Back in the day, when friends and family came for a special dinner, it meant clearing the newspapers and schoolbooks off the dining room table, retrieving the extra table leaves from under the beds, polishing the real silver, unpacking the good china, and setting up a bar in the living room to “keep people out of the kitchen.” Still, no matter how hard we tried, the family and guests inevitably congregated in the kitchen, which in those days was not an open-plan affair, but the cook’s domain, where she hoped to prepare the meal in peace.
Even in summer, at a casual barbecue, the pattern didn’t change much: the dads grilled, and the moms hung out in the kitchen, making countless trips outside loaded with trays of raw meat, condiments and drinks. (I remember an epic water fight one August evening after more than a few cocktails had been consumed. The kids stood in awe as their parents – people who held down jobs in the city and taught school in the neighborhood – turned garden hoses on each other with the ferocity of prison wardens.)
But times have changed and so have tastes in entertaining. Today we all put a premium on luxurious outdoor living, especially here in the Hamptons, where the setting is so gorgeous and the window of opportunity so small – usually only from May through Labor Day. The walls have literally and figuratively come down between kitchens and outdoor entertaining areas. Many of today’s fortunate East End families have built or added on open-air patio rooms and pool pavilions, complete with lavish outdoor kitchens, top-of-the-line appliances and leisure-time conveniences. And with the addition of outdoor fireplaces, space heater towers and heated floors, it’s quite possible to extend the outdoor entertaining season to all year-round.
“Move over interior designers,” predicts Charles H. Gamarekian, Chairman/CEO of Cambridge Pavers and Outdoor Living. “In today’s world, watch the landscape designer become producer and director, get a starring role and earn rave reviews!” Indeed, working with homeowners, architects, contractors and pool companies, the landscape designer is now often responsible for extending the living area of the home beyond its exterior walls.
Leading manufacturers of interlocking concrete paving stones and wall stone, such as Cambridge, are dedicating entire segments of their product lines to satisfying the wish lists of homeowners who have migrated out the back door. Homeowners’ expectations are high, fueled in part by popular TV shows such as HGTV’s “Curb Appeal: The Block” and “The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie.”
Leisure living products run the gamut from raised patios to fire pits, outdoor fireplaces to complete outdoor kitchens with granite tops, built-in grills, bar and prep islands, and even outdoor wood-fired pizza ovens that can also cook breads, roasts and veggies. I know of one North Haven family that added not one but two outdoor kitchens: one off the home’s main kitchen and one off the pool house. They include Wolf appliances, pergolas for shade, and counters made of bluestone.
A trend that is on the rise throughout the East End is the open-air pergola or pavilion for outdoor dining, relaxing and entertaining. A pergola is typically a patio or garden structure with an open roof, such as a trellis. In contrast, a patio pavilion has open sides and a closed roof. In both cases, these structures provide some shade, privacy and “sense of place” when finished with a floor of interlocking pavers.
Gamarekian says that investing in products such as Cambridge’s interlocking Pavingstones with ArmorTech can extend your outdoor living space and create a vacation spot in your own backyard. It also helps improve curb appeal and increases the appraisal value of your home, while considerably lowering maintenance. For added convenience and value, many special features come in pre-cut kits, all prepackaged and ready to install. Your first DIY project? Not to worry. Cambridge’s website has a How to Find a Contractor section as well as a schedule of do-it-yourself clinics.