We’ve arrived in the glorious days of summer, so let’s live outdoors!
People live in the Jackson area for its wild, rugged setting. The incredible world of mountains, rock formations, forests, rivers, and all that quietly grows and blooms sustains our spirits. 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 swap stories.
While enjoying the yard once meant simply looking at it and appreciating its visual beauty, our yards have become places to occupy—to live. The current approach to outdoor living is to create outdoor rooms that mimic what we have indoors. Patios have soft, comfortable places to sit and converse. Outdoor kitchens turn out fabulous meals without losing the host or hostess to the indoor kitchen, while guests enjoy spots for dining al fresco by firelight. The outdoors lends itself to casually and comfortably entertaining friends and generations of family. Families are more comfortable coming over for dinner where 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.
Begin with Design
All worthwhile ventures begin with a plan, so one should expect as much when designing a beautiful landscape. Pat Ehrman is a landscape architect with Pierson Land Works, which has recently been acquired by Y2 Consultants in Jackson. She spends her days imagining how landscapes can be more inspiring, interesting, appropriate, beautiful, and enjoyed.
“Landscape architecture is hard to define,” responds Ehrman, when asked about her process. “It combines art and science because what we do is multi-disciplinary. It involves engineering, art, biology, planning, sociology—everything. We meld architecture, the site, the clients’ needs, all the conditions, and planning. An appropriate plan will be unique to a particular site, completely unique.”
She continues, “If we are involved early, we address grading, circulation, transitions, and views so that they all work together because design elements usually perform multiple functions in the design. If we come in at the beginning of a home’s construction, it’s easiest. Everyone is having conversations, and we all ask the same questions at the same time. If we come in later, when the dust is settled and the clients have caught their breath, it might be slightly more expensive, but can work out equally well.”
Ehrman emphasizes the factors influencing landscape design—the site, views, architecture, and uniting the inside with the outside—by offering examples. The road to one home wound through dense forest. Once in the home, it was apparent that the house was located on the side of a bluff with views to the valley. “We designed landscape that enhanced the contrast,” Ehrman recounts, illustrating how the site impacts the design. “We duplicated the shady effect on the front, but on the back, we framed the views and emphasized the sunny openness.”
Every landscape plan is unique, taking inspiration from the client, the site, the conditions, and the architecture.
“One of the first questions we ask is what is the architecture trying to say,” she explains, referencing another example, where there are views in both directions from the great room. “The answer to the question of what’s important was a single word: transparency. As a result we mirrored the views to the landscape. They were very similar, even though we had to use different plant material because of the sun’s exposure.”
According to Ehrman, you can’t underestimate the importance of views. “The beauty of the outdoors is why people live in the Jackson area.” One interesting example she offers is a home with an unused deck. “The size and location of the deck were right, but no one used it. Willows surrounded the deck that blocked the views. Once we replaced the willows with low plants, the owners used the deck. It needed the views and connections to the greater landscape.”
According to landscape architect Pat Ehrman of Y2 Consultants, design elements can serve multiple functions. Here, the low wall around the patio is topped with stone for seating. In addition to defining the patio space, the wall also serves as a retaining structure for the grade change. The stairs are constructed with a runnel for water that fills the pond, and the sounds of rushing water block out any unpleasant noises like traffic.
The stone surface and low wall define the living space, but it remains open to the views. Ehrman has found that by opening outdoor living to the views, it is used much more. “There has to be a reason to be in the space.” Features like the outdoor fireplace extend comfortable time outside.
Connections are at the heart of outdoor rooms. “I have always tried to create outdoor living spaces like rooms. It is important that they flow from the inside. For example, the kitchen should lead to the grill for a direct route for food. Also, rooms inside are not the same, they demonstrate a hierarchy, and similarly every deck and patio shouldn’t be the same size or have the same personality. I like placing outdoor dining tables on patios off the great room, and fire pits work best in a central area. I like placing hot tubs on a minor deck off the bedrooms with some screening, and they are wonderful by a stream. For the kitchen deck, we have built a kitchen garden in planters. It makes for a great space transition, and the above-ground dirt thaws earlier for planting.”
Lighting & Furnishings
The call of the wild is even stronger when the right lighting and comfortable furnishings lure you outside. Jackson-Moore on Pearl Street has a 20-year history of offering lighting for both inside and outside the home, accessories, and furnishings tailored for the area’s love for quality, durability, and casual living.
Jackson-Moore’s owner Andrew Romo says, “We essentially have nine months of winter and near-winter, so when summer comes, we love our outdoor living.” A lighting designer, Romo is aware of the lighting that makes summer evenings outside long, lingering, and enjoyable. “There are definitely more elaborate outdoor living spaces, and the key to lighting them is to create a layered, soft, kind light. Glare is the enemy, so it is important to layer light.”
Jackson-Moore takes different approaches, depending on circumstances, but commonly there will be perimeter lighting, filtered light through a dropped lattice ceiling, LED strips beneath benches, and lights under soffits. “Some other interesting ways we add light are down lights for more ambient light, lighting trees, and string lights for a whimsical fun look.”
Pathway lighting is important for getting from space to space, but the Jackson area presents some unique challenges. “It is more complicated in Jackson because of snow load and snow clearing. Plows can do considerable damage, and so can wandering bison. We use tougher cast fixtures to minimize damage, repairs, and replacements,” Romo clarifies.
How does Jackson-Moore approach lighting outdoor kitchens? “Various ways, because there are special needs for task lighting. We direct a light on the grill for cooking, and often hang special outdoor pendant lights over the bar and counter for a nice scale and good task lighting. LED lights under the cabinets and toe kicks provide a nice effect.”
“We are installing more LED lights everywhere because of their versatility, low energy demand, and because we seldom need to replace bulbs. Technology has advanced and improved the dimming systems,” Romo adds. “We have a new Dark Skies Ordinance here, and people have really embraced it. They love being outside and seeing the stars. It’s important that light shines down, and there are many options from numerous manufactures for dark-sky rated fixtures.”
Jackson-Moore is also a source for outdoor furnishings. “We have outdoor furnishings for every lifestyle choice,” Romo begins. “Our main supplier is Jensen Leisure Furniture, which I like because of the range of unique selections. I am also pleased we carry Ipe, the hardest, most durable wood available, which is sustainably harvested from Bolivia in carefully managed forests to ensure the wood will not be over-harvested. The wooden slats of Ipe furniture make it ergonomic and highly comfortable. We carry it in chaises, loungers, and dining chairs.”
Tough, durable tables are not only available for dining, but also bistro sets, coffee and end tables, consoles, and chat tables. Cushions are another focus of Jackson-Moore. “Our supplier offers hundreds of fabrics for custom-made new cushions or for replacements for any outdoor furniture. The showroom has displays of rockers, glider benches, and other pieces. But, when a piece is not in the showroom, it is likely it is in stock in the warehouse, and there is no waiting,” notes Romo.
For customer orders, Jackson-Moore receives the furniture, assembles, organizes the order, and delivers.
Are there any trends in outdoor furnishings? Romo says yes. “We are seeing more younger-generation customers who don’t want the lodge or western home look. Instead, they like cleaner lines and want to see more options for fun and interesting furnishings and accents. This extends to textiles, and we are stocking some interesting, fun textures. We’re open to being creative.”
Home Electronics Move Outdoors
Jackson Hole A/V is an electronics integrator, meaning the company handles anything to do with technology ranging from entertainment systems to shades, lights, networks, and surveillance. “We make these systems function effortlessly and interface with phones and computers for ease of operation,” explains Ashburn, who is noted for his smart home design and consultation. Providing additional depth to Jackson Hole A/V is a team dedicated to design and CAD drawings, system engineering, programming, electrical work, and sales.
Is there any reason why the convenience of home automation and electronics has to stay inside when we want to be outdoors? “Absolutely not,” says Rich Ashburn, owner and president of Jackson Hole A/V. “We have installed some amazing and complete systems outside.”
Certainly there are special considerations for the outdoors, especially for the Jackson environment with harsh, snowy winters and temperatures below minus 30 degrees. “For conditions like this, we carry a self-contained heated television that functions in temperatures as low as 40 below,” he notes. “Projects like this usually involve very custom installations, like a recent project where the architect detailed the rockwork, and we installed the television and sound bar exactly as it appeared in the drawings of the rockwork.”
Some of the exciting projects Jackson A/V has recently worked on center on creating large backyard entertainment spaces. Projects like these stress an important selling point about outdoor living: opening the outdoor living space and connecting it to the great room can more than double the size of the group that can be comfortably entertained. It makes summer the season for stepping up the merrymaking with bigger parties, family gatherings, weddings, and fundraisers.
Ashburn describes one recent Jackson project as, “Amazing. It’s an incredible entertainment space where the 5,000-square-foot area doubles the party space. Essentially, it is a whole outdoor theater environment with a fire pit in the center. The 84-inch outdoor-rated television comes out of the ground on a lift. Dramatic theater sound is achieved through 16 six-inch Sonance speakers, small but superior speakers, boosted by two large hidden subwoofers. We directed the sound toward the house for good reflection.” In addition to a spa, there is outdoor radiant heat, shades, and a bug screen. “One button on the integrated control, Entertain, sets the scene and turns everything on,” he notes.
“We have a similar project with 10,000 square feet of outdoor living. There’s a pool and 24 speakers for complete surround sound,” he adds.
The field of home electronics and automation keeps growing in possibilities and complexity, but Jackson Hole A/V is committed to bringing its customers the newest and best in technologies with the simplest, easiest operation. To see products that enhance either the inside of the home or the outdoors, Ashburn invites people to call and make an appointment to visit the showroom.
“I started this business because I have a passion for wonderful sound. At 13, I installed a stereo in a vintage 1954 Chevy truck, and my excitement continues. I truly enjoy helping people discover and enjoy all that is possible.”
–Rich Ashburn, Owner and President, Jackson Hole A/V
Nowadays if you can cook it indoors, you can cook it outdoors. Somehow, a meal prepared and enjoyed outdoors just always tastes a little bit better. Mountain Land Design is ready to equip any outdoor kitchen with freestanding or built-in appliances, and the range of possibilities is surprising. Although grills remain an important feature for a well-outfitted outdoor kitchen, outdoor kitchen appliances are no longer limited to all that sizzles. Any indoor convenience has an outdoor counterpart built for the rigors of mountain living.
Mountain Land shares its Jackson showroom at 485 West Broadway with Rocky Mountain Hardware. In addition to the showroom, Manager Doug Rey notes that the space is also a design center where designers consult with architects, interior designers, or directly with customers for the best possible solutions. As a full-service entity, if Mountain Land doesn’t have it in the warehouse, they order, receive, and deliver. Many locals have been loyal customers of Mountain Land in Salt Lake City, and this new store makes serving clients more convenient. “They are really excited to find that we have opened this store,” observes Rey.
“Mountain Land is well known throughout the Intermountain West. In Jackson, we have 2,500 square feet of showroom compared to Salt Lake’s 30,000, but people are pleased we are right here with designers ready to assist with the same available inventory. On occasion, designers have travelled to Salt Lake with clients.”
–Doug Rey, Manager, Mountain Land Design
When asked about the long list of outdoor appliances he represents, Rey adds, “We have such a range of high-quality appliances, that the choice isn’t just indoor or outdoor. We have choices among brands, selections for add-ons, and alternatives for style. What goes better—contemporary, transitional, or traditional?”
“We equip these with grills, outdoor refrigerators, an outdoor icemaker, and running water. We can also add dishwashers, warming drawers, vents, and freezer drawers. For crab and lobster, we have an incredibly large-capacity burner that can handle a 20-gallon pot.”
“Jackson Hole has short but incredible summers, and outdoor cooking really varies from a stand-alone grill to a sheltered kitchen with built-ins.”
–Doug Rey, Manager, Mountain Land Design
“Not only are our outdoor appliances built for the elements, but also for a lifestyle of entertaining. People who host parties want ready-to-serve beverages. We have high-capacity beer taps and outdoor refrigeration that quickly cools beverages, as well as high- volume icemakers, and beverage centers with wine preservation units,” Rey adds.
To keep the patios comfortable after sunset, Mountain Land carries infrared heaters. “I think September is the most beautiful month,” says Rey. “With a heater, you stay outside and enjoy it more.”
Mountain Land is a new addition to town. Rey is happy to show anyone around, review the long list of resources Mountain Land offers, and to introduce the in-house design services. People who have stopped by often tell him: this is just what Jackson needs!
However you enjoy summer, it’s wonderful to know that all the magic of the outdoors can be just a step or two away.