Tag Archives: summer

Outdoor Entertaining

Outdoor Entertaining

Summertime: when alfresco is in

Summer is the time for alfresco entertaining and is the season we use our outdoor living space to its fullest. Whether it’s a large affair on the grill or a small, informal gathering, there is a special ease to outdoor entertaining that we treasure during these fleeting months of summer.

The term alfresco is derived from Italian meaning “ in the open air,” and while it can refer to any outdoor activity, it’s most often associated with dining.

We frequently discuss the importance of easy indoor-outdoor living with our clients and detail various design solutions in our book, Timeless. Many of our clients want homes that feel intimate, yet are ready to entertain large groups year-round – especially in the summertime.

Creating an easy transition from indoors to out makes alfresco entertaining seamless for homeowners. We regularly activate ground floors by connecting them directly to the home’s outdoor living spaces. A first-floor room may open directly to a covered porch which transitions effortlessly to a pool terrace – becoming an outdoor dining room of its own.

Depending on the program, we often create layers of outdoor spaces that offer homeowners lively, multifunctional gathering options. Sometimes that means designing an outdoor kitchen and fireplace alongside a large dining area, while also creating more intimate, hidden seating spaces to enjoy with smaller groups.

Some of our clients wish to integrate lawn games into their outdoor entertaining repertoire. In such cases, we like to create an easy connection between the lawn area and the grilling, beverage, and dining spaces.

This two-way fireplace in the outdoor kitchen provides an inviting connection between the bocce court and dining area

When summer evening temperatures drop, that does not mean that outdoor entertaining must come to an end. Warm and inviting flames from an outdoor fireplace (or fire pit) offer a wonderful place to congregate. Homeowners can encourage guests to linger by bringing blankets outside or toasting marshmallows over the fire. Candlelit tables and outdoor lighting also enhance the inviting ambiance.

Well-designed outdoor entertaining areas can be as comfortable and inviting as their indoor counterparts. With layered spaces and easy access to grilling and entertaining, outdoor living areas provide boundless opportunities for alfresco fun.

Pool Cabanas

Pool Cabanas

Beauty and Versatility

With August in full swing, many of us are enjoying our outdoor living spaces as much as possible. Last week, we discussed the ways in which a homeowner’s pool area serves as a focal point for outdoor living and entertaining. This week, we will focus on the pool’s essential companion – the wonderful and functional cabana.

Shingle-style pool cabana in Edgartown

Pool cabanas serve multiple roles within the outside living area. As a separate, nearby building, they offer convenient privacy and protection from the sun for swimmers (and loungers).

Additionally, they afford homeowners with easy, accessible storage and changing space for bathing suits and towels. This means fewer wet towels making their way into the house – and for people with young families, an end to wet kids running inside in search of dry towels.

We design our cabanas as small buildings that work in harmony with the main house and other outbuildings. Some are beautifully simple with limited adornment, while others are more detailed, mirroring specific architectural details of the main home.

The cabana’s interior layout and amenities are dictated by the individual needs of each homeowner. Some cabanas are designed with classic, cozy sitting areas and folding glass doors to create a seamless progression to the outdoors, while others include more elaborate amenities such as kitchenettes, fireplaces and half baths for convenient indoor-outdoor entertaining. No matter the layout, careful attention to details ensures that the cabana remains connected to the tone and history of the house, and effortlessly transitions to the outdoor living space.

While some New England cabanas are used strictly in the summer months, many homeowners take advantage of this inviting outdoor destination year-round. With a cozy fireplace and comfortable seating, where better to warm up after a winter hike?

Pool cabanas represent a wonderful marriage between beauty and versatility. Whether rustic or refined, the cabana is a relaxing poolside retreat offering protection from the sun and a harmonious connection between indoor and outdoor living.

Pool Time

Pool Time

The Summer Spot to Cool Off and Entertain

With New England’s recent heatwave, residential swimming pools have been a topical subject among our friends and clients. Not only do they offer convenient, inviting relief from the summer heat, they also provide homeowners with a focal point for outdoor living and entertaining.

There are myriad options for pool design, and we take our cues from several sources. Because the pool is an extension of the home, we first consider the building’s architectural character. We then look at the outdoor topography for any space restrictions, and whether the area lends itself to a certain shape or design. If we envision a more organic feel, the pool may take on a free-form shape to blend with the outdoor environment. Alternately, if the space calls for a more traditional or sleek look, we may recommend a rectangular design.

When appropriate, we may also include an infinity design where the water flows freely over the edges. These vanishing edges give the visual impression that the pool has no boundaries – or is magically connected to the nearby ocean.

If the homeowner has an extended family with children or grandparents, we often design the pool with a wide entry and gentle pitch for easy access.

For all designs, we recommend using gunite for its exceptional versatility. Gunite is a mixture of sand and cement shot through a hose and does not produce seams like traditional, poured concrete.

No matter the size or shape of the pool, it is important to create an inviting common gathering space to be enjoyed day or night. That means judicious consideration of hardscaping, lighting, and congregation areas. To merge the indoor and outdoor living space, we use bluestone edges or coping to blend in with the adjacent patio or terrace.

We also carefully select the pool’s lighting, which sets an important tone, particularly in the evening. Including fun and welcoming gathering spots – such as hot tubs and fire pits – helps transform the pool area into the optimal summer gathering space.

Water features are also meaningful elements – both aesthetically and from a functional standpoint. For example, within an urban setting or dense courtyard, the soothing sounds of waterfalls or jet sprays help create a sense of relaxation and privacy.

A well-designed pool area can transform any outdoor living space into a summer oasis. Whether lounging our entertaining, a pool and its surrounding outdoor space provide homeowners with a wonderful sensory experience – and a welcome relief from the summer heat.

Independence Day 2019

Independence Day 2019

Celebrating on Cape Cod and The Islands

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade….with illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” John Adams to his wife Abigail of the Declaration of Independence.

Today marks our country’s 243rd birthday, and we will celebrate with fanfare and family fun. Many of us will attend parades, host cookouts, and watch beautiful fireworks displays. It is a wonderful time for Americans to commemorate our country’s freedom – and what better place to celebrate than Cape Cod and the Islands?

While we are partial to Martha’s Vineyard (our second office is located here), celebrations on Cape Cod and Nantucket are wonderfully festive and perennially well attended. Though we can’t cover them all, we will highlight a few events and fun facts for this special holiday.

If you are visiting the Upper Cape, you may be interested to know that Falmouth is the hometown of Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote, “America the Beautiful.” Falmouth is also a great place to watch the fireworks; in fact, it was voted one of the 10 best fireworks displays in the country by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Their display goes off over Falmouth Heights Beach at Dusk.

Fun fact: In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to recognize Independence Day as a holiday.

If you are celebrating on the Lower or Outer Cape, from Wellfleet to Chatham, there are several fabulous parades to choose from. One of our favorites is Chatham. In addition to its village charm, Chatham happens to have one of the oldest Independence Day Parades in the United States attracting over 20,000 people each year. This year’s parade starts at 9:30 AM on Main Street. In the evening, Wequassett Resort & Golf Club presents a spectacular fireworks display from a barge in Pleasant Bay (shared with the private golf course, Eastward Ho! Country Club). Their Family Gala celebration offers “family-friendly waterfront dining on the terraces and lawn with great music, dancing, and a sumptuous buffet.” For those looking for a more intimate setting, you’ll find the best seats are from the water as hundreds of boats line the horizon to watch the show.

Fun fact: Our flag’s current design was chosen in 1960 (only the number of stars have changed in our flag’s design history).

If Osterville is your destination, you will have many options for local parades and fireworks to enjoy. Parades in surrounding villages are staggered beginning at 9 AM in Barnstable, 10 AM in Centerville, 11 AM in Cotuit and Hyannisport, finishing at 2 PM with the Hyannis Inner Harbor Boat Parade. A favorite area fireworks display is in Hyannis beginning at 9 PM over the harbor. If you miss that one and have a boat, you can enjoy Oyster Harbors Club’s fireworks from the water on July 5th.

Ray Ellis, the artist, with his painted cow in the Edgartown parade in 1999

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be on Martha’s Vineyard celebrating July 4th, you can expect fantastic weather and boundless holiday festivities. Starting at 2 PM, Vineyard Trust will host concerts and a clambake on Main Street in Edgartown. The iconic afternoon parade featuring marching bands and classic cars takes place at 5 PM, followed by a magnificent fireworks display on the harbor at 9 PM. Fireworks are launched from the water between Chappaquiddick and Edgartown so find some space at Fuller Beach, on a dock along the harbor – or better yet, on a boat – and enjoy this amazing show.

Watch the parade go by while enjoying a BBQ provided by MV Clambake on the lawns of the Dr. Daniel Fisher House

Each year, the traditions of July 4th bring us together with others to create rich and meaningful rhythms in our lives. We are grateful for all the men and women who have helped keep America the land of the free, and we wish you all a safe and spectacular holiday.

Window Boxes

Window Boxes

A Year Round Gardening Affair

Few features impact a home’s curb appeal like beautiful window boxes overflowing with vibrant, seasonal colors. For centuries, window boxes have been ubiquitous in European villages, adding exterior charm and warmth to all forms of architecture. Window boxes eventually traveled to America with Colonial settlers, and today we add them to our homes as exterior adornments and added layers of information on our primary facades.

To successfully complement the architecture and complete the look of home, it is important that the window box is scaled properly. For visual appeal, we recommend that the box extends the full length of the window from the outer edge of the casing. This effectively “anchors” the window. A window box that is too short will look awkward and out of place with the home’s aesthetic. Another important consideration is the material from which the casing is made. We typically use Azek, which looks and feels like real wood, but is weather resistant and will not peel or rot in the elements. Additionally, it can easily withstand the weight of heavy potting soil so will not sag or bend and is essentially maintenance free.

Window boxes soften a home’s hard architectural edges and help celebrate each season with splashes of color. We encourage homeowners to update planting material every few months to highlight the changing moods and temperatures of the year. There are several excellent landscape design companies with whom we partner and Donaroma’s on Martha’s Vineyard is our favorite island resource. We recently talked with Donaroma’s designer Cammie Naylor about window box ideas for clients on the island. Ms. Naylor describes window boxes as “a constant theater,” and an opportunity to add bright punctuation points to a home’s exterior throughout the year. She and the designers at Donaroma’s take several factors into consideration when creating a homeowner’s window box design. Among others, these factor including season, sun exposure, and the homeowner’s personal taste.

As we welcome spring, flowers like daffodils, tulips and pansies are favorites – their bright, recognizable forms and colors instantly announce the season’s arrival. In the warmer days of summer – roughly Memorial Day through Labor Day – classic, crimson geraniums are an island favorite as they love the heat and are relatively drought tolerant. The seasons of fall and winter offer additional opportunities to freshen and update window boxes with mums and kale in the fall and small evergreens and pine bows during the holidays. No matter what time of year, Ms. Naylor recommends keeping the planting elements from 3-4 to ensure visual balance of the window box, stating, “it calms the eye to see symmetry and repetition.”

We all appreciate viewing a home with stunning window box displays, but the fact is, it takes care and consistent watering to keep them beautiful. Many of our homes feature both first and second floor window boxes, so we recommend our clients consider adding an automatic “drip” watering system (pictured below). Water ascends from a hidden, clear tube (or copper covered) that snakes up the side of the house and works on a timer from the home’s irrigation system. Using a self water system effectively ensures the window boxes are watered consistently during the busy days of spring and summer.

Hats off to the glorious window box, which provides year-round curb appeal, creative expression and architectural enhancement.

Happy planting!