OUTDOOR trends BUILD FUNCTIONAL AND FUN OUTDOOR LIVING SPACES WITH THESE IDEAS. Homeowners who are thinking about a home makeover but don’t know where to begin should consider starting in the back yard. Many homeowners are transforming the exteriors of their houses to add extra living space and, with a little finesse, those outdoor spaces can rival the interiors. “Outdoor kitchens just kind of exploded over the past five years,” said Stephen McNiel, founder of Creative Property Restoration Inc. “People used to just have a Weber grill. Now they are putting in an entire kitchen,” he said. “In Houston, you can be outside from October to June, and people want to take advantage of the weather.” But that’s just the beginning. Kenneth Charanza, president of Charanza Contracting Inc., has also seen a rise in outdoor renovations. “It extends your house,” he said. “You can take the indoors out. Your backyard becomes another great entertainment area.” Among the ways builders recommend improving outdoor space are these ideas: STAY IN THE SHADE In Houston, shade structures, or even ceiling fans are essential. “People can utilize outdoor space year-round,” Charanza said. “But if you don’t have any cover, you’re stuck with scorching Houston heat.” LIGHTEN UP Good lighting makes outdoor living spaces safer and extends the use of a deck or lawn into the evening. “LEDs are transforming the lighting industry,” McNiel said. FIRE UP THE GRILL Charanza and McNiel both report that many homeowners are adding refrigerators, sinks, pizza ovens, counter space and even bars. Commercial-grade grills, stainless steel cabinets and granite countertops are high on homeowners’ wish lists. JUST ADD WATER Water features are also popular, McNiel said, creating a beautiful ambiance when you are sitting outside. “Especially in the Inner Loop, a water feature can become the focal point of a small space.” GATHER ’ROUND THE FIRE “People are adding outdoor seating areas around a fire,” Charanza said. Gas logs are a popular option. They can be turned on with a switch and require less maintenance. MAKE IT MORE ENTERTAINING En tertainment systems added to outdoor living space can include big-screen televisions and sound systems that range from small and budget-friendly to extraordinary and pricey, the builders said. Adding unique features to an outdoor space can improve property value. “People are seeing a finished entertainment space, instead of just a lawn full of grass,” McNiel said. “And if you have a small house, you can really extend your space. You’re creating something you can use for years.”
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