Fall Atlanta Home Show sneak peek: 5 outdoor living trends and tips

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014    By Lori Johnston   For the AJC

The Fall Atlanta Home Show returns on Sept. 5-7, just in time for the season where Atlantans relish spending more time on their patios, porches and decks. With a new component – an Outdoor Living Expo – the event will feature 300 exhibitors and inspiration from guest speakers such as landscape designer Ahmed Hassan, original host of HGTV and DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers.”

The 31st annual show also will offer ideas for kitchens, baths, insulation, heating and air conditioning, security, home automation and more. Returning exhibits include the 3,000-square-foot SeeThru House, staffed by ConsultAHomePro.com experts.

Exhibitors shared five trends and tips for outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, landscaping and more.

1. Complete outdoor kitchens   outdoor living

One appliance that excites some first-time buyers is buying a grill and finally being able to cook out. Outdoor kitchens are now much more than a basic grill. The spaces have expanded to include refrigerators, side burners, sinks and prep areas, wine chillers, smokers, warming drawers, islands, bars, and dry storage and sealed pantries that keep out the bugs.

“What customers are requesting and looking for is a fully functioning kitchen,” said Lisa Connor, business development manager for Norcross-based Builder Specialties Inc.

For homeowners wanting to cook outside frequently for themselves or guests, the design plan should mimic what’s indoors.

“Every indoor kitchen should have a basic work triangle. An outdoor kitchen is no different,” Connor said. “You’re able to get everything outside without having to go back and forth and make multiple trips into the kitchen.”

outdoor kitchenSome exhibitors, such as Whaley Landscape Services, which will have the largest outdoor living display – at 2,000 square feet – will showcase pizza ovens. The ovens are becoming more affordable and increasing in popularity, and also can be used for baking bread, Focaccia and egg strada dishes, Connor said. Attendees also can check out high-end brands such as Alfresco, Lynx and Primo Ceramic Grills.

Homeowners don’t have to spend six figures on a backyard (although some do), but can create an outdoor living space with features such as a fire pit, pavers and a built-in grill for $5,000-$15,000, said Andy Whaley, owner of Suwanee-based Whaley Landscape Services.

2. Modern landscapes

For modern, think of straight lines and acute angles, instead of a free-flowing layout, said Hassan. Even if the hardscape is designed in straight lines, plants can soften the look. Modern design also can be more efficient, especially when using lumber. “If you want to make curves you’re actually wasting product,” Hassan said. “You’re throwing away scraps.”

Mailboxes, bird houses, planters, fireplaces, furniture and lanterns sold by FOS Design, based in South Carolina, feature minimalistic design and bold colors. The “Letterman” mailboxes, made in Germany, has a porthole for an interesting design element ($345-$599 for regular sizes and $169-$198 for minis). “It gives a unique curb appeal to front door or driveway,” said Wade Caughman, president of FOS Design.

3. Living off the land

“Right now, my backyard looks like a farm,” said Hassan, who lives in California. “I moved in a year ago. I have dreams for the aesthetic side of it. But I produced so much food on my property for me and my family this year, it was just ridiculous.”

After crashing yards, Hassan seeks to educate folks how to create spaces that are beautiful and functional, but can grow food. “It’s more than just a pretty flower, but you’ll be able to actually eat something from it,” he said.

4. Unique styles   

Recycled air compressor tank heads are turned into firepits by an East Point company that also incorporates gears, truck rims and other found objects. Contributed by S&S Firepits

Recycled air compressor tank heads are turned into firepits by an East Point company that also incorporates gears, truck rims and other found objects. Contributed by S&S Firepits

Some exhibitors will display unexpected styles for fire pits, lighting and other outdoor amenities. “People, I think, are looking for something different,” Caughman said. “Just like housing and fashion, I think your home design products and outdoor living have become a more design-oriented living space.”

First-time exhibitor Andy Stivers, owner of S&S Firepits, based in East Point, describes a fire pit as “caveman TV.” He takes old air compressor tank heads and other recycled and found objects – such as gears and truck rims – to create fire pits with a rustic look. Accessories include cooking grates, snuffers and tabletops made of cypress.

“We offer an alternative to your built-in stone fire pit that becomes a fixture in your yard,” he said. “They’re heavy and solid, but they’re portable.”

Pennsylvania-based American Gas Lamp Works – another new exhibitor – offers custom outdoor lighting, available in gas, electric and LED, in 16 copper-coated finishes (from $229-$999.) The lamps are perfect for historic communities and homes as well as custom new homes based on classical designs, said Brian Kontes, sales and marketing manager.

5. Expert advice

Speakers and exhibitors want homeowners to pause and plan before diving into a backyard makeover, whether it’s adding a pool, outdoor fireplace, pavers or new deck.

“Slow down and think about what you’re doing,” Hassan said. “Think about, how does this make sense on a larger level? It’s not just about a cute space.”

Even with kitchens, folks need to consider how often they plan to cook outside and what size groups — whether it’s two homeowners or frequent parties – will be using the area. Connor adds: “It’s almost like building a house. It’s something you have to plan for if you’re going to do anything extensive.”

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