We all need a little extra room.

After being cooped up indoors all winter, my soul screams for fresh air, sunshine and dining under the night sky. Walking outside with a cup of coffee and settling into a cushioned seat to enjoy the early morning quiet, or sitting around a dining table under a wisteria laden pergola with a few good friends, these are some of the treasures and simple pleasures of outdoor living.

More and more people are retreating to their backyards and creating multipurpose outside living areas as extensions of their homes. Owners, architects and designers are incorporating all the comforts and luxuries of the indoor rooms into these exterior spaces.

An outdoor room is defined by having a floor, which can be as simple as grass, pebbles or flagstone; walls can be made up of plant material or stone or wood structures; and a ceiling can be comprised of a pergola or canopy of a tree. It can be a destination, or a retreat just outside your kitchen. It’s all in the imagination.

Adding an outdoor living “room” is an important investment in your property and, more importantly, an investment in your own wellbeing and happiness.

Down the Garden Path in New Canaan

Good landscape design is not just about plants. What makes a garden beautiful and memorable is a sense of mystery. Nothing does that better than a meandering path. It hints at the unknown, luring you forward and creating an atmosphere of serenity and reflection. You’ve done it yourself; walked a lawn or meadow and you see a path, around a tree or through an arch, gently curving away from you. Suddenly,without thinking, you find yourself taking the path with an irresistible impulse to see where it goes. Paths are for wandering and contemplating, sauntering really. This is when you notice a small fern popping through the under story, or an errant rose having migrated to a new spot.

There is no end to the imagination in creating a path; shells, stones, grass, flagstone, ceramics, wood chips..the list is vast. They can be whimsical and fanciful, functional and handy, elegant and stylish, small or grand.  They can end at a beach, a garden sculpture, a bench or a water feature. Or they can end up back from where you started. The curves should be gentle and undulating with plant material sited to hide what is just around the corner. Formal gardens rely on symmetry and straighter lines. But for me, I like to take a hint from Mother Nature. There are no straight lines in the natural world.

There is a certain poetry to a path and one should be incorporated into every garden, regardless of size..

 

A Love Affair with a New Canaan Porch

The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word, then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation that you ever had”.

While inspecting a house the other day I got to thinking about porches…I’m in love with porches. They were for rocking and reading a good novel, swinging, kicking your feet up on the railing and listening to the buzzing of the Katydids, sleepovers and whispering late into the night or listening to the thunder and counting the seconds until the lightening hit. You were safe on the porch; from the rain, in a game of tag or from the bully down the street. It was a refuge from the heat and a chance to relax and socialize with the neighbors over drinks.  So what inspired the porch?

In its American sense, it generally refers to “a covered area adjoining an entrance to a building and usually having a separate roof” (Webster). The American front porch evolved from foreign influences and really appeared here in the early eighteenth century. Possible derived from the houses of West Africa, the shotgun house, built by the African slave, appeared as one of the first American houses to universally exhibit a front porch.

One of the oldest shotgun houses still existing

The influence of climate on the origins of porches may be demonstrated in the fact that porches in America grew first and most quickly in the South; think of Scarlet and her beloved Tara.

Porches grew in size and shapes and were prolific in the 1800’s. They were everywhere, in Spanish and French Colonial architecture, used in Georgian, Greek Revival and Gothic design and incorporated in Italianate and Stick Style architecture.  The development of the automobile, air conditioning, television and new technology transformed the culture and by the 1960’s the porch had all but disappeared.  Gratefully, the porch has made a comeback. It is a uniquely American architectural form that still brings a smile and a sense of home. Mint Julep anyone?

Home Sweet…. Whatever

Adding an addition to my own home sent me to the internet for ideas. Typing in the words sustainability and recycling materials sent me down a few rabbit holes….see for yourself.

It seems Francie Rehwald wanted a home with curvilinear, feminine shapes for a 55-acre property in the Malibu, Calif., hills that overlooks a mountain range, a valley, and the Pacific Ocean. In fulfilling her dream, architect David Hertz designed “Wing House” … and recycled a Boeing 747-200 to do so.

According to an article by Susan Galleymore:  “That airplane was selected from among the hundreds of retired airplanes that sit in California’s deserts. They are typically sold for the price of aluminum. This purchase — an aircraft measuring more than 230 feet long, 195 feet wide and 63 feet tall, with more than 17,000 cubic feet of cargo area — cost less than $50,000 dollars.

All of the structures on Rehwald’s property incorporate components and pieces of that aircraft. Both main wings and two stabilizers from the tail section — more than 2,500 square feet to scale — make up the roof for the master bedroom.

A fire pit and water element are constructed out of the engine cowling. A separate art studio uses a 50-foot-long section of the upper fuselage as a roof. The roof of the guesthouse incorporates the remaining front portion of the fuselage, and upper first-class cabin deck.

The lower half of the fuselage and cargo hold forms an animal barn, while a separate meditation pavilion made from the entire front of the airplane is 28 feet in diameter and 45 feet tall — the cockpit forms a skylight.”

The trend in recycling structures not traditionally considered “real estate” spans the gamut from residences to restaurants to luxury hotels and is not limited to airplanes — it also includes shipping containers, retired railroad cars and locomotives, among other creative conversions.

Even Bob Villa has gotten into the act, posting on his website an article about how to transform shipping containers into Home Sweet Container.… “Steel shipping container homes, also called storage container homes, offer a fast, green, and sustainable approach to building. These inter-modal steel building units (ISBUs) are manufactured in a factory-controlled environment so they are standardized and reliable. They can be used to build an average-sized home with almost no wood.”

You can use four 40x8x8-foot ISBUs laid side-by-side to create a three-bedroom, 1,280-square-foot home without a hint of its original corrugated-steel exterior or get creative with unconventional shapes and layouts.

Speaking of unconventional shapes: people have been thinking outside the box for years when it comes to their own abode…consider the Mushroom House in Ohio or the Bubble House in Cannes, France. All over the world there are some interesting and strange dwellings. Just remember, Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright was once considered bizarre. For other interesting and whimsical homes visit http://www.oddee.com/item_96556.aspx

Wonder what our Planning and Zoning Department would think about some of these….

Information contained herein is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. 
Wendy Dixon Fog specializes in New Canaan real estate, a top listing and top selling agent assisting buyers and sellers throughout the area. Access the MLS, receive a free home evaluation, and subscribe to daily home listings updates . Call or text 203.979-6277, email wendy@wendyfog.com

Are The Banks Relaxing The Credit Noose?

 

Capital Economics expects the housing crisis to end this year, according to a recent report. One of the main reasons: loosening credit.

The analytics firm notes the average credit score required to attain a mortgage loan is 700. While this is higher than scores required prior to the crisis, it is consistent  with requirements one year ago.

Additionally, a Fed Senior Loan Officer Survey found credit requirements in the fourth quarter were consistent with the past three quarters.

However, other market indicators point not just to a stabilization of mortgage lending standards, but also a loosening of credit availability.

Banks are now lending amounts up to 3.5 times borrower earnings. This is up from a low during the crisis of 3.2 times borrower earnings.

Banks are also loosening loan-to-value ratios (LTV), which Capital Economics denotes “the clearest sign yet of an improvement in mortgage credit conditions.”

In contrast to a low of 74 percent reached in mid-2010, banks are now lending at 82 percent LTV.

While credit conditions may have loosened slightly, some potential homebuyers are still struggling with credit requirements. In fact, Capital Economics points out that in November 8 percent of contract cancellations were the result of a potential buyer not qualifying for a loan.

Additionally, Capital Economics says “any improvement in credit conditions won’t be significant enough to generation actual house price gains,” and potential ramifications from the euro-zone pose a threat to future credit availability.

All in all, better news for home owners. House prices have stabilized and, combined with historically low interest rates, now is a great the time to buy a home.

 

Source: DSNews.com

Information contained herein is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. 
Wendy Dixon Fog specializes in New Canaan real estate, a top listing and top selling agent assisting buyers and sellers throughout the area. access the MLS, receive a free home evaluation, and subscribe to daily home listings updates . call or text 203.979-6277, email wendy@wendyfog.com