8 Delectable Backyards Designed for Outdoor Dining and Entertaining

realtor.com

We’ve spoken at length about the joys of having a functional outdoor living space for your home. For those who enjoy entertaining, a backyard that accommodates guests for a dinner party is nonnegotiable.

Some backyards are ideal for hosting and toasting, but what features are mouthwatering must-haves for dining al fresco? Plenty of space, warm lighting, and a gorgeous view are all big assets for making a backyard a delicious destination. But the most important feature? A large table where guests can gather and enjoy each others’ company.

To savor these fleeting days of summer, we rounded up eight luxury backyards tailor-made to entertain dinner guests. The following assortment of properties offer the crème de la crème of outdoor dining—all slightly out of our price range, but inspirational nonetheless. We promise you’ll eat them right up.

319/322 North Atlantic Drive, Lantana, FL

Price: $19,900,000
Tasty tidbit: The Florida coast is full of luxe estates boasting beautiful backyards, but this one caught our eye because of the open outdoor kitchen and dining area, with a front-row seat for the sunsets. The massive 18,000-square-foot property is located on the decadent-sounding Hypoluxo Island.

This private estate on Hypoluxo Island gives you front-row seats for the sunset. l realtor.com

2460 Sage Canyon Rd, Saint Helena, CA

Price: $7,999,000
Tasty tidbit: This Napa Valley estate belongs to Pat Kuleto, one of the world’s most innovative restaurant designers. He’s had a hand in shaping more than 150 restaurants, so this backyard could possibly be the most ideal setting for hosting a dinner party.

If this estate meets the standards of the designer and restaurateur Pat Kuleto, you know it’s going to be great for entertaining. l realtor.com

421 Broome St Penthouse, New York, NY

Price: $65,000,000
Tasty tidbit: New York City and outdoor space don’t always go hand in hand, but this terrific terrace proves you can have it all. In total, the four-story penthouse in the heart of SoHo has 3,700 square feet of private exterior, along with skyline views that will (hopefully) justify that astronomical price tag.

A SoHo loft with a view of the NYC skyline l realtor.com

250 Enchanted Way, Sedona, AZ

Price: $12,500,000
Tasty tidbit: This 10-acre desert estate—called Vista Rossa—boasts jaw-dropping views of the Red Rock mountains. Built right next to the Coconino National Forest, it would be perfect for hosting guests year-round, thanks to Arizona’s arid climate.

Vista Rossa is cradled in the Red Rock mountains of Sedona. l realtor.com

8170 Laurel View Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90069

Price: $11,950,000
Tasty tidbit: This backyard is one of the most charming we spotted—thanks to the sheltering greenery and the twinkly string lights that form a whimsical canopy above the dining area. This home in the Hollywood hills is quite large, with a 7,000-square-foot interior and nearly half an acre of outdoor space. Props for the extra bench seating for less formal dinner affairs.

The ultimate private backyard dining experience in the c l realtor.com

403 Doyle Dr, Lafayette, LA

Price: $1,875,000
Tasty tidbit: This rustic, French-style outdoor living space gives off vibes of Provence, but it’s actually part of a (relatively) modestly priced Louisiana home. The rest of the house is beautiful, but the spacious dining area is clearly the star of this home.

A French Provençal-style garden lends itself well to owners who love to cook and entertain. l realtor.com

8415 SW Soper Road, Vashon, WA

Price: $14,995,000
Tasty tidbit: Situated on the largest island in Puget Sound, this seaside chateau is just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. Judging by the home’s close proximity to the water and its breathtaking views, it was clearly designed with outdoor entertaining in mind.

On Vashon Island, you can have a waterfront dining experience right in your own backyard. l realtor.com

1301 Bella Oaks Ln, Rutherford, CA 94558

Price: $6,950,000
Tasty tidbit: Imagine enjoying a superlative meal—with world-class wine—right in the middle of a vineyard. We wouldn’t expect anything less from a luxury home in Napa Valley! You can see the picturesque backyard dining area under the vine-covered pergola on the right in the photo below.

Could there be anything more “Napa Valley” than enjoying a meal surrounded by vineyards? l realtor.com

 

Posted by Natalie Way on realtor.com

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9 Pools That Will Make You Wish Every Week Were Shark Week

Bust out your swim fins and sunblock. It’s time to take a dip.

We’re all bummed that Michael Phelps didn’t race a real shark. Instead of heading to the beach, we’ll console ourselves during the non-viewing hours of Shark Week by splashing around somewhere we know it’s safe to go in the water: a cool and refreshing backyard pool.

Check out these nine gorgeous swimming pools — any of which would be perfect for reenacting your favorite scenes from “Jaws,” “Deep Blue Sea,” or even “Sharknado.”

This San Juan Capistrano, CA pool, complete with diving board and slide, appears as though it were naturally formed into the stone.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Sleek and modern with clean lines, this pool looks like the perfect place for a romantic midnight swim.

Photo courtesy of Sprecht Architects.

The high temperatures of Palm Springs, CA are no match for this ultra-stylish pool with a water feature and views of the mountains.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Surrounded by beautiful stonework, this pool in Malibu, CA has more than enough room to host friends and family for a summer pool party.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Seamlessly blending into its tropical surroundings, this infinity pool in Longboat Key, FL offers a luxurious place to relax at the end of a long day.

Photo from Zillow listing.

In Kiawah Island, SC, the natural surroundings create a lush background for doing a few laps on those hot summer days.

Photo from Zillow listing.

This Santa Rosa Beach, FL pool boasts its own built-in hot tub for ultimate relaxation.

Photo from Zillow listing.

What could be better than your own lagoon complete with slide and waterfall? This pool in Vero Beach, FL has it all.

Photo from Zillow listing.

With a classic shape and design, this Seattle, WA pool provides plenty of space to soak in the summer sun.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Posted by Jamie Birdwell Branson on Zillow

Tips for Watering Lawn in Summer

Watering the lawn efficiently and appropriately involves more than simply watering every day.

When the weather is hot, how can you tell if your lawn and garden are getting enough water?

First, it’s not necessary to water lawns and plants every day. As a general rule, more plants are killed through over-watering than under-watering.

Second, understand the properties of the soil in your area. Water penetrates and behaves differently in differing types of soil — e.g., sandy or loose soil vs. clay. Check with your local nursery for watering tips for your local area. Set up a system that allows effective watering with penetration of 6″ to 8″ below the ground surface.

The basic fact is that you’ll need to find out how deeply the water is penetrating into the soil. To do that, all that’s needed is a shovel. Pick an inconspicuous spot where you’ve been irrigating. About 30 minutes after watering, dig a small hole and use your hand to check how deeply the water has penetrated. In most lawn and garden situations, it’s best if water is penetrating 6″ to 8″ beneath the surface of the soil.

Check several locations to see if irrigation is even throughout the yard. If there are dry spots, you may need to modify your irrigation techniques.

Watering systems are not always uniform in how they disperse water. Even if you water regularly, you may find that there are wet spots and dry spots around your yard. To check whether your watering system is working evenly across your yard, here’s a trick you can use to test it. Take some plastic cups and place them around your yard before you water. You can place a few coins in the bottoms of the cups to prevent them from blowing over.

Once the cups are placed, turn on your sprinkler system. Water will collect in the cups as you water.

After watering for about 30 minutes, compare the level of water in each of the cups. You may discover that there is more water in some of the cups than in others. Frequently, areas within close proximity to the sprinkler receive less water than areas several yards away. You may need to check the directions that come with your sprinkler to make it apply water more uniformly.

For watering shrubs and beds, there are techniques and tools that are more effective than ordinary lawn sprinklers. Dripper systems use a hose attached to a faucet and timer. Small holes are placed at appropriate locations along the length of a polyethylene hose. Tiny adapters are inserted into the holes to allow small 1/4-inch hose branches to be installed along the length of the hose. Water emitters of various types are attached at the ends of the smaller branches.

Water emitters — such as small spray-heads — can be placed strategically beneath individual plants to deliver water exactly where it’s most needed.

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Another useful tool is the soaker-hose system. Like the dripper system, the soaker system uses a timer and a main hose to which smaller branches are attached. In this case, the smaller hoses are manufactured with “weeping pores” that allow water to soak out all along their length. Once the porous branches are attached to the main hose, and placed strategically at the bases and root systems of plants, the water is turned on. The soaker hose allows moisture to soak gently into the soil.

Find this and more landscaping tips on www.diynetwork.com

Curb Appeal: What It Really Is, and Why It Matters

A great-looking yard and exterior help attract potential buyers, but today’s sellers need to take it a step further.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Let’s face it, first impressions matter. We care about how we dress for a job interview, and we spend extra time in front of the mirror before that first date. When it comes to selling a home, first impressions matter, too.

The term “curb appeal” derives from real estate sales and home design. For years, buyers have formed their first impressions of homes while standing in the street or sitting inside the car, just beyond the curb. Before the advent of text messaging and smartphones, a buyer would get a phone call or fax from their agent about a new listing. The initial drive-by would determine whether or not they would go for an actual showing.

To get that buyer in the door, the seller spent hours, even days, seeding new grass and planting flowers, painting their front door, mulching, weeding and cleaning up the yard. If the home didn’t appeal from the curb, buyers moved on to the next house. Curb appeal was always the single most important piece of the home sale puzzle.

Expanded appeal

Today, curb appeal still matters — but it matters differently. Almost every buyer forms their first impression from a home’s online photos.

Instead of driving to your home, buyers will scroll through pictures of both the outside and the inside, before ever stepping foot inside. What’s more, they may never come to see it if they don’t like what they see online.

While the exterior of your home should be high on your priority list, it is most valuable only when the buyer walks up or drives by. But they may not ever get that far.

The interior also needs to show your home in its best possible light, because Web appeal has become the new curb appeal. And if your home doesn’t photograph well — either because you didn’t have it professionally shot, didn’t post high-resolution photos, or you haven’t taken the time to prep it — then curb appeal won’t even make a difference.

What sellers should do

Sellers need to spend ample time preparing the inside of their home and getting great photos, so buyers will form the best possible impression.

The downside for sellers is that they have to work so much harder than they did just 15 years ago. In our ever-more-visual society, buyers make immediate judgments about a home within moments of clicking on the new listing on their smartphone.

Sellers only have one chance to make a good impression. The home still needs to look good from the curb — but to get the buyers there in person, it needs to look great on the Web.

Posted by Brendan Desimone on Zillow

6 Fall Gardening Tips You Need to Read

If you thought spring was the only time to plant and indulge in some gardening, you’ve come to the right place! There’s no need to worry about your garden turning dull and lifeless as fall approaches as there’s a lot you can grow depending on where you stay.

Even if you don’t want to grow plants in the cold months, preparing your garden for next spring will be helpful in more ways than one.

Here are some great fall gardening tips you’ll find helpful.

Clean up the Place

Start with clearing the ground of fallen leaves and twigs. Remember to save the leaves to make compost. Pick up fallen flowers and fruits, and dispose diseased or infested plantsappropriately after uprooting.

Check the ground carefully for weeds and get rid of them. Some perennial weeds can be killed more easily with fall weedicides than with summer applications.

Don’t Uproot it All

While you may want to uproot annuals that flower in summer, leave a few of them untouched. Certain annuals and perennials like ornamental grasses, tall sedums, and Russian sage will add interest to your fall and winter garden.

Store Bulbs and Seeds

If you had planted some great annuals in the summer, you can store the bulbs and seeds for next spring. For bulbs, let root structures dry out for a few days after you dig them up. Shake off excess soil and store in a cool, dark place in sawdust or peat moss. Seeds of open-pollinated plants can be stored in paper envelopes placed inside glass jars indoors.

Freshen up the Soil

Freshening up the soil will help your fall plants grow to their full potential. Further, by growing plants that can replete the soil with nutrients, you’ll be doing your future spring plants a favor.

Move the existing layer of mulch to one side. Compacted soil can hinder root growth so use a garden fork and fluff up the ground. You may want to test the pH of the soil at this stage and make amendments as needed.

Once you’re done, see if the old mulch can be reused; you might have to add in fresh organic matter if the mulch has decomposed considerably.

Shred the dead leaves you picked up while clearing your garden and spread them over the ground. Shredding leaves is important as whole leaves will form a mat and prevent water from flowing through the soil. Wet the shredded leaves down or cover with a light dusting of compost to stop them from blowing away.

If you’re planning to grow fall vegetables in your garden, use straw as mulch. This will help as you can easily scatter and move straw about. Moreover, it will provide an excellent home for spiders who will help keep pests away.

Take Care of Green Cover

Grass will turn green again after the blistering-hot summer and will grow vigorously next spring if you fertilize it while it’s still green. Refrain from mowing it too short, and continue to aerate and water it until it turns brown. If snow cover is scant where you live, you can water your lawn once a month throughout the winter.

Synthetic grass won’t require as much care and maintenance. However, continue caring for your synthetic turf as you normally do to keep it looking lush and natural.

Choose Fall Plants Wisely

Before you start planting fall varieties, identify your fall gardening goals. Do you want to grow plants of a particular color or texture, or do you want to fill in blank spots created by dead warm-weather plants?

Decide on a fall garden plan and remember to stick to established gardening guidelines to ensure your garden looks as pretty as it does in the warmer months.

When it comes to selecting plants, note that depending on where you live, you can grow several plants and vegetables in your garden in fall and winter. Try growing vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and chard, and you’ll fall in love with the taste of home-grown produce! Do plant some quick growers like radishes and spinach- these can go from seed to table in a month or so.

To add color, you can grow ornamental grasses or succulents. Trees that show fall colors will also be a great addition to your garden.

Conclusion

Gardening in fall allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature season after season. With fewer pests to deal with, your fall plants are sure to grow better. And when you plant perennials in fall and winter, you can relax knowing that they’ll grow bigger by spring and be better adapted to brave the hot summer!

Now that you’ve read these tips, you know that fall gardening isn’t tough at all. With just a little care, you’ll have a beautiful garden to look at even in the cold months.

Happy gardening!

Posted by Francesca Holmes on HomeZada

6 Pets You Never Knew You Could Have in Your Home

Patrick Heagney/iStock

Patrick Heagney/iStock

Backyard chickens—old news. Goldfish—boring. How about pot-bellied pigs? Sugar gliders? Hedgehogs? Exotic-pet owners will attest that despite the obvious contradiction, there’s nothing like communing with wildlife within the confines of your own home.

What’s up with domesticating these unusual pets? Well, people find them “fun, cute, cool, unusual or trendy,” says Laurie Hess, owner and director of the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, NY.

Laws can be wildly different

Depending on where you live, the definition of “exotic” varies widely and wildly. Laws governing exotic pets are anything but consistent.
Good luck figuring it all out. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each has its own list of exotic animals that it says are safe to keep as pets. Eighteen states ban exotic animals as pets. Born Free USA lists the regulations for each state.

We’ve hunted down six out-of-the-ordinary pets for you to adopt. Before you head over to Etsy for a custom-engraved, blinged-out animal collar to outfit your exotic new best friend, make note of these crucial details:

Hedgehogs

The hedgehog may seem prickly, but it’s just shy. eve_eve01genesis/iStock

The hedgehog may seem prickly, but it’s just shy.
eve_eve01genesis/iStock

If you happen to know a hedgehog personally, you know it’s a new thing to keep them as pets. Previously, these little fellows lived wild in the African continent. Like porcupines, they are covered in quills to protect themselves from predators. Hedgehogs are generally shy and skittish. When threatened, they will curl into a tight, prickly ball. You’ll have to channel your inner hedgehog whisperer if you ever want them to be comfortable enough to relax and uncurl. Also, as nocturnal animals, they are great for insomniacs.

Sugar gliders

Watch out, the sugar glider can fly! Well, it glides, at least. karlbarrett/iStock

Watch out, the sugar glider can fly! Well, it glides, at least.
karlbarrett/iStock

Turns out animals that look like flying squirrels can be domesticated too. Known as sugar gliders, these are marsupials hailing from Australia and New Guinea who sail and glide as their mode of transport. Sugar gliders are needy ones who bond closely with their owners. But they won’t be down for nighttime cuddles, since they’re nocturnal.

Ferrets

Who’s a tired ferret? Adyafoto/iStock

Who’s a tired ferret?
Adyafoto/iStock

Ferrets are small, furry mammals that are a lot like cats and dogs. Ferret care requires a lot of time and commitment—they need four hours of activity out of their cage every day.

Chinchillas

Chinchillas have quite the personality, but not all have this artistic flair. Chris Brignell/iStock

Chinchillas have quite the personality, but not all have this artistic flair.
Chris Brignell/iStock

Although the charming chinchilla is a nocturnal rodent, its perky personality is relatively easy to train with treats. Chinchillas, however, are not for children. “[Chinchillas] are small and fragile,” says veterinarian Ron Hines in Texas. “If they are squeezed too tight, they will bite.” Chinchillas are prone to arthritis, so keep yours active and with a solid-bottom cage.

Dragons—that is, bearded dragons

Believe it or not, bearded dragons are great for first-time pet owners. lmboyce/iStock

Believe it or not, bearded dragons are great for first-time pet owners.
lmboyce/iStock

Iguanas, chameleons, and geckos are popular lizards to domesticate. PetSmart says bearded dragons are great for beginner pet owners, because they are “gentle in nature, so they will learn to enjoy interacting with their pet parents.” Several websites also list them as being “classroom-friendly.”

The big care detail for lizards is sufficient UVB lighting so their little bodies maintain the right temperature. Oh, and lizards eat live crickets, so these guys aren’t for the squeamish.

Pigs

When it comes to pigs, the punier the better! Byrdyak/iStock

When it comes to pigs, the punier the better!
Byrdyak/iStock

There’s a plethora of puny pigs that can be purchased as pets—pot-bellied are the largest. Since you’ll probably keep your pig outdoors, you’ll need a large pen with insulated housing to avoid temperature extremes. Indoor pigs can be trained to use a litter pan. Designate a room where the animal can be left unsupervised. In the wild, pigs spend their days foraging and rooting for food, so scheduled exercise time is paramount.

Don’t take just anyone’s advice—ask an expert

Exotic animals have more intricate care and feeding requirements than cats and dogs.

“Don’t ask a pet store about medical care,” Hess says. “Exotic pets have very specific care requirements and will stay healthy and be less expensive to care for if you see a trained veterinarian for their care.”

Your town may not have a qualified vet, so check the websites of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, Association of Exotic Mammal VeterinariansAmerican Board of Veterinary Practitioners, and the American College of Zoological Medicine for a specialist to help you care for your furry, feathered, scaly, or prickly friend.

Posted by Patricia-Anne Tom on realtor.com

6 Genius New Uses for an Old Swimming Pool

Before you rule out a home with an out-of-date pool, read these clever ideas for repurposing that old swimming pool.

Instead of going through the costly (and sometimes unsuccessful) process of bringing an old swimming pool up to date, why not turn it into an entirely new, seriously cool feature that sets your home apart?

Swimming pools have many virtues, especially during scorching summers. But they can easily become eyesores — not to mention money pits — especially if they leak or have other functional issues.

Instead of going through the costly (and sometimes unsuccessful) process of bringing an old swimming pool up to date, why not turn it into an entirely new, seriously cool feature that sets your home apart?

From a detached, lower-level studio space to a fully realized aquaponic farm, here are six smart ideas (some DIY projects and some that require a little professional help) to convert your old swimming pool into something useful, beautiful, or both!


1. The sunken patio

Though part of a rooftop lounge in Midtown Manhattan, this patio retrofitted within a rooftop pool by Future Green Studio holds a lesson for homeowners — work with the site rather than against it. The final dining area maintains the pool steps, depth indicators, handrails, and even a retooled version of the pool lights, telling the story of the space’s origins beautifully.

2. The practical deck

A simple but elegant solution for an unwanted pool? Drain it and build a deck over the top. Work with a landscape pro to design a deck that blends perfectly with the original pool’s shape and structure. Not only will it add valuable entertaining square footage to the backyard, but it’ll also boost your home’s value over time.

3. The detached studio

This gorgeous studio by Walk Interior Architecture & Design in its own right becomes even more awe-inspiring when you realize it’s housed in an old, neglected in-ground pool. The finished space feels at once industrial, modern, and airy, and the solar panel–topped A-frame roof is both functional (preventing water from seeping in) and beautiful. Such an inspired idea!

4. The peaceful pond

If you’re imagining spending lazy afternoons surrounded by nature instead of cleaning the pool, think about transforming your pool into a pond. It’s the perfect way to invite more wildlife into your yard, and it just makes sense. In the spirit of repurposing, you may even be able to get away with converting the original sand filter into a koi pond filter.

5. The water-wise garden

A Southern California couple converted their little-used pool into a rainwater harvesting system. Now in the pool’s place they have a stream, small waterfall, and some 100 plants, all fed with rain collected from the roof and stored in underground, recycled-plastic tanks. The resulting garden is luscious and inviting while making the most of the region’s scant rainfall.

6. The food-producing farm

And then there’s the family who built a food-producing greenhouse, known as the Garden Pool, in the pit of their former swimming pool. The finished ecosystem includes solar panels and a greenhouse, and produces everything from tilapia (through an aquaponics system) to fresh fruits and veggies to poultry.

While you might not be ready to go full-scale eco-farm, the project proves that an old pool site might be just the spot to pull off the herb-and-veggie garden of your dreams.

Posted by Jill Russell on Trulia