By David Wulff, AIA

It’s the middle of the summer and the time that we should be outside. This is definitely not the time to be indoors. We have the most wonderful climate for enjoying the outdoors here in Western North Carolina. It’s warm during the day and the evenings are perfect. So let’s do it!27_fireplace

Taking a hike or walking through the woods is fine, but sometimes we just want to have a place to relax. I have always advocated that the outside of one’s home should be an extension of the interior. Most people think of their home design as just the floor plan of the house. However, you have an entire exterior to think about also. Your entire property is part of your “floor plan”. To maximize this floor plan, we need to think “outside the box”. In other words, outside the walls of the house. Yes, I’m talking about a patio or deck. Everyone should have a comfortable place to get outside. And not just anyplace either. Don’t just stick a couple lawn chairs out there and call it good. A patio or deck should be designed like an outdoor Living Room. It has a floor, walls and ceiling, just like a room inside. It needs to create a sense of place. It is, after all, an outside room.

For walls, consider fencing, low walls (also good for sitting on), shrubs, etc. The options are endless. For a ceiling, you can consider a pergola, awnings, or shade umbrellas.

Don’t make the mistake of making the “room” too small. Take a patio for instance. Make it large enough to include all the elements that you desire. Some suggestions include:

  • Seating – plenty of it and various types.
  • Water feature – these are always nice and create a relaxing background sound when adding a fountain or waterfall.
  • Cooking area – the BBQ is a must.
  • Fire pit or fireplace. These can be either natural wood burning or gas.

Recently we designed an exterior patio for a client that included a fire pit. The problem was, however, that when making s’mores the smoke kept moving around. To solve this we designed an exterior fireplace. The fireplace does two things; it keeps the smoke out of your eyes and it acts as an exterior wall for the Living Room. Finding the right contractor was a little difficult. A local masonry contractor, Steve Flynn from Mill Spring, came to the rescue and did an excellent job.

Part of the design for this project also includes an outdoor kitchen area with a pergola over it and a putting green. Stay tuned!

DAVID H. WULFF, ARCHITECT welcomes the design challenges presented by new projects and is dedicated to developing innovative design solutions.

David H. Wulff, AIA, 167 Trails End, Lake Lure, NC 828-625-5537,