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Outdoor Living



For a long time now, clients and prospects have been asking me about exterior facilities that will enable them to cook, dine and entertain in their backyards.

It’s been so prevalent, in fact, that I’ve mentioned the trend in this space on a couple of occasions – noting once or twice my frustration about the lack of books available for me to use in meeting the need. The sheer demand for these features seems to have arrived several steps ahead of publishers’ being able to put books on the shelves.

In the past year, however, that picture has changed. Just recently, in fact, I picked up four

books on the subject. There are others, but these struck me as being particularly useful in filling the information gap:

[ ] Outdoor Rooms, Fresh Air Kitchens and Living Areas by Tina Skinner and Melissa Cardona (Schisser Publishing, 2006). This 144-page book offers a visual overview of design ideas for outdoor living areas. Filled with beautiful images covering a range of styles, details and material choices, it’s very much an “idea book” and has little by way of technical or “how-to” guidance for those asked to develop these spaces. Despite that, however, it’s a wonderful source for design inspiration and includes a rich selection of approaches to balconies, arbors, trellises, lanais, verandas and other decorative spaces and structures.

200706MF2[ ] Fire Outdoors is another book from Skinner and Cardona (Schisser Publishing, 2006) and is similar in approach: The 128-page book deals with all manner of exterior fire systems and is long on beautiful images but short on text and solid technical information. Again, it’s a wonderful idea book filled with images of fire rings, fire pits, fireplaces, chimneys and a particularly interesting set of wood-burning ovens – a terrific resource for design meetings because it presents concepts that most people haven’t yet seen and aren’t yet considering.

200706MF3[ ] The New Outdoor Kitchen by Deborah Krasner (Taunton Press, 2007) is the true gem in this quartet: Her 230-page book is quite simply the best resource I’ve seen so far on outdoor kitchens and dining areas. The text includes highly detailed case studies of outdoor facilities (owned by professional chefs) and crosses a range of styles, configurations and geographical settings. It includes everything from sinks and beer taps to the debate over charcoal and gas grills, and there’s a helpfully thorough listing of suppliers. In addition to beautiful photography and great ideas, the author offers a fair measure of technical information about the planning and execution of these projects – and a checklist of specific issues you need consider in designing and/or installing similar ones on your own.

200706MF4[ ] The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen by Michelle Kodis (Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2006) offers another useful set of case studies covering a broad range of styles and geographies. The 158-page text neatly covers technical considerations, and I found its plan views to be particularly helpful. In addition, for people working in colder climates, there’s a detailed section on winterizing outdoor cooking facilities and taking care of outdoor furnishings when the weather turns cold.

Taken together, these books – all of them published within the past 18 months – represent the awakening of publishers to the fact that outdoor living is an idea whose time has come. For those of us charged with turning our clients’ desires into real spaces, I am happy to know that I now have these resources at my fingertips.

Mike Farley is a landscape architect with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.

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