IT’S NO WONDER the concept of outdoor living seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. With sophisticated options that mimic interior rooms, open-air structures have more appeal than ever before.
Kyle Humphrey, sales manager for Kyle Builders in Shelby Township and Northville, says the demand from consumers for lanai-type environments has doubled if not tripled — and builders have caught on to the idea like wildfire.
As Humphrey explains, a lanai is a covered structure that typically resembles an indoor room with a variety of upscale features.
“It might have brick arches, a fireplace in the corner and outdoor draperies,” he says.
In contrast, a pergola often doesn’t offer much protection from the sun and other elements. Nor does an open pavilion — a separate entity often seen in a public setting like a park, or in a common area in a subdivision.
While open-air structures serve a decorative purpose, an enclosed area like a lanai has more to offer for those who spend a lot of time outdoors.
“With a pergola, you can’t totally block the sun or enjoy it during the rain and into the fall season,” Humphrey says.
On the other hand, a covered structure can incorporate desirable details such as lighting and ceiling fans. Sometimes Humphrey combines the two concepts, for a lanai with trellis extensions.
Gazebos are another option. The one he completed for an apartment complex is topped with a cupola that lets sunlight in by day — and resembles a lighthouse at night with its interior lighting.
Yet another, enclosed with glass, rests on the upper deck of a residence.
Whatever your preference, Humphrey says, “Open-air construction promotes more frequent outdoor living and outdoor entertaining and offers a place to retreat and get away from the heat.”
James Cesario, proprietor of J. Cesario Builders in Petoskey, says outdoor living spaces can extend time spent outdoors well beyond the summer months.
Some are enclosed with roll-down fabric, and many incorporate full kitchens with grills, dishwashers, TVs and more. “It’s a full-functioning outdoor living space with no walls, all under one roof,” says Cesario.
While most of his clients request a hardtop, some like the idea of a pergola. Both offer an outdoor destination like those he created for Hearthside Grove Motorcoach Resort in Petoskey.
“Most of their clients are coming in with their motorcoach. The living quarters let guests come and stay in a cottage or bungalow where they can all gather outdoors around a fire pit and waterfall,” says Cesario.
Cost is driven by the amenities included, the amount of design work involved, and materials such as pavers, granite and stone. It’s important to determine the desired usage, he says. Considerations might include whether you want a full kitchen and if you plan to use the space only during the summer or beyond. Outdoor living rooms continue to push the envelope, according to Cesario.
“Here in Northern Michigan, the climate sometimes doesn’t allow us to enjoy the outdoors. Everybody’s adding elements that ensure that they do get outside.”