When Paul and Janet Kazmer bought their Cary home in 2011, they were impressed with its potential and with the one-acre lot the house sits on. With four active children aged 8 through 14 and an energetic golden retriever, the family needed space to roam.
Although the house was fairly new, built in 2008, the Kazmers were eager to make it their own. With the help of designer Elizabeth Carrasco, the underused back yard was one of the first projects they tackled.
We spoke with Paul Kazmer and Carrasco, owner of VIP Interior Design, about creating an inviting outdoor space perfect for family entertaining.
Amber Keister: What did you and Janet want to change about this outdoor space?
Paul Kazmer: It was just a flat backyard full of weeds. The patio was ugly and plain and offered nothing but space to put a gas grill and a couple of chairs.
We wanted an outdoor space. The whole focus was after work, after school, where can we spend quality family time together? When the weather is nice, we probably eat outside three or four nights a week.
The arched shape of the wrought iron insets echo the brick arches, the organic curve of the pool and the rounded edge of the granite countertop.
How are you using the space differently since the upgrade?
PK: We like having our friends over. There’s enough dining space when we have our friends and their kids over, the kids can go do their own thing. My oldest is a teenager; he wants to be hanging out with his friends. I’d rather have him and his friends here, so I know what they’re doing and where they’re at. The pool seems to attract a lot of our kids’ friends, which is just fine with us.
What are your favorite features of the completed project?
PK: I enjoy cooking, so my favorite is that we put in a really good grill. I was tired of grilling food and half burned and the other half was raw.
This patio project was finished in spring 2013, but the outdoor-rated cushions and fabrics
don’t look like they’ve spent two summers outside.
What was your inspiration?
Elizabeth Carrasco: The homeowners’ style tends to be more traditional with a little bit of Old World influence. We were working with the existing architecture, with the arches and the brick, so I wanted it all to work together.
I used the stacked stone that would complement the brick, and have some of those same tones. We wanted to lighten it up too. The covered area can feel dark, so we went with the lighter granite for the island and the countertops.
What were some of the challenges or obstacles you had to overcome?
EC: When we added the built-in grill, there was no wall there. It was wide open. We had to determine how high we were going to build that up into a counter.
We didn’t want to block off the wall completely and darken the space, so we ended up with windows. Then we wanted to add some kind of decorative detail so it looked more balanced, so we brought in the wrought iron.
Also the island was originally set to be rectangular, but they have four children, so it needed to seat six at least. It was only fitting five comfortably, so I redesigned it with the curved outer edge which allowed for extra seating.
Left: Themes are repeated throughout the décor. Wrought iron reappears in the rustic coffee table, while blue and gray are used in the lanterns and in the all-weather rug.
Right: This outdoor lamp has an enclosed bulb and switch, so it is protected from the elements.
What features in the outdoor kitchen make it a functional space?
EC: All of the outdoor furnishings can be completely exposed. You don’t have to take in the cushions. The furniture can stay out all the time. The rug is an outdoor area rug that can be hosed down.
The hardscapes like the stone, the flagstones that we added to the patio, are striking, but the furnishings, the softness, give it the cozy, homey feeling of an outdoor living room. The lamp on the end table is an outdoor lamp. It can be completely exposed to the elements. You just want to spend time there, drink a sweet tea and read a book.
What is your advice on selecting material for outdoor use?
EC: When you are looking at outdoor products, the label might say that it can be outside, but it has to be in a covered area. It’s better to choose items that can be exposed.
If you have cushions, the fabrics need to be outdoor fabrics and the foam too, because it can mildew. There are many options for outdoor rugs that look like cut pile or loop, but are made of polypropylene – a plastic – made into a fine thread.
If you haven’t done an outdoor living space, you might be surprised at the pricing. Some of these things might seem higher priced, but you need to look at the length of time you will be using the item and look at the price that way.
So prepare yourself, do your homework, make sure you know what you’re getting for the money.
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