Outdoor Kitchen Inspiration: Ideas for the Colder Climates

There is something so delightful about eating your food outside.  Why stop there?  Have you ever given much thought to bringing the whole kitchen experience outdoors?  You may remember we talked about how you can create a dynamic outdoor space, but an outdoor kitchen may be just what you need to live a more relaxed life outdoors.

If you live in a colder part of the country, you may have thought a grill was as close as you were ever going to get to an outdoor kitchen, but not so!  While outdoor kitchens are certainly more common in some parts of the country like Arizona, New Mexico, and California, you can certainly have your own right here in Colorado!  Yes, Durango has plenty of freezes and snow, but we also enjoy very desirable weather from April through October. We don’t know about you, but the 60-80-degree weather is just about perfect weather for preparing a meal outside.  Much more suitable than 100+ degree weather!

Simple or Complete Outdoor Kitchen?

To start, you must first decide whether a simple or complete kitchen is right for you.  Your needs, desires, available space, and budget are some things to be considered when making this decision.  If there are space or budget limitations, a simple kitchen may be for you. A simple grill and counter top may be enough for you to prepare and enjoy a meal outside.  If you want to maximize your time outdoors, consider a complete outdoor kitchen.  This means a space for meal prep, cooking, and eating.  This will allow you to interact with your guests outside while you prepare food!

Some unique ideas for your kitchen might include:

Flower/Wine Sink

The bonus compartment in the sink can serve as a vase for flowers or can double as an ice bucket to keep adult beverages cold!

Wood-fired Oven

Wood-fired ovens aren’t just for pizza.  You can cook practically anything in one!  The high heat allows food to cook more quickly and if you live in Durango, you know this is a requirement of high-altitude cooking anyway.  The open flame is also a great addition to the atmosphere of your outdoor kitchen and serves as a great source of heat on those cooler nights.

Outdoor Bar

An outdoor bar complements an outdoor kitchen perfectly.  The countertop and bar stools are a great way to add seating.  Add in some open shelves and some cocktails and you are ready to play bartender!  If you’re really ambitious, you can repurpose your bar into an ice bar once the snow starts flying!

Fire Pit

This is not essential for an outdoor kitchen, but makes a great addition to an outdoor Kitchen – especially one in Colorado!  A fire pit allows you to spend more time outdoors in the Winter and provides a great centerpiece for your kitchen!  Plus, who doesn’t love sitting around a campfire after dinner?

Choose a Location

Now that you have an idea of what you’d like your outdoor kitchen to look like, think about best locations to put it!  With colder climates, you may choose an area that has more sun exposure in the Winter so it stays warmer and snow is less likely to pile up.  Think about your roof and where snow falls off.  Consider whether you must combat prevailing winds, overhead powerlines, and trees.  Do you have enough privacy?  Is the soil stable?  Are there low-hanging trees that pose a higher risk for fire?  Also, consider how smoke from your new grill may affect your neighbor.

Other considerations: If your outdoor kitchen does not include a fridge or sink, you may want to place it near your indoor kitchen to provide easy access to the refrigerator and sink while cooking.

Coverings

Though coverings are not necessary for your outdoor kitchen, they may extend your kitchen’s use and allow you to cook outdoors year-round!  If you don’t already have an extended roof line or a semi-enclosed space dedicated to your kitchen, here’s some inspiration for you.

Louvered Roofs

It is amazing the technology that is available to us these days.  Picture a roof with the ability to keep out rain and snow, but also the ability to open like shutters on sunny days.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Pergolas

We know what you’re thinking – how can a pergola be a good choice for an area that gets snow?  When built tough, pergolas can withstand a heavy snow load.  Pergolas are not only beautiful, but they are great for providing shade in the Summer and allowing in light during Winter.  If you plan on using your outdoor kitchen during snow season, a canvas or tarp can be a good seasonal solution to keep out rain or snow.  A corrugated fiberglass top is also an option when you’re looking for a solution that still lets the light in.

Best Materials for an Outdoor Kitchen

You may already have the perfect spot in mind for your outdoor kitchen, but materials for the kitchen itself are usually last on everyone’s list.  Here are some suggestions to help you decide.

Plumbing

Plumbing, probably the least exciting thing you can talk about when designing your outdoor kitchen, but it can be one of the most problematic!  If you want your outdoor kitchen to survive more than a year in Durango, be sure to use stainless steel, plastic, or solid copper.  If it does not fall into one of these categories, be sure it is approved for outdoor use.

Countertops

You may not have given much thought to countertops and their ability to hold up in weather, but it’s so important!  Living in the mountains, we experience huge temperature fluctuations.  We must prioritize function over fashion.  That means ensuring the proper thickness and using a material that will withstand freezes and thaws.  And temperature changes are not even the half of it!  Given the sheer expense of countertops, consider using a material the holds up to UV rays, doesn’t absorb stains and odors (bears!), and cleans up well.  Some suggestions would be granite, stainless steel, glazed-ceramic tile and stain-resistant stone.

Cabinets

Don’t let your cabinet material be an after-thought.  Most are a large investment and if not chosen carefully and super susceptible to the elements.  Best cabinets for an outdoor kitchen would be stainless steel, reclaimed lumber, bamboo, and even waterproof polymer.

If not built properly, an outdoor kitchen can deteriorate quickly!  Outdoor kitchens are an investment so don’t let it go up in smoke!  Talk to us – we would be happy to build you one that will last!

 

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Get to know Nick Lister at Buena Vista Builders!

Nick Lister is our new Assistant Project Manager and we couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce you to him! With a constant smile on his face and a positive attitude, Nick has been with Buena Vista Builders through thick and thin.

Nick overseeing contractors and construction – not thrilled with having his photo taken, though! 😉

He has been working for Bob since the summer of 2013. He started solely working for Buena Vista Builders in Spring of 2014. What Nick enjoys the most about his job is that the people really care about what they do and that the environment at Buena Vista Builders means he feels taken care of, too. The resident puppies at BVB (Pepper and Loki) adore him completely and make sure he gives them treats all the time.

Welcome to Buena Vista Builders, Todd!

We are so excited to announce Todd Sharp as our Project Manager!

Todd keepin’ busy hammer things.

Todd is a Durango native, but he currently resides in Oxford. He attended Fort Lewis College where he studied Anthropology. Before working for Bob and Mike, Todd was a “ski bum” and working seasonal jobs. He worked for Bob and Mike when they owned Brightwood Builders; then he framed for Mike for 20 years. What Todd enjoys the most about his job are the different trades and the great group of people he gets to work with and be around on a day-to-day basis.

What others are saying about Todd:

Ed Heinemann, Integrated Wallworks:  “You guys did a fantastic job in hiring Ole Todd, fantastic human being very personal and knows how to work with subs. I have known Todd for a quite a while. EXCELLENT CHOICE. Thank you.”

Tom & Mindy, Crimson Cliff Townhome Owner: “A brief note to say thank you for bringing prompt attention to our door issue.  Also, want to commend the addition of Todd to your team.  He is a real problem solver and very considerate in his undertakings.  Kudos!!”

We are so pleased to have him as lead “go to guy” for all of our ongoing custom home construction and custom commercial projects we have!

5 Timeless BathroomTrends to Look Out for in 2017

custom home construction, new bathroom

Bathroom trends come and go (remember floor tile for countertops?) but there are ways to update your bathroom during a custom remodel that will help it remain timeless. By adding in details, updating fixtures, and increasing your storage, your bathroom appeal will change overnight. Take a look below through our top five picks for bathroom trends in 2017.

 1: Concrete Countertops

Concrete counters and sinks add a monochromatic, modern feel to any bathroom and usually look best when paired with similarly modern bathroom features, think all glass showers, bathtubs that are angular, and tons of light.

Concrete countertops in custom home construction
Concrete counters mixed with rustic features.

2: Open Shelves

 This rustic-inspired trend doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon and the beauty of having shelves like these is that they can easily transform depending on what you put on them. In the images below, you’ll see that there are two different styles: a modern take with clean lines and simple storage versus a rustic spin with woven baskets to add some texture.

Custom bathroom remodel, open shelving
Open shelving in a modern custom bathroom remodel keeps the space light and airy
Custom rustic bathroom remodel with open shelving
Open shelving in a bathroom remodel is kept rustic with woven baskets.

3: Natural Light

Natural light is a must for any bathroom – it makes small spaces seem bigger and makes bathrooms feel more like spa retreats. When you’re doing a remodel, ask your contractor or builder if they could add more windows to your space. If you’re limited in wall space, try adding in a skylight or bright vanity lights to help.

Custom bathroom remodel with skylights and natural light.
Natural light keeps this custom bathroom bright and inviting.
custom home construction, new bathroom
High windows above the dual sinks keep this bathroom light and airy in Durango, Colorado

4: Monochromatic Tones

Monochromatic bathrooms are back – and they look stunning. Sticking with one color palette (black, white, gray) keeps your bathroom looking classic through ages. In the photo below, you’ll notice that they added color and variation with accessories. Keeping your tiles and fixtures in line with your color palette help bring unity to the room.

Custom bathroom remodel with classic subway tiles in monochrome
Monochromatic colors keep bathrooms looking timeless, all you have to do is switch out the accessories!

5: Showpiece Tiles

To add to a monochromatic bathroom, making sure you have some focal points that are unique can really make your bathroom feel instantly updated. When working in a monochromatic color scheme, you can easily add unique tiles to your bathroom without making it seem too busy. In the pictures below, patterned tiles add to the uniqueness of the bathroom while still keeping it feeling timeless.

Custom bathroom remodel in Durango, Colorado
Unique tiles make this stand-alone shower seem trendy and classic.
Custom bathroom floor tiles, Durango, Colorado
Featured floor tiles keep this monochromatic bathroom on-trend but classic.

 

With the many options on the market these days, your bathroom can look updated but still remain timeless with a few tweaks. Let us know what you’d like to see in your custom bathroom remodels or in your custom home and we’d be more than happy to make your dreams come true!

We MOVED!

Buena Vista Builders has moved locations – we are now located out by Three Springs and the hospital.

 

We are so excited and can’t wait to see you. Stop by and see our offices replete with different types of stone countertops and finishings so you can see all the small details before you build your custom home.

Contact us for more information!

 

Building in Winter

With the chill of winter having now settled on Durango the usual buzz of activity of warmer months will soon dwindle. It can seem, in these cold stretches, that everything has stopped. Typically, you wouldn’t think that this would be the time of year to start a building project. The cold, the weather, the shortened days, they just don’t seem to be an optimal environment for new builds and remodels. Though winter does pose some challenges, we have techniques and the assistance of technology that not only allows work to continue in winter months but can actually provide some advantages.

This prevailing idea that home construction is out of the question in the winter can actually expedite many of the processes necessary for building a house. The group of people who assume that building and remodels are out of the question during winter leave a large window open that benefits you. Due to the reduction in projects taking place during this time it’s a no-brainer to take advantage of the lowered demand for resources. Building materials and machinery become more readily available and may even come at reduced prices. With sparse competition, permits can be acquired in a timelier manner, concrete trucks have more open schedules, and you have more overall flexibility in scheduling a construction window that works to your best interest.

Key in a successful winter build is getting the ground dug and crucial concrete structures poured before the ground freezes. This is not to say it would otherwise be impossible, but the potential for issues to arise multiplies beyond this point. The good news is that, in Durango, the ground typically won’t freeze to a depth of true hindrance until weeks beyond our first frozen nights. With the assistance of tents, heaters and concrete additives that assist proper curing in cold weather, the window for starting new construction is larger than you might initially think.

Once the concrete has cured things become all clear to proceed with framing and the rest of construction. Some people think that snow is the worst possible condition to attempt to build in, but consider this, snow is fairly dry. One of the true worst enemies of a building project is rain; all of that moisture has the potential wreak havoc on a building project in its early stages and cause delays.

Working in winter means we have the added confidence of knowing that, if the weather does roll in, we can be fairly confident we don’t have to worry about rain complicating everything. Additionally, the cold that keeps the rain at bay also provides the convenience of pulling a majority of the humidity out of the air which may otherwise slow the drying process. Add to this the heaters that are typically used during winter builds and you have lumber that can dry out much more quickly and reliably than that plagued by rainy or humid days.

In a sense, the snow and cold are much more manageable than weather that can be expected in other seasons. Of course, more extreme winter weather can cause delays. For the most part, though, snow can be shoveled and plowed and cold can be battled with simple strategies. By no means does winter put a dead stop on building for the season.

As the world slows down and hides from the cold it can be tempting to put our plans on hold. But, winter can be just as advantageous of a season to build in as all the others, even having its own unique circumstances that can make it a more desirable time to get started on your custom home or remodel. So, if you’re ready to get started on a project but have been hesitant due to the season, there’s no need to wait. We can jump start your plans today.

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Everything You Need To Know About: Trusses

Marrying beauty and safety is no easy task. Rarely in our world are things that are intended for safety also appealing to look at. Luckily, trusses are both extremely safe in structure while also being able to bring a bold aesthetic to your custom home. Premanufactured trusses are often able to be installed in one day, which is a significant time gain over other traditional methods. This additional speed and convenience that comes with utilizing premanufactured trusses give you a winning combination for your custom build.

Recently having become very popular, trusses are steadily overcoming traditional framing, rafters, and joist in new home builds. Typically, trusses are wooden structures that are formed to create a series of triangles that will distribute the weight of your roof outwards to the walls, though they can incorporate steel and other structural shapes. Take advantage of the strong lines that trusses offer by leaving them exposed to create a powerful design element. The use of roof trusses will also allow for a more open design within your home as they are able to span greater distances than traditional framing, therefore, requiring fewer load bearing walls inside.

Many variations of roof truss designs exist, from straight-forward, simple designs to those that are more complex and ornate; all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few styles to give you an idea of the wide array of truss designs available.

Custom trusses adorn this Durango mountain home by Buena Vista Builders
This combination of steel and wood bring a balance of traditional and modern to this custom Durango mountain home.

Simple Trusses

The simplest design, the King Post Truss, consists of one vertical center post with a triangle off each side. Great for smaller homes, as its reach is more limited than other trusses, the clean design of this truss provides an open, elegant feel. Adding two additional beams gives you the Queen Post Truss with slightly more form while maintaining that simple elegance. The Modified Queen Post Truss, Howe Truss, and Double Howe Truss are all based off the original center post design of the King Post Truss with their own unique arrangements of beams of triangles. The Howe Truss is particularly strong and able to span a great distance, anywhere from 6 – 30 meters.

The Fink Truss the Double Fink Truss and Fan Truss maintain the clean lines that the King Post Truss and its variants offer while abandoning the center post design which then lends an open, airy feel to the design.

Arched Trusses

The Bowstring Truss and Gambrel Truss allow the possibility of an arched roof while still benefiting from the aesthetic and strength of trusses. A vertical center beam provides the apex height in both of the designs with additional support beams to either side as they descend.

Single Slope

Truss designs for single sloped or flat roofs can be achieved in a few different ways. You could choose a structure of parallel beams joined and supported by a series of triangles, such as in the Flat Truss and Sloping Flat Truss designs. Other triangle based options include a right triangle that utilizes the descending side as the roof, as in the Monopitch Truss or an obtuse triangle like the Inverted Truss.

Extended Length Trusses

For those projects in which you need an extra-large open space, there are truss designs that can handle huge spans starting around 20 meters to those necessary for auditoriums and other huge buildings. North Light Roof Trusses will get you all the strength you need for those 20 – 30-meter projects, while those behemoth spaces can be accommodated by Quadrangle Roof Trusses.

There are many additional options in truss designs that you may find suitable to the space you envision in your custom home. Hopefully, this list has given you an idea of just how versatile trusses can be in a home and further inspire you to find just the right look and feel for you.

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6 Custom Kitchen Ideas

We know that you can plan an extraordinary master bedroom, an elegant living room, and a welcoming outdoor space, but for most people the soul of their home is in their kitchen. Of course, choosing beautiful appliances that fit your needs will be a big part of your finished custom kitchen, but there are plenty of other ways you can make a unique statement in your kitchen that fits your style. Below, we’ve outlined some of the latest, trending custom kitchen ideas and designs so that you can start picking out the

  • Open It Up

If you love to entertain you likely hate when you have to leave the fun of the moment to work on something in the kitchen. With an open kitchen design, you can put the last touches on your signature dish or pour a fresh round of drinks without missing out on any conversation. A bar or an island is a great way to maintain the definition of kitchen space from dining and entertaining spaces while allowing for an easy flow of conversation and adding bonus counter/storage space. Also, if you have young children you know how valuable it is to be able to work on dinner without having to leave the kitchen every time you hear a suspicious noise.

The gorgeous beams and pendant lights add more space to this custom kitchen.
  • Shelving

Everyone knows that cabinets can make or break the style and feel of a kitchen, but to really set your kitchen apart consider ditching the cabinets. Wrap-around shelving can bring a fun bohemian feel to your kitchen and allows you to show off all of the styles of your glassware and dish sets. Couple the open shelves with below counter cabinets to store appliances and other unsightly objects.

  • Counters, Backsplash, Flooring

There are nearly endless options to choose from when deciding on what types of counters, flooring, and backsplashes to put in your kitchen. Your personal style will be the biggest deciding factor in which color and textures will work best. Although nowhere else is it more important that style does not take priority over function than in the kitchen; it’s important to choose durable surfaces that are easy to clean and won’t easily stain. Luckily, there are so many options out there that you should have no issue in finding materials that are both reliable and great looking.

  • Lighting, Fixtures, and Hardware

Whether your style is elegant, bold, abstract or anything in between it’s the little touches that will bring the look of your kitchen together. Introduce a touch of fun to a kitchen in which you chose an overall subdued design, or, in a kitchen of sleek design, round things out with your choices of lighting, fixtures, and hardware.

When it comes to lighting, you truly can’t have too much. Natural light is a must, but having plenty of options for artificial light is going to be so important as you cook into the night. Consider hidden under cabinet lights to not only assist in prep but to bring a clean, dramatic accent to your kitchen.

  • Walk-in Pantry

Keeping things organized is important in a kitchen. What better way to have the room you need to keep your pantry organized than to create a dedicated walk-in space? No more digging through cabinets or dancing on tip-toes to find the one item you know you have, but isn’t in immediate view.

Optimize your space by having your walk-in pantry act as just another place to get more prepwork done.
If you’re limited in space or have a smaller kitchen you’re remodeling, make your walk-in pantry a little shallower.
Barn doors can add that rustic charm and make your pantry more of a feature, than just storage.
  • Built-in Wine Storage

If you love wine and always keep a few bottles on hand why not graduate from your standard wine stand to built-in wine storage as you plan your home? Whether a custom built-in wine rack fits your needs or the control of a climate cabinet is in your plans, you can keep your favorite wine easily and stylishly within reach. Some really clever ideas:

Custom built wine storage that can also double as pantry storage.
Creating a separate space above your bar just for wine and wine glasses – that’s something we can get behind!
Working with a small space? Get creative with unique wine storage solutions!

Outside of the usual ample storage and counter space that is a must in any custom kitchen design, there are countless ways in which you can bring your own style and flair to your kitchen. These suggestions are just a few options available to you for making the center of your home as unique as you are. Make sure that when you are thinking about designing your own custom kitchen – whether during a remodel or a custom home build – you enlist the help of professionals to help you make the most of your layout.

 

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Creating a Dynamic Outdoor Living Space

When you live in as beautiful a place as Durango and its surrounding areas you want to take full advantage of what nature has to offer. So, you’ve planned and built a gorgeous custom home that embraces the views of your property, but you’re still experiencing only half of what your space has to offer. To truly embrace your surroundings you’ll want to create an outdoor living space that will pull you and your family into the sunshine and open air. Spending more time outside is easy once you’ve created a welcoming outdoor area that speaks to your lifestyle.

Decks & Patios

Building an outdoor area that you won’t want to leave begins with designating a space. Some of the best ways to define and create a sense of purpose in an outdoor living space is to build a deck or patio that will serve the dual purpose of establishing an area dedicated to relaxing or entertaining outside and creating a space that will invite people out.

Think about what you want to get from your outdoor space. While decks can provide gorgeous open views and are a wonderful solution to building on uneven or steep terrain, a patio really nestles you into your surroundings and can produce a comfy environment. Depending on the feel you’re envisioning for this space, you may be drawn to one of these options over the other as the base for your outdoor living space. For the best of both worlds, and if you have the space, consider building a deck that leads down to an intimate patio area.

Dynamic outdoor space helps you enjoy the most of your beautiful views!

Pergolas, Verandas & Arbors

Once you have your outdoor area designated with a deck or patio it’s time to think about whether you’d like to add a shade element to this space. We know that the Durango sun can become pretty intense during the height of summer, but don’t exclude those blazing days from your outdoor time. An umbrella or awning, while effective, can be very limited in the amount of shaded space that they actually provide. Depending on what balance of shade to openness you want, building independent or attached structures, like pergolas, verandas, and arbors, will provide stylish shade that can be built to whatever size you wish. Planting climbing flowers or other vegetation near these structures will not only add a beautiful element to that area but also provide additional natural shade.

Original materials can really enhance any home addition.

Outdoor Kitchen

Maximize your outdoor time by creating the opportunity to perform traditionally indoor tasks outside. No need to be stuck in your kitchen while the party hums along on the patio. By building an outdoor kitchen you give yourself the option of staying where the action is as you prepare the meal. Even if it’s just you and your partner making a simple lunch being able to cook outside is a luxury you won’t regret.

Covered outdoor kitchens can help bring the party outdoors even when it’s snowing!

An outdoor kitchen space can be as simple or as advanced as you desire. A grill and some counter space could be the extent of your setup, or you could go as far as building an area with its own oven/stove top, refrigerator, sink, and bar. Love pizza? Add a wood burning pizza oven. The limit is truly your own imagination when it comes to designing the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.

Take your outdoor kitchen area to the next level by building raised garden beds around the perimeter of your entertaining space. Pick your own vegetables and herbs and add them straight to your dishes without ever having to enter the house. Raised beds will also help to define and stylize the edges of your space to create a cohesive feel.

Picking fresh herbs straight from your garden in your outdoor kitchen makes every meal special.

Lighting

Half the fun of an outdoor space lies in taking full advantage of those warm summer evenings. While it is awe inspiring to spend those nights star gazing and watching excitedly for falling stars from your backyard, you’ll still want the option of having that area well-lit for entertaining. Electric lights are an easy and reliable option that can add a dazzling design element of their own but consider also using lanterns or torches to accentuate a cozy atmosphere.

Outdoor lights serve a both practical and decorative purpose. Such things as incorporating LED lighting into vegetation to add an edge of magic or placing lights in such a way that they also provide accent lighting to show off the architecture of your house can add an element of modern design and utility in your outdoor space.

Outdoor Fireplaces or Fire Pits

Add an element of fun to your outdoor area by bringing fire into the mix. An outdoor fireplace or fire pit can add an exciting focal point to a design and create an area towards which people will naturally gravitate. After a jovial dinner, as people begin to rise from the table and stretch their legs, they’ll be ready to move to a new area in which to congregate and socialize. A welcoming fire offers a setting that can be both casual and intimate where friends can gather and keep moods bright as the sky darkens. Additionally, adding fire to your outdoor area opens up the option of spending more time relaxing and entertaining outside during winter months.

Watch gorgeous mountain sunsets in the summer from an outdoor fireplace.

Water Features

Whether you live by the river or are tucked away from any natural water source, adding a water feature to your outdoor space is a wonderful idea. A trickling rock waterfall or a koi pond can lend an additional dimension of relaxation and tranquility to any area. You might even consider the combination of a water feature and a fire area to either contrast or complement each other in an outdoor space.

Privacy

Once you’ve planned and built your optimum outdoor living area you’re all set to kick back and enjoy the beautiful Durango weather. Something that can put a quick damper on your joyful situation is the thought of surrounding neighbors or passers-by peeking into your space. You’ll want to plan some form of privacy barrier to keep those curious eyes from wandering too far in your direction.

Of course, a fence is always an option but may detract from the open, natural environment you’re trying to create. Look towards vegetation as a solution. Strategically planted trees, or those climbing flowers that may be growing on your pergola, will block unwanted attention while maintaining the atmosphere of natural beauty that you’ve worked so hard to create. Use your imagination in regards to elements you were already planning in order to create privacy. Those raised garden beds that you may have been considering, the waterfall feature you’ve been planning for, any number of things could easily be planned to stand between your intimate space and that beyond.

In the end, the most important aspect to any outdoor area is that it must reflect you and how you like to interact with the outdoors. Whether you’re looking for more stimulation or relaxation in your outdoor living space, how you wish to realize that is up to you. Combine elements that speak most to your sensibilities to create a dynamic atmosphere and a versatile space that will make you never want to go inside again!

 

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Embracing Natural Light in Custom Homes

We live in such a bright and beautiful place. Durango typically has around 300 sunny days per year, so taking advantage of all that natural light is a must when planning your custom built home. There are numerous things to consider when planning to fully embrace all of that natural light. Luckily, when you’re building your home from the ground up you can take every step available to you in order to bring in the rays.

Naturally, when living in this sun-filled environment solar panels are a wonderful option for converting the power of light into energy in our homes. But, you can go beyond solar panels in the planning of your home to take full advantage of what the sun has to offer. You can utilize direct sunlight in a plethora of ways in your custom home to create a bright, warm and energy efficient environment.

When you begin to consider how to best incorporate sunlight into your custom home your mind will likely jump first to windows. Indeed, windows will be the primary means by which you’ll be bringing all of that sun into your home, but in order to maximize the effectiveness of those windows, there are things one should take into consideration in the early planning stages.

When deciding on room placement while planning your home be sure to consider what type of light you’d like each room to receive and how to achieve this. One of the easiest and earliest ways to plan for this is to visualize which direction they’ll be facing once the house is built.

Most people are familiar with the versatility and effectiveness of south-facing windows. Allowing the most winter light, when we rely more heavily on passive solar heat, but limiting direct sun in summer when less heating is desirable, south-facing windows are a great choice for rooms that make up the majority of your living area. These larger rooms, such as your living room and kitchen, will allow the winter heat to disperse throughout the house and are likely to be the areas in which you will spend the greatest amount of your waking time.

On the other end of the spectrum, north-facing windows will receive even, filtered, natural light year round without getting much direct sunlight. Rooms that might work best with north-facing windows are rooms in which you don’t spend a predominate amount of time. Laundry rooms, craft rooms, and bathrooms are not as high of a priority when it comes to heating, but will still benefit from the gentle light that your northern windows will provide.

When it comes to deciding which wall to put bedrooms on you must first consider the habits of the people who will be sleeping in those rooms. For an early riser, east-facing windows will likely be a desirable feature. East-facing windows will bring in the most morning sun to greet the early risers in your family. For this same reason, an east-facing window would be a challenge for someone who likes to sleep in.

Dining rooms and breakfast nooks are natural choices for east-facing windows; start your day with coffee and breakfast as you soak in that soft morning sun. On the opposite side of the house, you can count on strong evening light through your west-facing windows. If you’re fond of watching television at the end of your day keeping your entertainment room on the opposite side of the house is advisable as this direct sunlight will keep any west-facing room full of robust light until the sun dips away.

Creating an open concept design is another great way to welcome as much light as possible into your custom home. The smooth transition from room to room will assist the flow of light into areas of your house that don’t have windows of their own. Try to position interior rooms, those that will not have their own access to windows, in such a way that they will benefit from the free flow of sunlight. You can keep your future home aglow with a little forethought in the planning process.

You may think that once the sun slips behind the mountains you can no longer rely on the heating power of the sun. But, a thermal mass is yet another great way to fully utilize the sun’s heat. A thermal mass can take many forms with the defining characteristic being that it can absorb a great amount of heat throughout the day and slowly release this warmth back into its surrounding environment once the source of heat is gone. Think of leaning against a brick wall once the sun has gone down and feeling all the warmth that is still trapped in the bricks. In summer, a thermal mass should be shaded from the sun so that the heat it absorbs throughout the day will be drawn from the inside of your house and actually assist in keeping your interior cooler. If exposed brick walls don’t fit into your vision for your custom home consider other options that will serve as a thermal mass. Adobe or concrete walls, a large stone fireplace, or dark tiles or a concrete slab for flooring can all effectively collect and hold warmth throughout the day and generously release it back into the air at night.

With all this work done to bring the light and warmth inside you won’t want to neglect planning for the depths of summer when all of that light and heat becomes less desirable. That same passive solar effect that helps to keep you comfortably warm in winter can also turn your house into a sauna in the summer months. Something as simple as an overhang from your roof can make a great deal of difference in modulating the temperature inside your house. An overhang of the right length should drop low enough to provide shade for your windows in summer, but still allow the low-hanging winter sun to reach into your home. This little bit of strategic shade can make all the difference in keeping a cool house in summer and a cozy one in the winter months.

Planting vegetation around your custom home can add not only a desirable verdant touch of nature but provide additional shading when it’s needed. Deciduous trees, those that grow leaves in spring and lose them in fall, provide natural shade that automatically adjusts to the amount of coverage you need. Those summer leaves provide ample shade, but still allow a soft glow of filtered brightness. In the winter, when those leaves are shed, the bare branches allow light to pass through unimpeded. Large deciduous trees can also shade parts of your roof, thereby helping to keep your attic from getting overly warm and allowing heat to spread into your house from those areas.

Once the planning is done and your beautiful custom home is built there are still further ways to maximize the effect of natural light in your home. Consider the materials that you are using to decorate and accent your design. Large white or light surfaces will reflect light and will make a room appear larger. You can contrast these bright colors with darker, dense materials intended to absorb solar heat (once again tapping into that thermal mass effect). Plan to use these warmer colors on surfaces such as floors or cabinets that will naturally be in more direct contact with the sunlight.

Energy efficient shades or blinds can both serve a practical effect in helping to modulate the temperature in your home throughout the year, but also be an appealing aspect of your interior design. In winter, closing your shades after the sun goes down helps to hold the heat in while the icy winds blow outside. And, of course, in summer months when shades are drawn, they will assist in keeping the sun and heat from permeating into your cool interior. Choosing energy efficient versions of the shades you love will increase these effects to maximize your control over the temperature in your home. Honeycomb or cellular shades can be effective insulators and are often the “go-to” for many homeowners looking for energy efficient window covers. While these are a great option, don’t feel as if these are your only route for efficiency. Many other types of blinds and shades, from plantation-style to drapes, can be duly efficient. Looks for materials that will be able to trap air or have an additional lining that will lend an insulating aspect to the window coverage. For further efficiency and versatility consider combining or layering different styles of window coverings.

All of this sun that we are so lucky to live in is one of the best free resources that we have access to in Durango. It only makes sense to take full advantage of this when you are planning and building your custom home. With some careful consideration towards where and how you will be building and what materials you choose to use you stand to keep yourself in happy balance with the sun for years to come!

 

 

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