Are you ready for a Staycation?
Summer is coming quickly, and this year is the year you are finally going to do something with the backyard. You are ready for a Staycation, and you are not alone. Outdoor spaces are second only to kitchens as far as priority renovations go, according to the Propane Education and Research Council. Of the 5,000 homeowners interviewed for a survey by HGTV and Casual Living magazine, a whopping 87 percent said an outdoor living room was important or very important, and more than half said they already had one. Clearly, more and more of us are looking right outside our windows for spots to both relax and entertain.
“Hold on,” you say… “Innovation & Tech Today is supposed to be about tech, right?”
Yes, it is and I’m going to get to that part soon, but first let’s think about your end goal here. Are you wishing for a party deck? Or a conversation pit? Kitchen? Grill? Hot tub? My answer is if you can afford it why not have it all! You have separate rooms in your house, right? So, have separate outdoor spaces as well. The beauty here is that, with the sheer volume of materials and accessories available, today you can and should have it all. Each area can have its own style and primary use while still tying it all together into a cohesive eye pleasing design. This is where the services of a good professional landscape architect/builder local to you should definitely be engaged.
Research has shown that more and more homeowners are opting for a staycation, a trend that had its roots in the last recession. People are looking to their primary residence as not only shelter but the source of most of their entertainment. Growing up outside of Boston in the 1960’s I saw that it was quite normal for a middle-class family to have “a place at the lake”. What lake? It didn’t matter, there are hundreds of small lakes in Southern New Hampshire that fit the bill. Today those places “at the lake” are no longer little cottages but very expensive primary residences. Others are selling there city home and buying a new home with more space. If you are one of these, a great new resource we have found to sell or rent your home and keep more of your proceeds to put towards creating your very own Staycation spot is beycome.com an innovative and revolutionizing for sale by owner website. beycome.com will let you cut the realtor/broker out of the equation while still getting you the quick sale! The solution for a lot of other homeowners is to expand their home to the outside. Okay, so now let’s take a look at the elements that make up a comfortable and tech filled Staycation spot.
High Tech Cooking with Class!
Outdoor cooking once meant a basic grill and a bag of charcoal. This is no longer the case for many homeowners, who have taken backyard cooking and dining to a whole new level. As we head into the 2017 outdoor living season, you can expect this trend to continue with elaborate grills that maximize space but can handle much more than your average steaks, hot dogs and burgers. Along with the new grills the whole concept of outdoor cooking has changed. A quick walk through your local Home Depot or Lowes will leave you dazzled by the variety of options that allow you to have a complete outdoor kitchen. There is now outdoor rated cabinetry, refrigerators, pizza ovens, icemakers and yes even the kitchen sink has made the move.
The trend is towards having all your features built in much like the kitchen inside. Big islands with the grill, oven, refrigerator, icemaker, sink, and of course a blender for all those frozen tropical drinks you are going to enjoy all summer readily available. Speaking of frozen drinks don’t forget the outdoor wine cooler and beer keg cooler. Our friend Jane from JanesKitchenMiracles.com has reviewed many of the different appliances and brands for both indoor and outdoor kitchens and you can read about them there.
Staying Warm while Still Looking Cool!
I know not everyone is as lucky as I am to be living in the tropical paradise of Clearwater Beach Florida. Some of you (like the publisher of this magazine) still live where the temperature can get a little chilly at night. Do not despair! You have options… lots of options to stay warm, while still looking cool.
First is the venerable fire pit! You can opt for the wood burning pit if you don’t mind smoke in your eyes whenever the wind changes (for me, no matter where I move it follows me) and needing to shower 3 times to get rid of the smell of smoke before entertaining indoors on a more intimate level.
In my opinion a far greater option is the gas (propane or natural) burning fire pit. They come in many different styles and price ranges but with a little research you can quickly find the correct solution for your personal paradise.
Next would be the free-standing heaters. They come in all shapes and sizes also and fueled by gas, (propane or natural) or electricity. They can be infrared, or reflective and depending on the size of your outdoor living area you may need only one or two. Or you may elect to have a combination of forms and styles such as perimeter combined with table top units.
Last up is the outdoor fireplace. These can range from basic to very elaborate and they can, and usually are used in conjunction with the heating options outlined above. This feature allows you to draw a focal point for your outdoor space. The outdoor living room if you will.
As I mentioned above, to maximize your enjoyment and use of your outdoor space you should plan it out as though you were planning the layout of the rooms inside your home.
Your professional landscape architect/builder will be able to help guide you in laying out all your areas, and can arrange for the plumbing, electrical, and entertainment systems making the whole process seamless.
Keeping your Cool when it is Hot!
We covered how to stay warm when it is cool outside, but how do we stay cool on our staycation when it’s hot? The best solution we have found (outside of the swimming pool) is the high pressure mister. Higher pressure is the key. Be careful here as all high pressure misting systems are not all equal. In fact, some “misting systems” don’t use high pressure at all. We’ve all seen those low cost “patio misting systems” at the big box hardware stores. Hook them up to the hose, hang the lines and everything is cool and nice, right? Well….those so-called patio misting systems aren’t much more than mini-sprinklers. Everything gets wet while your space is only 10 degrees cooler. Authentic high pressure misting systems like the ones available from MistingPros cool by cooling the space…not by getting everyone wet. By using high pressure (at least 1000psi), water is forced through tiny nozzles, producing a micro-fine mist. When the mist evaporates into the air, it actually “uses” heat in the process. With millions of tiny droplets evaporating into the air, and each one taking a small bit of heat with it, HUGE cooling occurs instantly. You can expect patio misting systems to bring up to 35 degrees of cooling.
No Staycation Spot is Complete without the Hot Tub!
Hot tubs have been around in one form or another since the ancient Romans and their communal bathhouses. But in the last 50 years they have come into the reach of homeowners. What started out as re-purposed wine vats and industrial induction pumps hashed together by the Jacuzzi brothers.
as a therapy for arthritis in the mid 1950’s has evolved into the high tech wonders available to homeowners today. We now have units with heat pumps for efficiency, smartphone controls for heating, ozone purification eliminating the need for harsh chemicals, built in entertainment centers and more jets then the Air Force. From free standing units to elaborate built ins your staycation spa options are nearly limitless!
It’s Time to Talk Entertainment and Tech!
What would a staycation be without all the on-demand entertainment options you demand on the inside of your home also available outside. First you are going to need a powerful and interference free Wi-Fi router to power all the devices that will make up the system. The best solution we have found is the Portal Wi-Fi from Ignition Design Labs. The portal cuts through all the static on the common Wi-Fi frequencies with a proprietary system that uses previously untapped resources. Now we can stream all that content to your new outdoor rated flat screens. The Séura Strom Ultra Bright 84-inch television is an excellent choice for customers who want top-quality 4K Ultra High Definition picture resolution and cinematic scale in an all-weather, direct sunlight setting.
Next, we must deal with the sound system. Purchasing audio equipment for your staycation can be a daunting task. Do you go with Bluetooth wireless all-weather units like The Altec Lansing iMW888 Super Life Jacket Omni-Directional Bluetooth Wireless Speaker, or a hard wired system? A lot will depend on the complexity of the system and how many speakers you need to fill your staycation Paradise. Still with all outdoor speakers, you want to make sure the unit is durable while still able to produce good sound in an outdoor setting. After all, playing audio in the open air is much different from playing it in an insulated room with four walls.
The physical construction of the outdoor speaker unit has a direct effect on how much sound it can produce. However, a small speaker should still create a big sound. A well-designed speaker will keep your sound from dissipating into the air around you. Like these incredible rocks.. I mean speakers… Rock Speakers? Yup from TIC Corporation 200 Watts with an 8″ Co-Axial Woofer Driver and a 2″ Mylar refractive Tweeter.
You should also consider the speaker’s size and the area it is rated for. Some speakers are designed to cast sound over a large area, while others are made to concentrate sound. Make sure you know the size of your yard or outdoor space before you buy any speakers. The layout of your space will also play a role in how many speakers you need and how you should set them up throughout your yard or patio. A good guide to find what will work best for you can be found here at Top Ten Reviews
Now it is time to power up all these goody’s. Don’t skimp on this step. A staycation worthy audio video system is only going to be as good as the machine that powers it up. We chose the Onkyo 7.2-Ch Dolby Atmos Ready Network A/V Receiver w/ HDMI 2.0. This is a powerful model that packs a lot in one punch. It has a 7.2 channel for high-definition surround sound, as well as built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. It also has a 4K or Ultra HD pass-through and upscaling capacity, making it a great receiver for high-end home theater systems.
What sets the Onkyo Stereo Receiver apart is the wide range of technology it employs for lossless audio play of compressed audio files. These technologies include Dolby TrueHD, 192 kHz/24-bit FLAC, and DSD. This makes for minimal quality loss and distortion during sound play. Also, it can tap into a huge selection of Internet radio streaming services, such as Spotify and SiriusXM.
Enjoy your staycation!
The author would like to thank National Association of Landscape Professionals. for their assistance in preparing this article.