The New American Status Symbol: A Fancy Backyard Living Space

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BRANCHBURG, NJ – Bill Paliouras dreamed of an Eden Garden. It’s not your backyard patio with stackable plastic chairs and a charcoal kettle – why settle for that? – but a loaded, oversized, decorated deck with an outdoor lounge, dining area, 54 inch barbecue, full kitchen, wet bar, dual draft kegerator, oversized island, weatherproof TV , an elaborate sound system and a semi-circular fire room.

“I’m Greek. I love being outside. I wanted to extend my life outdoors during the winter,” said the 45-year-old dentist. His deck kitchen is just steps from the sublime indoor kitchen of the family.

What else? A second dining room, a pizza oven and a gigantic rotisserie from Greece. To control the climate and ambiance, a louvered roof, infrared heaters, ceiling fans and Vegas level lighting. Leading up to the pool area, Paliouras wanted twin curved stairs because – and this is a common exterior design request – “I wanted to replicate the interior part of my house on the outside.”

Sean McAleer finished the Dream Game in June for $ 350,000; All of Paliouras’ outdoor extravagance, including landscaping, pool, waterfall, slide, hot tub, and cave, totaled $ 550,000. “Why would you want to go to the beach when you can hang out on a nice terrace with a TV, lounge chairs and a fridge?” asked McAleer, owner of Deck Remodelers. “Everything is here.”

The project won first place in a 2020 North American deck contest – yes, there are prizes for such things – and it became a hit on Instagram with over a million views. “Everyone wants to come,” Paliouras said. Friends have nicknamed his oasis “Paliouras Paradise” and “The Resort”.

Paliouras-Kitchen-Outdoor
The outdoor kitchen and dining area at Bill Paliouras has a louvered ceiling, fans, infrared heating and a TV. —Melanie Landsman for the Washington Post

The ultimate family room

Outdoor spaces are a lot these days, but rustic isn’t one of them. Neither is natural. For many well-to-do Americans and for those aspiring to join their ranks, the backyard has become the quintessential family room, a place to decorate and tame, a receptacle for stylish objects, while nature is held at bay. Over the past decade, bridges have evolved into major design statements. The patios mimic hotel lobbies. The backyards are backdrops, with spectacular lights after sunset. Swimming pools, if you’re lucky enough to have one, are excuses for ever more furniture and conversation spaces. These are the Great Fauxdoors.

“We have a very interior design look on the outside,” said Lindsay Foster, senior director of merchandising for Frontgate, the upscale decorating company. “We put tassels and fringes on our outdoor cushions.” (They have indoor prices, starting at $ 139.) In 2012, Frontgate offered a dozen coordinating outdoor furniture collections. Today it has more than 30 with evocative names like Saint Kitts, Palermo and Newport.

Americans have long been content with lawns, nature’s outdoor rugs. This is no longer enough. Now we have real outdoor rugs, a design statement to tie the outdoor living room together, the outdoors being a place to coordinate and tie, and where the feet need to be protected from dirt, heat and water. cold. We glamp without ever having to leave the house.

“People want the outdoors to be as sophisticated as an indoor living room,” said Los Angeles designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Interior design has long urged homeowners to “bring the outdoors in”, sprucing up rooms with plants, wood, stone, and natural light. Today’s design ethic turns this around, transforming the interior to the exterior: exterior living rooms, luxury kitchens with cooler drawers, a luxury grill that rivals any stove in size and price. , elaborate sound systems and oversized weatherproof televisions.

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An outdoor living space designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard in Los Cabos, Mexico. —Douglas Friedman

“When we were kids, parents would say ‘stop watching TV and go out,’” McAleer said. “Now you can go out and watch TV.”

Exterior decor was on the rise before the coronavirus shutdowns, possibly because some people were running out of rooms to renovate. Investing in the outdoors makes sense when you consider how long, before the pandemic, many workers spent in offices with sealed windows, fluorescent lighting, and cubicles that obstruct sight, nature seeming too. distant than Mars.

During the pandemic, the house turned into everything: office, school, gymnasium, asylum. The statute of the court became more exalted, a safe space where we could gather. McAleer’s business has doubled this year, while scarcity of building materials has pushed prices up 30%. He completes 125 games a year at an average cost of $ 125,000.

“It’s a natural desire to expand the square footage of a home, and it’s easier than adding an addition,” says Jane Latman, president of HGTV. The network, with 56 million unique viewers in April, has enormous influence – a favorite channel of the Paliouras platform, where the TV is frequently turned on – and has amplified the G (garden) in its programming with shows like ” Inside Out ”and“ Backyard Takeover. ”

Pool designer-Martyn-Lawrence-Bullard
The swimming pool at designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s home in Palm Springs, California. —Douglas Friedman

Desire occurs on top of a warming planet. In the Sisyphus struggle between humans and nature, it is wise not to bet against nature. California fires. Valentine’s Day snowstorms in Texas. Moisture permeating shirts. And the bugs. The bugs were there long before us. Bet against them at our peril.

And what did this get the owners to do? Throw money at the problem: louvered ceilings, fans, heaters and “fire elements” all prominently on the Paliouras Bridge.

Emphatic outdoor living is part of our ever-evolving self-care regimen. “In the end, green plants and blue skies nourish everyone’s soul. People need places to relax, ”said Greely. “It’s also linked to well-being. Everyone wants to spend more time relaxing outdoors after spending so much time on our devices. “

Which does not explain the outdoor televisions.

The American court is changing

The yard became an American staple after World War II with the boom in single family homes and recreation. The first Weber grill started in 1952. The ubiquitous Grosfillex chair, considered the first plastic outdoor chair on the mass market, arrived seven years later.

“We want to show our social standing by what we can do in our backyards,” said Cindy Brown, who helped organize the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard” and is responsible for education and collections for Smithsonian Gardens. “We want to domesticate nature. We can’t, but we can make a part of it.

Serena Lily day bed
A Serena & Lily day bed retails for $ 3,998. —Serena and Lily

But since the mid-20th century, we’ve developed better, more comfortable materials and banned those unpadded wire chairs that turn posteriors into Waffle House specialties. With little room on these new bridges to insert another tassel cushion, what could be left to do? Bullard believes that the spaces will become even more sophisticated and personalized. “There are so many things that match,” he said. “The design will be more creative, eclectically mixed and matched.”

With the pandemic diminishing, Paliouras is eager to receive more guests. But he practices in seven offices across New Jersey, performing root canals six days a week. He often leaves before dawn. His wife, Irene, and their two daughters are eagerly awaiting a time when Saturday is a day off and enjoyed outside.

Paliouras takes it in stride. He has his dream terrace, his outdoor Xanadu. “You know,” he said, “it takes a lot of root canals to pay for ‘The Resort’.”

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