Ask a Designer: Indoor, outdoor upgrades

Courtesy of Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens
As the shelter-in-place orders continue, some homeowners may consider creating a nicer outdoor living space and kitchen.

Q: A leak was just discovered behind a wall in our shower. We’ll have to remove the tile to repair it. What are some of the newer options for people who are remodeling a shower?

A: There are more choices to improve a shower experience these days than ever before, including showers with curbless entry, horizontal body sprays, rain showerheads, chroma light sensory therapy and music from wireless speakers. Showerhead technology has improved to allow a low-flow showerhead to feel like there is enough spray pressure to rinse out shampoo in a reasonable amount of time.

When remodeling a shower, consider a rain showerhead, which can be mounted on the ceiling with a stem, or on a long arm from the wall. There are round and square heads, standard and oversized, and a variety of finishes. If you want to keep a shower simple with one head, consider mounting it on an adjustable bar, connected to a hose. The adjustable setup accommodates most people’s height, and the showerhead can be taken off the bar to clean a dog or clean the shower itself.

Linear drain systems eliminate the use of a traditional center drain, allowing for the floor surface to be pitched in one direction. This makes it a lot easier to design with nearly any tile size or slab material to make the shower layout clean and elegant. A linear drain offers advantages over the traditional center drain, where the floor must slope in four directions to properly drain the water.

Niches and benches can be built in for keeping personal items neat and easy to reach. Benches also serve multiple purposes and are helpful, along with grab bars, for shower safety.

The materials choices abound for showers – ranging from large-format porcelain tiles to solid surface, natural stone and porcelain slabs. There are also glass, stone, metal and ceramic tiles. Wet-listed LED lighting should be included in every shower remodel. One trick I like to use is to install outdoor light fixtures on the ceiling or wall of a shower.

The beauty of designing a new shower today is that it can be customized to suit virtually any functional requirement and aesthetic desire.

Q: With the continuation of the shelter-in-place orders, we have decided to create a nicer living space outside, along with an outdoor kitchen. What are interesting design ideas for outdoor entertaining, and what are some of the newer outdoor appliances we should be considering?

A: In 2020 and beyond, outdoor living and entertaining will be different for each family and outdoor space. However, the overall approach should be the same – extend indoor living activities outdoors wherever possible. There are few rules, other than ensuring ease of use and protection from outdoor elements.

Outdoor spaces have taken a cue from indoor great rooms. A variety of elements can make these spaces as sweet as any luxurious hotel. There are outdoor televisions that can be installed next to a pool, wood-fired pizza ovens that reach 900 degrees, beer taps, outdoor dishwashers, outdoor wine refrigerators and all manner of daybeds. The list goes on.

One of the more recent introductions for outdoor kitchens is powder-coated steel cabinets, which are similar to the look and function of indoor kitchen cabinets.
Door styles vary from simple, modern slab doors to Shaker frame style, beadboard designs, baked-on-wood grain patterns and even patterns matching the latest in Dekton countertop material patterns so that the counters and cabinets have a monolithic appearance. This is a very modern aesthetic – perfect for clean architectural building styles.

Countertop materials are always a consideration. While natural stone such as granite has been used for many years, it is porous – meaning somewhat absorptive, even when sealed – and therefore takes some work to maintain. An improved counter material choice for ease of maintenance over natural stone is a sintered particle surface material, such as Dekton or Neolith. It is a nearly perfect choice for outdoor counters because it is not absorptive and there are no chemical binders, which react with high-heat pots and pans and result in a scorched surface. Wine or vinegar cannot etch into a sintered particle surface. These materials are all solids, so they don’t discolor and are also extremely resistant to scratching.

In a new outdoor kitchen, it is easy to grill, roast, smoke and saute – all while putting on a show. App-driven outdoor fans and beautifully designed outdoor LED lights illuminate all night long. As live sporting events return, the bartending station can be ready to go with icemaker, chilled and filtered carbonated water, beer and wine taps and glass-door beverage refrigerators, all in full view of multiple screens and layered audio. Heaters or misters keep the comfort levels in check.

Seating areas can be both comfortable and luxurious, featuring outdoor area rugs and endless sizes and shapes of fire pits, fire tables and fire pylons. From a lounge in the shallow end of the pool to covered modular daybeds, one can have his or her sculpture and furniture all in one design.

Sherry Scott is the owner of Sherry Scott Design at 169 Main St., Los Altos; a Certified Interior Designer in California; and a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers. To submit questions, email [email protected]

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