7 ways to create a gorgeous outdoor room

Published: Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 11:24 AM
Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 11:24 AM

It's spring! Long days, sunshine, birds, barbecues, flowers! For the next six months or so, it's outside time (sorry, people in the Northeast; your time will come). Which means, of course, that you should have an outdoor room, a place where you can do all the things you do in winter — entertain, read, eat, relax — under the big, blue sky.

We're not talking a giant pavilion with a built-in fireplace. Although if you can make that happen, please do. We're talking a snug and stylish corner with the comforts of home.

>>View gallery: 7 Ways to Create a Gorgeous Outdoor Room

Depending on where you live, you will have different considerations. Some will have to think about rain; others will need a source of shade or cooling. Some will have to take the bugs into account; others, the neighbors. Where I live on the Northern California coast, our outdoor summer rooms include heaters. 

But whatever the specifics, every room should include a few basics:

  1. Comfy furniture. No one wants to perch on a hard wooden chair all afternoon.
  2. Rugs. They delineate the space and feel good underfoot.
  3. Decoration. Art, potted plants, sculpture, lanterns. This is a room; decorate it.

I also advocate for hammocks, grills, tables, throw blankets, candles and a source of music, but these are optional. Here are a few inspirations to get you going.

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Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 2:39 AM

$550K Lion Gate Estate Takes Internet By Storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner?


You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

>> PHOTO GALLERY: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate

>> See the listing here

"Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's Alex Lauer. "Every aspect of 'Lion Gate Estate' has been articulated with painstaking attention to detail and mind blowing decorative flair. Too many custom features to list!"

Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate. Every aspect of “Lion Gate Estate” has been...

Posted by Alex Lauer - Real Estate One on Thursday, March 15, 2018

And he's not kidding. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, owned by a former automotive designer, is the definition of "extra," with a "Liberace-inspired living room" and "museum-like" interior, Curbed reports

>> Read more trending news 

The listing continues: "Highlights include heated swimming pool with outdoor shower and cabana. Custom two car garage with hand painted automotive murals. Finished basement with billiard room and entertainment area. Fenced in yard with fountains and statuary. Sale includes full contents of the house, including Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano, mint condition Frigidaire kitchen appliances c. 1950. One of a kind custom built 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan, One of a kind custom built 1974 Lincoln Mark IV Coupe, Custom pool table, countless automotive relics and artifacts. Once in a lifetime offering."

But if you want to take a tour, you'd better check the weather forecast first. "Only shown on sunny days," the listing warns.

>> Click here or scroll down to check out some photos of the home

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Vandalia park offers nearly two dozen community garden plots

Published: Saturday, March 10, 2018 @ 7:00 AM

            Residents of Vandalia can participate in the annual Community Garden project using land set aside at Jeffers Park. CONTRIBUTED.
Residents of Vandalia can participate in the annual Community Garden project using land set aside at Jeffers Park. CONTRIBUTED.

VANDALIA – The city of Vandalia will again offer residents a chance to garden even if they don’t have a backyard.

The Vandalia Community Garden is located at Jeffers Park on Halcyon Drive near Interstate 75.

This year’s garden will feature 22 plots of 15 feet by 20 feet that are available to city residents on a first come, first served basis.

“Our Parks and Recreation Department is always looking for ways to better utilize park space and to respond to emerging community needs. We had heard suggestions we try this for a few years before we finally decided to give it a shot,” said Rich Hopkins, Vandalia communications manager

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The first year, the garden offered eight plots, which were claimed quickly. More plots were added along with a water source in the second year.

The program is a low-cost offering for the city, Hopkins said.

“We did have some initial costs in bringing a water source to the park, but beyond that there is not much we need to do. We prepare the plots at the beginning of the year by tilling the dirt, and we check on it regularly through the course of the year, but that’s a part of our routine maintenance,” he said.

Most of the plots are reserved by individuals, although some list friends as “additional authorized gardeners,” said Micki Weber, a city parks and recreation assistant. Among those using a plot in the past was a Girl Scout troop, she said.

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Most participants grow food, but some grow flowers.

The number of plots reserved declined slightly the past couple of years, Weber said. However, some of the returning gardeners will take a second plot when they are available, she said.

Registration packets are available at the Vandalia Recreation Center, 1111 Stonequarry Road. There is a $25 registration fee. The growing season is April 1 through Oct. 31.

“Ultimately, we believe the community gardens are a great option for folks who have more gardening ambition than they do garden space. The plots are fairly large and give people a creative and nurturing outlet for the spring and summer months,” Hopkins said.

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There have been few problems at the gardens during the first six years, he said, noting “isolated incidents” of trampled plans or pilfered vegetables.

Anyone with questions about the Community Garden can contact Weber at (937) 415-2353 or mweber@vandaliaohio.org.

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Why Hamilton’s proposed law is a big deal in this insect world

Published: Monday, January 29, 2018 @ 6:30 AM

99-mile stretch from Sidney to Hamilton will be marketed

If it weren’t for human-owned hives, there would be no honey bees in Butler County, the bee inspector for both Butler and Preble county said.

That’s one reason Don Popp, of Don Popp’s Honey Farm in Milford Twp. (about two miles north of Darrtown) was pleased to hear Hamilton is considering legislation to make it legal to own hives in the city.

“There currently are some bees (in domesticated hives) in Hamilton right now,” he said. “There’s a few in there. You won’t hardly hear any complaints from people about having bees in there, because people know how important honey bees are anymore.”

Here’s how devastated area bees have been by such factors as Varroa mites and the bacterial and viral issues that accompany them: “If there weren’t any domestic bees, there wouldn’t be any bees, because of a little thing about the size of a flea called a Varroa mite,” Popp said.

OTHER LOCAL ANIMALS: Butler County’s tiny horses bring big fun at nursing homes, airport

Hamilton’s Ordinance Review Commission is developing legislation allowing people to have hives in city limits.

Alex Zomchek, an apiculturist (person who studies bees) and adjunct professor of apiculture at Miami University, also is glad to hear about Hamilton’s leaning toward human-tended hives in the urban area: “There’s a lot of interest out there,” he said.

Many people don’t realize this, but Miami University played a significant part in the origins of beekeeping. L. L. Langstroth, who lived in Oxford, created the movable-frame beehive in the mid-1800s, and he did such a good job of creating the hive, there has been little modification made to his device in more than a century since.

Those tiny bees have been observed to fly as far as 11 miles to pollinate in desperate situations, Zomchek said.

Many cities across the country adopted legislation banning bee hives decades ago when there was concern about tropical bees from South America moving northward into the country. But as it turned out, this climate is too cold for them and they have not come close to this area, he said.

Zomchek, who said Miami’s Hamilton campus is interested in installing hives for its students’ education, added: “There have to be responsible limits, where neighbors can say, ‘Well, wait a minute, wait a minute…’”

While honey bees are generally non-aggressive — he keeps some on his deck to show to guests — they are stinging insects, after all, he said.

HISTORY: Miami University wasn’t supposed to be in Oxford

“I think right up next to shark bites and electroshock therapy, people’s fear of bee stings ranks as just one of those fears that we carry in our back pocket,” he said.

Interest is growing, though, Popp said: “I’ll probably get 25-30 new people a year started in keeping bees.” He now sells hives to 25 to 30 new beekeepers in a typical year.

“We are dependent on the honey bees, but unfortunately, because of what we have done to them, which is farmed them, genetically manipulate them, controlled them, and then expose them to our parasitic Varroa mites and the associated diseases and pests that come with them, we have now so weakened them, that left to their own devices, I think even the definition of domestication has changed,” Zomchek said.

MORE: 11 areas where Hamilton residents want to see change

It’s so bad that in Ohio that 60 percent of bees that go into the winter die coming into the spring, he added.

As a 10-year-old decades ago in northern Wisconsin, where the winters are brutal for bees, his bees’ mortality rate was 3 percent, he said.

“Pardon the pun, but there is no Plan B for the honey bees,” Zomchek said.

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Woman could face jail time over garden

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 9:55 AM

Atlanta City Code Enforcement told Lexa King that her flowers are overgrown. (Photo via WSB-TV)
Atlanta City Code Enforcement told Lexa King that her flowers are overgrown. (Photo via WSB-TV)

A Georgia woman could face jail time and a large fine over her garden.

>> Read more trending news

Atlanta city code enforcement officers told Lexa King that her flower garden is overgrown.

King told WSB-TV’s Rikki Klaus that she’s been growing her garden for about 30 years. She beams when she talks about the azaleas in her yard.

"And since I pay the taxes and since I pay the mortgage and since I pay the insurance, I figure I'm the one that gets to say," King said.

Code enforcement officers see the situation, and her garden, differently.

"They said it was messy, said it was overgrown,” King said. "I said, ‘Well, this is a matter of your interpretation.’”

>> Related: Man plants 2,000 tulips for 45th wedding anniversary

In December, King said, an anonymous complaint led to an arrest citation. It details "overgrowth" in her yard and said she's violating a city code that prohibits "excessive growth."

"We asked him for a definition of excessive, which he could not provide," King said.

Klaus asked King whether she plans to cut the shrubs back.

"Not unless I'm absolutely forced to," King said.

King said she's fighting a bigger battle to protect the quirkiness of Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood.

"This is not about me. It's not about those azaleas. This is about our neighborhood and the way of life that we have here," King said.

Neighbors said they've been writing to City Council members on King's behalf.

"We're hoping for dismissal of these charges before Lexa King appears in front of the Municipal Court of Atlanta to be sentenced for her crime of azaleas," neighbor Scott Jacobs said.

Klaus researched the penalties of a court citation. King could face up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Her hearing will take place in August.

Klaus contacted code enforcement for reaction to this story. She’s still waiting to get a response. 

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