In today’s market, homeowners want to maximize their living space, which often includes the outdoors. Creating an ideal outdoor living area is an art that makes lounging by the pool, hosting friends and family or dining alfresco more of a treat than a chore. But designing an exquisite outdoor space is best left to the professionals, which is why we sat down with Robert Hopson, general contractor and owner of Robert Hopson Construction Group, to learn about outdoor living trends and designing a comfortable, relaxing space.
What trends are the hottest in outdoor living?
RH: We’re doing a lot of outdoor kitchens where clients want the full-on kitchen — refrigerator, range, dishwasher, the whole thing. These are people who want to cook, serve and eat outside. We’re even seeing some outdoor kitchens that have glassware and serving utensils dedicated to the outdoors. Another trend we’re seeing are pools with a sun shelf, an approximately 10-by-10 area of the pool with 3 to 4 inches of water. A sun shelf is perfect for enjoying with babies, putting folding chairs in to sit at water level, or just lying down since it’s so shallow.
When planning an outdoor living space, what are best practices?
RH: Determining how the space will be used is the most important factor. We do custom homes, so the client is coming to us with plans or bringing us in on the process with their architect, and the first thing we do is establish what’s important to them for their outdoor space. Do they have kids, is there a pool, are they using the space to entertain large groups? We ask questions that help us understand how the space will be utilized.
Are there any ‘impossible’ outdoor amenities?
RH: When someone says they want their space to be 60 degrees in 100-degree weather, that’s pretty much impossible. But we can close off the space with screens or retractable coverings and install an A/C system that takes it from 80 degrees to 70. We can pretty much get anything a client wants now for their outdoor space, so if they tell us how they plan to use it, we can adapt it to meet their needs.
What changes are you seeing in the realm of outdoor living spaces?
RH: Custom outdoor features are a huge segment of the market. For example, 10 years ago home shows had a couple of outdoor displays and a few hot tubs. Now, the outdoor section is a good portion of the show, where they have windows that fold into themselves and $50,000 grill stations that are just unbelievable. There’s more and more growth in the customized segment.
What is the most unique request you’ve had for an outdoor space?
RH: For one house we made a pit so they could lie on the grass and watch movies projected on the side of their casita. We constructed a sloped hill that sort of cut into the yard, where one side was level and the other side was 4 or 5 feet deep, then we added a fireplace at the bottom. They wanted it to be like lying in the park, so we put down some great zoysia grass, which is soft and super comfortable.
How does a professionally designed outdoor living space add value to a home?
RH: I’m not a REALTOR®, so I can’t give it a dollar value. But I can tell you that most of the houses I’m doing are upscale, and at that price point, not having an outdoor space would almost be like not having a garage. People enter million-dollar homes and expect some sort of outdoor space, even if it’s just a covered portion of the patio with a grill station. I know there’s an intrinsic value and it would certainly be a negative for buyers if a home didn’t have any kind of outdoor living area.
What is your favorite thing to see in outdoor living?
RH: I really think it looks good when you have a relatively flat area to walkout onto, so you can walk out from your floor level onto the patio then onto the grass; it’s a seamless transition from inside to outside, almost like walking into another room. Or when the grass runs right up to the edge of the pool, almost like a zero edge, so it’s a more natural feel, not as contrived. We see more modern, clean lines in architecture and I like to see those same clean-line features outdoors with a really simplistic palette, so grass and maybe your solid surface is concrete or a decomposed granite — not four or five different materials like we used to see.
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of Grand Vie: Luxury in Living magazine. To view the magazine, click here.
For a personal consultation with Robert Hopson, call 214-327-0600 or visit roberthopsongroup.com.