. These new manmade materials can tolerate sun, moisture and dust and many just hose clean. That means that your outdoor dining chairs can be just as comfortable as those you have inside. Take a look at the furniture in the photo above. It’s hard to believe but those cushions can handle the great outdoors.

Prepare for the dust: We live in the desert and you can anticipate needing to wipe the dust off tables and chairs before you use them. To make your life easier, scout out some plastic or canvas covers for your furniture. You still may have some housekeeping, but it will be greatly reduced.

Invest in some stackable, lightweight plastic dishes and glasses. Bringing food and supplies in and out from the kitchen is easier if you can carry more at one time. Plastic also allows you to enlist younger children to help without having to worry about mishaps. And if you have a pool in your backyard, plastic is much safer.

Carry food in and out on trays, or have people serve themselves in the kitchen and bus their own plates back. Schlepping food back and forth should not be the job of just one person. Make a plan that will work best for the group and get people to stick to it. That way everyone can have a good time.

Outdoor Kitchen a Cook’s Alternative

outdoor-kitchen-cooks-alternativewEven the greatest kitchen can get tiring when you’re cooking dinner in it every day. So while the weather is nice, how about making dinner outside for a change? A simple gas grill is a great start, but if you really want to spoil yourself, how about an outdoor kitchen like this one?

This outdoor set-up, at one of the model homes in the Cooley Station community, has pretty much everything you need. The gas grill is built in, making it easy to set your food up both before and after cooking. Guests can chat with the chef while sitting at the comfy outdoor bar. All you need to add are a few barstools to set up for outdoor living.

There’s plenty of room for prepping food with the generous countertop to the left of the grill. How about adding a cooler along the wall so that everyone can help themselves to sodas and drinks?

Everything tastes just a little better when it’s cooked outside, and spouses who are hopeless in the kitchen suddenly find themselves amazingly skilled with dealing with an open flame. Even if it’s just burgers or hotdogs, cooking it outside still makes dinner special.

And there’s a perfect place for everyone to sit and eat – a nice table with comfy chairs – upholstery that can handle the elements. If it starts getting a bit warm, just turn on the ceiling fan to make it a bit cooler.

An outdoor kitchen – what a nice dinner alternative.

Merging Indoor and Outdoor Living

merging-indoor-and-outdoor-livingwLiving in Arizona, we’re lucky to be able to spend more time outside than in other parts of the country. That’s one reason why it’s nice to look for a home that allows you to merge indoor and outdoor living.

Whether you’re entertaining or just enjoying time with the family, it’s a pleasure to be able to move from inside to outside as you wish. It might be that your family enjoys breakfast outdoors once the temperatures drop enough to spend early mornings with doors and windows open. Some family members may just prefer to take their coffee and the morning paper outside.

If you have houseguests who come from the East, chances are they’ll take advantage of any time they get to spend out in the sun. How about a lunch of cheese and fruit on the patio? Or you could offer different cold cuts and potato salad or coleslaw. With this home it’s just a few steps from the kitchen to the back yard, so it’s easy for people to fill their plates and go back for seconds.

Maybe spending time outside gives some family members a chance to enjoy a little alone time, settling down in the yard with a good book or relaxing on a lounge chair for a nap. Have you considered putting up a hammock? It could become a popular feature in your yard.

With this generous sliding glass door that also includes two floor-to-ceiling windows, the outside is always calling and the inside is always near. So choose your spot. Going from one to the other is a breeze.

Plan Your Next Outdoor Event

Patio-fire-PitwIt’s fun to plan parties and get togethers for family and friends. This time of year it’s tempting to plan an outdoor event. This backyard, one of those visible at Fulton’s Cooley Station, makes entertaining especially inviting.

First, you have an interesting water feature along the back complete with sculptural pots and edges made for sitting. Then the elongated fire pit encourages guests to enjoy the flames, either cooking up marshmallows for s’more’s or just sitting along the edge and warming in the heat.

Outdoor areas make better party places when they offer various centers for attention so that different groups of people can enjoy either fun activities or quiet conversations. This space has a number of sections, allowing guests to self-select the group that suits their style and mood.

Notice also the comfy upholstered outdoor furniture. Having chairs with ottomans rather than one-piece loungers gives your guests more seating options and leads to flexibility as different pieces can be moved around the yard. The warm earth tones of the upholstery fit well with all of the stone hardscaping in place, and plants and fabric soften the feeling of the yard.

Finally, the table in the foreground – the dining chairs are just visible at the front of the photo – provides a place for appetizers and drinks. Consider adding a few side tables to enable guests to set their plates and drinks down as they wander around the yard. The potted geranium is a nice touch on the table, and you could also add fresh flowers and greens to the décor.

Just by incorporating food and drinks, this yard is ready for company. What do you need to change in your yard to set things up for your next event?

Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen

Legacy Models 064If you plan to cook and entertain outside it’s important to make your outdoor space work for your specific needs. The outdoor kitchen shown photo above, from the Legacy community is just one example. Here are some issues to consider when planning an outdoor kitchen space.

Grill: Do you want a stand-alone grill or one built into a counter? Would you prefer the convenience of gas or do you like the flavor provided by charcoal? How much do you want to invest in your outdoor grill? How large a grill will you need to cook enough for all of your family and guests when you entertain?

Electricity: Are there other items you would appreciate in your outdoor kitchen that would require electricity? Maybe you’d like a blender to mix icy drinks for parties, or a coffeepot for an outdoor brunch? Think about the possibilities.\

Water: Would a sink come in handy so that you could rinse dishes and pots before taking them inside? What about being ready to rinse off countertops and tables before eating outside? If you think you’d need more than a hose, consider an outdoor sink.

Lighting: Are you likely to entertain and even cook after dark? Some well-planned task and ambient lighting can create a wonderful atmosphere for entertaining and enable you to keep on grilling long after the sun goes down.

Counters and Seating: Some outdoor kitchens feature counter seating, allowing you to cook and chat with family and friends at the same time. Those counters can also serve as a buffet when it’s time to serve.

If you think about how you will use your outdoor space, you can make sure that your outdoor kitchen is everything you want it to be.

Bring Color Outside

exterior color 1For years, the best way to introduce color to your patio or courtyard was through flowers or painted furniture. But today’s indoor-outdoor fabrics allow you to introduce cushion color to your outdoor living areas. Here are some suggestions for making your exterior areas as colorful as your home is inside.

Plan a color scheme: Just as every room in your home has a predominant color or set of colors, you want to do the same for outdoor areas. Consider issues such as the type of patio, plants and trees, and whether you have a pool or other water feature.

The photo above uses light terracotta for the hardscaping combined with dark brown beams on the cabana. The choice of dark furniture combined with rich rust cushions allows the seating area to stand out while still complementing the entire outdoor space. The splash of color makes that seating a focal point in the yard, drawing guests to the comfort of a space designed for conversation.

exterior color 2Bring in patterns: The photo to the right uses a neutral color scheme to fit well with the warm wall and fountain surround. Here the contrast comes from patterned throw pillows. They add interest to the seating area along with a touch of modern style. Indoor-outdoor fabrics are now available in a variety of patterns in every style and color combination.

exterior color 3Combine color and pattern to add interest: The furniture waiting to be distributed on this patio combines a tone-on-tone stripe with a pop of bright red. Don’t hesitate to use vivid colors in controlled ways to make your outdoor space interesting and inviting. See this patio furniture in person when you visit Fulton Home’s Legacy community.