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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Outdoor Rooms

Somewhere along the way, what I used to call a deck or patio has become an outdoor room and apparently more and more Americans are not only spending more time there but also a lot more money to equip these rooms for comfort and utility.

According to a national consumer survey on the outdoor living trend in the United States by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), consumers across the country are spending more time at home and are showing an increasing interest in outdoor rooms (and it might be added in the propane used to heat them and run the barbecues).

- Half of all American homeowners (50 percent) say that they are spending more time at home than they were five years ago.

- When it comes to spending time at home, four in five (80 percent) also say that it is important to have an outdoor living space where they can relax and entertain.

- More than one in three homeowners (35 percent) have a finished outdoor room, and 34 percent say they are planning to design one in the next one to two years.

- The most important reason homeowners decide to add or remodel an outdoor room is to create a space to relax (89 percent), followed by spending more time outside (87 percent), adding value to a home (79 percent), extending a home's living space (78 percent) and creating a space to entertain (74 percent).

- When it comes to outfitting an outdoor room, most homeowners say they are likely to include outdoor lighting units (94 percent) and a gas grill (86 percent). Many would be likely to include mosquito eliminators (79 percent), an outdoor fireplace or pit (67 percent), and just over half (53 percent) are likely to include patio heaters.

So, what, other than a lack of walls and maybe no ceiling, too, constitutes an outdoor room. The stuff in the list above obviously is important. To that list many add a small refrigerator (some are actually built into the massive gourmet grills that are now de rigueur in these rooms) and, of course, lots of comfortable seating. Add to that a wet bar and an outdoor stereo system or at least an extension of the system that is inside (speakers for sure and maybe a remote control) and perhaps even a flat screen TV somewhere that is visible but a bit protected from weather. These outdoor rooms are becoming the new entertaining centers in the warm months, which with patio heaters can now be extended well into fall and start in early spring.

One nice thing about “remodeling” these rooms is that you don’t have to worry about the paint colors that you choose – nature supplies the colors. Of course you have to make the color choices for the decking or patio bricks and color coordinate the furniture. No one ever said it was a free ride. And for the men, the competition shifts from your wide-screen surround sound home theater system to your Bensford, 100,000 BTU, five burner grill with double ovens and bun warmer. Some men just have to have the most outrageous grills ever made – it’s a guy thing.

I suppose that this is a form of getting back to nature or back to “home on the range.” I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of these outdoor rooms are air conditioned – why not, they air condition the sidelines at football games. And if the bugs are too bad where you are, you can encase the whole thing in screening and call it a Lanai. That’s what they do in Florida. In fact you could put a roof on it too and call it a Florida room. But then you'd need to put a patio outside it for the Barbecue and then and then...

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