A growing number of Coastians are awaking to smell the coffee and stopping to smell the roses — all at the same time. They’ve discovered a wonderful new living space right outside their back door by creating outdoor rooms.
“The trend that I see is people spending more money in their back yards,” says Richard Drummond, president of Driftwood Landscape and owner of Landscape Logistics in Biloxi.
“There is a term that I heard not long ago — staycation. People are staycationing now at home and spending money on their back yards rather than going on vacation.
“We see outdoor kitchens, hot-tub areas, swimming pool areas, and these elements need definition of space,” he says. “So we are seeing the spaces in general sort of broken up into outdoor rooms with their own identities.”
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There is a definite practical aspect to creating an outdoor room, says Brandon Pike, president and director of development for Florence Gardens. It allows “someone to build fewer heated and cooled square feet because it really expands the livability and the livable square footage of the house.”
When Pike and his wife built their new home a little more than a year ago, they built with the growing needs of their family, which includes four small children, in mind. In addition to the house, they created several distinct outdoor rooms, including a conventional courtyard dining area, space for the children to play, a small area with a rose bush as a focal point for morning coffee, or man-space for Pike to entertain his friends while grilling.
Linda and Bill Rafferty of Biloxi had something entirely different in mind when they built their new home in Tradition. With their children grown and gone, they decided to downsize from a 2,100 square foot house. They built a smaller, more efficient 1,275-square-foot home.
The idea of their outdoor space grew as they were planning their home, Linda says. First, they decided to build a carport instead of a garage, which would have blocked the view of their back yard. Then they decided they wanted a decorative gate. The idea of a picket fence followed, along with a fountain and other features.
The result was an outdoor space where they enjoy morning coffee while reading the newspaper, preparing and eating evening meals, entertaining their friends, or simply birdwatching.
“It is so easy to go out there,” Linda says. “We definitely spend more time out there than we expected when we built the house.”
“Our other home had a beautiful, huge yard,” Bill recalls. “It wasn’t accessible. It was all upkeep and there wasn’t any way to enjoy it. It was all work.”
Katie and Tim Curry of Biloxi shopped houses for two years before finding their “dream home” in Tradition. They purchased a home with a brick-walled courtyard in the back.
“We were not really looking for an outdoor space,” Katie says. “It was a bonus that came with the house.”
The bonus has quickly become an indispensible additional living area. “It really is personal,” she says. “You come out here, and it is like an escape. You don’t really know what is going on around you. You don’t really care what is going on around you.
“We are outside nearly every evening,” she adds. “My husband goes out there to drink his coffee each morning. We have ceiling fans out there. The areas where we sit are covered. In the winter, we use the fireplace.”
Drummond says he is seeing more people put in fire pits, fireplaces, ponds and waterfalls.
“Water is becoming a very popular element,” he says. “Water can do a lot of things in small spaces. The psychology of water — sight, sound, touch.”
Also, outdoor rooms can be low maintenance. “In the small spaces, you want to keep turf areas to a minimum and use other types of plants,” Drummond says. “For example, if you have an area that might typically be turf, you may want to consider something like Mondo grass, which is a ground cover that doesn’t require mowing.”
“If you work with a designer that understands these spaces, you can do a lot of fun things with small spaces.”