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Outdoor Spaces and How to Connect Them

Welcome, come this way

As the interior designer on a project building three spec homes, I was asked to meet at one of the houses with the builder and developer. As we walked over mounds of dirt to get to the pool and surrounding area, the builder started describing the patio surrounding the pool. There was no talk of a staircase to connect the front of this 6,000 square foot home to the back. That made no sense to me so I interrupted their discussion of the patio. I said that I thought it was really important to have a way, if there was a party, and there would be at this house, to allow guests to walk from the front of the house to the back. That there needed to be a set of stairs to connect the front driveway to the back patio instead of a big stone wall separating the pool area from the front. Guests might otherwise have to ring the bell and enter through the front door. Good circulation outside is just as important as it is inside. That week they built a large 4 foot wide bluestone staircase connecting the front circular drive with the back patio.

'Way finding" and circulation is key

If you have ever been to a large office building or hospital they have ‘way finding’ signage that puts you at ease by providing direction. In that same spirit, on the left side of our home we have a walkway that connects the front driveway around the side of the house to the back patio.

Three things happen by providing that walkway;

#1 We are creating a ‘way finding’ solution by connecting materials and indicating, “yes, come this way” by providing a path to follow.

#2 By connecting the front of the house to the back of the house, we provide circulation around the home.

#3 Good circulation is super for entertaining, and good ‘way finding’ allows guests to feel welcome right away since they did not have to ring the bell, or knock the knocker and wait for someone to allow them in.

Welcome to the patio

What’s the first thing you think I did? That’s right, we’re getting to know each other. I did a sketch. The very same thing I’d do for you if we were working in your living room or kitchen. By doing a sketch I solved two problems or challenges.

#1 When I was asked “how big do you want your patio?” I said I didn’t know because I had to figure out what I was putting on the patio. Essentially asking myself how I was going to use it. Instead of just making me a patio 15 x 20 because that might be a popular size, I went ahead and did what I always do. Sketched how I was going to live on that patio. I had a sofa and two chairs that are antique pieces I knew I’d keep together. So I arranged them like I would in a living room. It’s a nice way to sit

and talk with family & friends. Then I sketched in where we’d have a dining table and chairs. Then I located the small antique table and chairs set I’d had for a long time felt nice nestled up close to the house. Then I drew a line around the furniture and said “OK, here it is, the patio”. I knew the size it needed to be after I did a sketch of the furniture layout.

#2 Knowing the size of patio you want allows for materials & labor to be calculated.

Choose the right materials

Since the property naturally sloped down to our fire pit set, our landscape designer and dear friend Denny Berry figured that a couple nice big bluestone steps down to a different material could be a fun experience. So we created the pea gravel area for the Martha Stewart Fire-pit table & four chairs that surround it. That was done about 8 years ago.

Recently we put in the low stone walls creating planting beds at the foundation of the house. Some planting is now in order. Since Denny moved to Salt Lake City we have Gene Heath helping us with plants for the raised beds we will create. The truth is, I keep saying that the deer live here. Choosing plants that they hate to eat limits us but we can’t fight them.

In fact I chose a very colorful fabric for the sofa and chairs because we really can’t have flowers! I painted the small metal table and chairs a bright fun color. We can just plant things most probably the deer will stay away from. And sometimes that’s very little! Mostly they don’t touch the fern.

Check in later this summer to see the many variety of fern we did find and plant. Meanwhile, enjoy your outside spaces. It is summertime after all.

Gretchen Reinheimer Design

Creating extraordinary spaces together


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