It’s the glorious days of summer, so let’s live outdoors!

The wild rugged setting is why we live here. Our incredible outdoor world of mountains, rocks, trees, rivers and all that quietly grows and blooms sustains us. When the snow melts and the temperatures warm, it’s time to move outside and stay outside. There’s no need to head into the house when the sun starts to drop and neighbors flick the porch light on and off and whistle for kids. Instead, gather around the fire pit in comfortable lounge chairs, study the stars, dabble in refreshments, and talk and share stories.

While in the past enjoying our yards meant mostly looking at it, now our yard space is a place to occupy—to live. The current approach to outdoor living is outdoor rooms that mimic what we have indoors. There are soft comfortable places to sit and converse, outdoor kitchens for turning out fabulous meals without losing the host or hostess to the indoor kitchen, and great spots for dining al fresco. The outdoors lends itself to casually and comfortably entertaining friends and generations of family. Families are more comfortable coming over for dinner when the children can run free and play. And because it’s outdoors, there are pools, spas, water features, fire pits, lawns, and sports courts to make it all the more enjoyable.

Outdoor Living Starts with Design

“Summers in Sun Valley just knock your socks off,” says Kurt Eggers, founder of Eggers Associates Landscape Architecture in Ketchum. “They are so beautiful it just makes us all want to be outside! A well-designed exterior environment can extend summer outdoor living beyond the prime months of July and August to June through September with the use of fireplaces, fire pits, heaters, wind protection, and lighting.”

 

Kurt Eggers has designed over 500 landscape projects since founding his practice in 1999, including the quintessential spot to enjoy a Sun Valley evening, the Sun Valley Pavilion. However, custom homes are the heart of his practice, and for these residences he designs outdoor rooms, patios, walkways, water features, lighting systems, ground contouring, drainage, sprinkling systems, and, of course, designating appropriate plant material for the conditions and desired effect.

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“The trend is to bring the indoor room concept outside, and to diminish separations between the interior and exterior so that you are also bringing the outside in,” Kurt says.

  

The spaces are tailored depending upon how the client would best enjoy it. Eggers reflects on an example, “I just renovated the landscape for a home intended to bring generations of the family together. It includes a playset for the grandchildren and an outdoor pavilion that partially covers a kitchen equipped with a barbecue, pizza oven, outdoor sink, and refrigerator. In addition, there is a dining area and comfortable seating around the fire element. We extended the use well into the evening with heating units and extensive lighting. For another project, an outdoor television along with an audio system was important to the client. With increasingly frequency we are designing extensive exterior spa areas for grownups and kids alike to enjoy throughout the year.”

 

Outdoor living spaces have many challenges that differ from interior rooms, like requiring durable materials and products made specifically for the outdoors—the outdoor climate can be severe with freeze thaw cycles. “Concrete or granite countertops are hearty and attractive, and for cabinets, stainless steel or copper hold up better than wood,” notes Eggers. Another big consideration is the direct sun and its glare. “Pavilions, gazebos, umbrellas, as well as a properly placed tree all can offer nice shade. It is a harsher environment both in summer and winter, so a proper site analysis is key to arriving at a great design solution.”

  

Another obvious difference between indoor and outdoor designs is that inside, walls are used to define rooms. “We don’t have that ability, so we use other methods,” Eggers explains. “A change in patio surfaces or materials along with pathways set the flow and the spaces. We sometimes introduce grade changes with stair transitions between the patio spaces, and we use rock features, watercourses, berms, and vegetation. We take into consideration the site, what the client wants to incorporate, and the architecture and building materials used in the home in order to develop a design that resonates.”

Asked if there are local considerations, Eggers replies, “In Sun Valley we live in a fragile ecosystem, so it’s important to design a landscape that doesn’t require a lot of irrigation water. This can be accomplished not only through the design but also by limiting the amount of disturbed area. When the site is less disturbed, it not only requires less water, it also blends more naturally with the surrounding environment.”

  

“It all starts with the planning,” Eggers continues. “Transitions, movement, sound, and degree of privacy, as well as the environmental considerations, are all part of designing an exceptional outdoor space for the client’s year round use.” 

“In Sun Valley we live in a fragile ecosystem so it’s important to design a landscape that doesn’t require a lot of irrigation water.”

–Kurt Eggers, Founder, Eggers Associates Landscape Architecture

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Glass door panels tuck completely into pockets, seamlessly connecting inside & out

Windows that Open & Disappear

New window technologies allow opening large expanses of a home to the outdoor patio and deck space. For summers, there is no separation between the interior and exterior, and for entertaining, it allows for com- fortably hosting much larger groups that can flow outdoors.

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“THE TREND IS TO BRING THE INDOOR ROOM CONCEPT OUTSIDE, AND TO DIMINISH SEPARATIONS BETWEEN THE INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR SO THAT YOU ARE ALSO BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN.”

–Kurt Eggers, Founder, Eggers Associates Landscape Architecture

Matt Barrow, owner of View Point Windows in Ketchum and Bellevue, has watched as manufacturers have improved and innovated new systems.

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“With new construction…we can open large expanses or even a full corner of the home.”

-Matt Barrow, Owner, View Point Windows

“They allow homeowners to achieve the openness and connections they desire. With new construction, where the architects and builders provide structural support, we can open large expanses or even a full corner of the home. We have products that work well for retro ts and remodels, too, that will open expanses from 9 to 12 feet wide.”

Technologies vary. With top-hung bi-fold doors, the panels open up and slide to the side. The panels for multi-sliding systems can disappear into a pocket away from view. Fixed roller systems, commonly known as lift- and-glides, can be less expensive and can be automated.

“We’re currently working with some Loewen doors that work really well for projects in this area,” says Barrow.

Locals’ Source for Landscape Materials and Services

With a plan and purpose, the next step is to head out for garden supplies. Sun Valley Garden Center has been a local mainstay for expert advice, plants, and products proven for the mountain environment for 36 years.
Bryce Turzian of the Sun Valley Garden Center describes his company’s operations. “Sun Valley Garden Center is a full-service retail garden center offering landscape, hardscape, irrigation, and maintenance services. The Garden Center offers a range of products ranging from bedding plants, nursery stock, and pavers to home gifts and pottery.”

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Has the trend toward creating more outdoor living space affected the products and services offered by Sun Valley Garden Center? “Definitely,” says Turzian. “The trend has progressed from open yards to more usable and livable niche spaces. Clients are looking to bring the indoors outside. They want to use their yard as an extension of their interior living space, and new products and designs have been very useful in achieving this goal.”

“Native landscapes are becoming more and more popular. Many hardscapes and homes are now designed and landscaped as if they were gently placed in their natural surroundings.”

–Bryce Turzian, Sun Valley Garden Center

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According to Turzian, natural stone and concrete pavers now reflect the quality one might find inside the home. “We have new manufactured product lines with a variety of blends and finishes. Porcelain pavers have become very popular because of the finish options and dimensions. Finishes span from reclaimed wood to marble, and dimensions range from 16-inches by 16-inches to 24-inches by 48-inches. Concrete pavers are also available in an array of finishes, colors and sizes. For natural stone, we source from around North America and the world. We offer flagstone, limestone, quartz, and granite that complement the materials used on the inside and outside of the homes. Stone suppliers are doing a great job providing the products in a variety of ways, and dimensionally cut stone has become hugely popular with more contemporary modern home design.”  

Comfort is important for enjoying the spaces during the extended season. “Certainly deciduous trees soften the effects of harsh direct sunlight, and at the same time they offer shape and density to the landscape. Pergolas, covered spaces, fireplaces and fire pits also help frame the hardscape area and provide a sense of space and shelter. Landscape lighting has also come a long way in the past few years. Lighting has enabled homeowners to use their spaces for extended hours and also helps highlight the landscape. An example of this is uplighting a specimen tree in the courtyard.”

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Turzian finds that many new landscapes are cognizant of water use. “Native landscapes are becoming more and more popular. Many hardscapes and homes are now designed and landscaped as if they were gently placed in their natural surroundings. Smart irrigation controllers and drought tolerant plants have made these landscapes much less dependent on water.”

Furnish for Lounging and Dining

The Open Room in Ketchum specializes in furnishing outdoor spaces in ways that people fully use the outdoors on a daily basis, and the furnishings complement how they like to entertain. Owner Heather Newhouse describes her cottage showroom as “a place people can touch and feel and sense the potential.” It is stocked with high-design brands like contemporary-leaning Gloster and Kingsley Bate’s teak and woven lines, as well as with tables made by local woodworkers and unique artist-made accessories. “Some of these lines are so strong, people have selected pieces for their home’s interior, as well.”

“Oh, I definitely agree that the interior spaces have moved outdoors for lounging, dining, and gathering around fires. Here, with summer’s extended daylight, it can be light until ten. We have created some beautiful settings with fire pits and lanterns that lure people out late into the night, and colorful hammocks under bright umbrellas and porch swings that are wonderful places during the day.”

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“Interior spaces have moved outdoors for lounging, dining, and gathering around fires. Here, with summer’s extended daylight, it can be light until ten.”
–Heather Newhouse, Owner, The Open Room

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More than just a showroom, the Open Room offers design and selection services, including receiving and installation. Heather Newhouse explains. “We recognize that our homeowners travel a great deal, and many are not full-time residents. After thoroughly measuring the outdoor living areas and reviewing conditions and any special considerations for the location, we can proceed to order the pieces in the color and the materials that go best with the décor. At Open Room, we receive the orders, inspect the order to ensure the pieces are correct and haven’t been damaged in transit, assemble them, deliver them to the home, place the pieces as the homeowner or designer envisions, and then we take care of recycling all the packaging. The aim is to take care of everything.”

Open Room works with interior designers, architects, or directly with homeowners in the designs and selections. “For outdoor living, there are some similar considerations to interior spaces, but others are specific to the outdoors. We are interested in the times of day the clients like to be outdoors and where, so we can prepare for handling direct sun. Sun is also a factor in materials selection, and we carry Sunbrella fabrics and cushions that are designed to withstand the climate. For windy areas, we select heavier duty furniture that won’t lift and blow away. Outdoor rugs are useful for texture and defining the living space, and they are favorites in the showroom.”

“Related to the impact of weather, we replace cushions to match the original fabrics,” Newhouse adds. The Open Room displays and carries outdoor furnishings in traditional, transitional, contemporary, and modern designs. It’s a likely place to find just the right outdoor pillow or something unique and unexpected like a planter or some of the lively designs by Loll, which Newhouse describes as “super heavy duty, made in the USA from recycled milk jugs, that require zero maintenance.” And is there something we should definitely check out? “We have a side table with a beautiful profile and the top lifts to reveal a drink cooler. It’s very clever.”

Outside Cooking Always Tastes Better

Even if it is on a camping trip, the food is more delicious and the memories are stronger if you are cooking and eating outside. Fisher Appliances in Ketchum is ready to equip any outdoor kitchen with freestanding or built-in appliances. “Cooking outside is wonderful, and it doesn’t heat up the home,” says Mark Fisher, owner of Fisher Appliances.

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Mark Fisher thinks the popularity of outdoor cooking rests on a number of factors. “It’s more informal; people are more themselves; and there is a true sense of relaxation and camaraderie. When you are outside, it slows life down, people relax, and there’s more collaboration preparing the meal. Many men I meet enjoy cooking outside more than inside.”

The general rule regarding specialty outdoor appliances seems to be, if you can do it indoors, you can do it outdoors. Fisher Appliances carries products that demonstrate that anything is possible:

• Grills in all possible sizes with extraordinary features like built-in searing, smokers, and rotisseries, side burners, hoods, and warming trays;

• Pizza ovens;

• Woks, burners, or even full ranges;

• Outdoor refrigerators, ice-makers, and wine chillers;

• Sinks and refreshment centers for mixing drinks;

• Storage drawers and cabinets including specialized storage for trash or paper towels; cutting boards and preparation areas; and dishwashers.

“I would recommend siting the kitchen area with consideration to wind, and the landscape architect can orient it or provide a wind break. Also, some recent projects are covered, which greatly extends the time the kitchen can be enjoyed. One, in fact, can be used most of the year. Also, effective lighting is easier to achieve with an overhead structure, although there are other successful ways to light outdoor kitchens,” observes Fisher.

Sun Valley’s beautiful setting inspired one couple to work with Mark to create a beautiful freestanding outdoor pavilion kitchen. The intent was to be able to cook there except in the coldest months of winter, and they hoped they could use the pavilion 80 percent of the year.

Mark Fisher recalls, “They have a fast-pasted sophisticated lifestyle, and when they come home to Sun Valley, they feel they can truly relax. They wanted a space to share time with friends over a delicious home-cooked meal. The kitchen pavilion is a special place for them to slow down and appreciate life.”

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The enclosed pavilion offers more protection from the elements than most outdoor kitchens, and sliding doors along one wall and bi-fold doors long another open to the fire pit and outdoor dining. An indoor table set surrounded by these doors offers the best of indoors and outdoors. The protection allows for a few appliances in the pavilion that are designed for indoors, but the majority of the Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances are specifically for rugged outdoor environments and built to withstand freezing temperatures. Grilling and the wok are central to many meals, and two powerful exhaust fans ensure cooking aromas fill the kitchen and not smoke.

Fisher Appliance carries products throughout the price spectrum, so if the high-end pizza oven is out of reach, there are options that might meet the budget. However, there are some shoppers who believe in starting at the top of the line to explore the highest quality and style. For those who start at this end of the spectrum, there’s the remarkable Hestan grill as a starter, Coyote, Lynx, and many others, along with the full range from Wolf and Sub-Zero.

 

Whether playing, lounging, dining, or cooking, it’s time to be outdoors.

“Many men I meet enjoy cooking outside more than inside.” –Mark Fisher, Fisher Appliance