Q&A with Lisha Maxey (Senior Designer for Outdoor Homescapes of Houston) and Wayne Franks (company owner)
Looking for luxury outdoor furniture in Houston?
We’ve got you covered with our new line of products – and our new Senior Designer, Lisha Maxey!
To celebrate this brand new venture, Outdoor Homescapes is even offering a special summertime promotion: $500 off an outdoor furniture and/or lighting consultation. Just contact us to take advantage of this limited-time offer!
And now – here are more details on this exciting new expansion, from Lisha Maxey and company owner Wayne Franks:
Q: So why is Outdoor Homescapes partnering with Lisha to provide luxury outdoor furniture and outdoor lighting?
Lisha: It’s been my experience that customers want a truly turn-key operation for outdoor kitchens and other outdoor living spaces. Customers do ask for direction when buying outdoor furniture, ceiling fans, etc. So it just makes sense that we facilitate this in a broader sense.
Wayne: Very true. It’s a natural for us. Some clients also want something unique and custom that exactly matches their final finishes. They also want personalized on-site service - not just going to a store and getting “stuck” with what they have or with a salesperson that doesn’t really know what their space looks like.
Q: Do think there’s a movement toward more upscale outdoor furniture and outdoor lighting?
Lisha: I don’t know if it’s so much a trend as it is that customers purchasing luxury items are usually very savvy and educated and expect more than the average with everything. I think it’s about us plugging into the customer experience and guiding the client through all the available options.
Wayne: Service, service, service … Most people want a professional’s touch here, and it’s all about details, details, details …
Q: Are there any particular luxury outdoor furniture and lighting brands/designers you’re excited about showcasing?
Lisha: Currently, I’m a trade partner with Restoration Hardware and Janus et Cie. And I’m working on building this list of partners.
Q: How will you be involved in the outdoor design process?
Lisha: I plan to be involved from the beginning on most projects. The expansion into high-end outdoor furniture and accessories is actually going to be just one piece of what I’ll be doing. Project managing and project sharing will also be part of my job.
Wayne: She plans to offer an online library of upscale outdoor furniture and lighting at some point, but her current trade partners already have some amazing tools in place – publications, samples, catalogs – you name it.
Q: What seem to be popular luxury outdoor design choices right now?
Lisha: I would say that wicker is still Number One for most clients. But cast iron is making a big hit. Custom fabric is also on the top of the list, along with trendy accessories like lanterns, flameless candles, draped linen sheers.
Wayne: Clients love anything that can personalize a space and make it their own.
Q: Anything else you feel is important to add?
Wayne: Yes. Since we’re already known for our cutting-edge 3D graphics that let you see your project from every angle before it’s even built – of course we’ll be incorporating your choice of outdoor furniture, lighting and accessories into those renderings. That way, if what you’ve chosen doesn’t look right in the space, we can alter it before you make a purchasing decision.
Question: We’d love to know – what are some of your favorite brands or designers of luxury outdoor furnishings? Post a comment and let us know!
Or, if you’d like to get started on an outdoor living space project, simply contact us - and we’ll get the ball rolling!
This outdoor media room and kitchen had to meet the needs of a Houston family needing kid space and adult space.
The kids wanted an outdoor audio visual area watch TV and movies. The grownups wanted an outdoor kitchen, bar and grilling area where they could enjoy themselves while watching the kids. And they all wanted a covered patio with places to sit between dips in the pool.
However, the family had very limited space between the back of their house and their pool, and no room for anything in either of the side yards:
Stringent homeowner association rules also required that any home modifications match the existing home’s architecture, color and finishing materials. The pitch of the roof also had to be such that it didn’t overlap the bottom of the second-story windows above.
So here’s what we came up with: A 40-foot-long by 11-foot- deep roof extension off the back of the house (longer than most, but with good engineering specs and design work, we were able to preserve the structural integrity):
At one end of the covered patio below is a 12-foot by 8-foot outdoor living room with a custom audio-visual cabinet. At the other is an L-shaped, 8-foot-square outdoor kitchen island with a built-in commercial-grade RCS grill, a 4-by-8-foot outdoor refrigerator and a outdoor icemaker.
Keeping in line with the existing home’s beige siding, white trim and brown accent façade, we helped the homeowner choose appropriate finishing materials: Austin Western limestone (mostly white with beige accents) for the TV cabinet, kitchen island and column supports; Old English travertine (beige) for the countertops) and white, fluted columns.
The Old English travertine countertop has a raised back for a bar with counter seating. The diamond-pattern tile backsplash also features inset fleur de lis accents.
The family is more than pleased with the results – two outdoor rooms with two different functions – all within the same covered outdoor living space!
Or, simply contact us and we’ll work out a custom solution for you, too!
by Wayne Franks (company owner)
Outdoor kitchens and covered patios may be our professional specialities, but there’s another area Outdoor Homescapes excels in – community giving in Houston.
Why do we do it?
Well, it just feels good!
Just consider the findings of the 2010 Do Good Live Well Survey of 4,500 American adults. Of those who volunteered, 68 percent said it made them feel physically healthier, 89 percent that it “has improved my sense of well-being (i.e. happiness) and 73 percent that it “lowered my stress levels.”
I can totally relate.
Just last Friday, for instance, we attended a ribbon-cutting for Literacy Advance of Houston, to which we’d donated two thousand dollars’ worth of outdoor design services in early spring. Since 1964, Literacy Advance of Houston has helped people become more self-sufficient and reach other personal goals through literacy.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting was for the group’s new Cameron Computer Lab (left), which in addition to meeting basic literacy needs will produce self-sufficient individuals ready for work.
And you know what? Just being at the event and meeting the people who will be running — and benefitting from — this program felt really great! Maybe thinking about others gave me a break from the stress and worries of my own day. Maybe it was that feeling of doing your part or having a larger purpose in life. Or maybe it put the blessings of my own life – even something as basic as being able to read – into clearer perspective.
Whatever it was – it made me feel good.
I first learned about the benefits of community giving in Houston through my involvement with sports. At first, it was just fun for me – a lifelong sports fan and coach – to participate in something I enjoyed. But then, as I saw more and more how athletics improves lives, I started getting more involved in the charity side of things.
I’ve sponsored an Outdoor Homescapes of Houston team in the Harris County Senior Softball League for four years. Then there’s the $2,000 outdoor design services package we’re donating to Houston’s Miracles Baseball Academy. Founded by Mike Harris, a former pro baseball player, coach and scout of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, this academy builds character and life skills while teaching baseball and softball.
And then there’s the Miracles League offered by the Langham Creek branch of the YMCA of Greater Houston. This all-volunteer, not-for-profit group gives kids with disabilities the chance to play baseball as part of an organized team at no cost to their family. Last year, Outdoor Homescapes helped the team move closer to its dream of a new sports complex, by donating $3,000 toward 610 Sports Radio’s 2013 Yuletide Drive.
This past year, we’ve also donated outdoor design services to a wonderful charity called Operation Finally Home. The goal of the program is to build homes for returning soldiers and widows of the fallen. The goal of the program is to build homes for returning soldiers and widows of the fallen.
I’ve made some wonderful friends and had some wonderful experiences through community giving in Houston – and I advise you to try the same. As the saying goes, “If you help someone up the hill, you get closer yourself.”
Question: Have you done any community giving in Houston? Do you agree with the 2010 Do Good Live Well survey that giving makes you happy? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
Houston outdoor kitchens are increasingly acquiring multiple, higher-end grills.
The sky’s the limit – as you can see in the above image – with its professional-grade grill (right), outdoor pizza oven (center) and smoker (right).
In fact, it’s a trend Outdoor Homescapes of Houston owner Wayne Franks speaks about in a May 2014 article on Houston outdoor kitchens in House & Home magazine (“What’s Cooking Outside?” starting on page 32).
In the article, Franks explains how these multiple grilling appliances are often built into islands or cabinets as part of custom outdoor kitchen designs: “That’s because when you start getting into multiple components in any design, you’re going to want to group them together, so they look neat and tidy and make better aesthetic and functional sense.”
The most common grills used in combination in Houston outdoor kitchens, Franks says, are a professional-grade grill with an infrared burner for searing and either a smoker or kamado-style ceramic charcoal cooker.
Kamado grills like the popular Big Green Egg or Primo grills - have become increasingly popular in Houston outdoor kitchens because they can be used as a convection oven, smoker or grill. So you can cook virtually anything outside you would inside – including roasts, ribs, pizza, baked goods and casseroles.
“They’re especially popular for roasts and briskets,” says Franks. “The meat comes out unbelievably moist and tender.”
The popularity of the professional-grade grills, he continues, has grown out of the desire for restaurant-quality grilling: “The professional-grade grills allow for the higher heat needed to cook meat faster – rendering it more tender and juicy.”
Allowing for even higher – and more evenly distributed heat – are infrared burners or grills. Infrared burners superheat ceramic tiles so that they emit radiant heat. This cooks the meat directly instead of just heating the air around it, and is especially good for maintaining a the long-term, evenly distributed heat needed along a horizontal surface for rotisseries.
It’s also ideal for searing, since the screaming-hot, even temperature allows you to quickly heat the surface of a steak to a high temperature quicker.
“That’s how you get that restaurant-quality brown crust that seals in the juices, instead of a grey, dry piece of shoe leather,” says Franks.
Then there’s the growing number of smokers.
“With the popularity of TV shows like BBQ Pitmasters and the resurgence of barbecue in general,” explains Franks, “more and more people want to correctly cook pull pork, ribs and other “low-and-slow” barbecue meats for that authentic smoky taste and pink ring. And you just can’t get that with a smoker box in a regular grill.” (According to the Gas Grill Review and Ratings Guide, gas grills have difficulty maintaining the low temperatures needed (225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit) – especially for extended periods.)
The key, says Franks, is incorporating all these features into one, streamlined, custom design. “When you have an outdoor kitchen island, you’ve got to properly plan for things like storage, traffic flow and a look that’s integrated with the style of the house. Since ideal functionality requires that your outdoor kitchen be close to the house, and we get so much heat and sun in Houston, a covered outdoor kitchen via roof extension should also be considered.”
Looking for ideas on how multiple grills can be incorporated into custom outdoor kitchen design? See Outdoor Homescapes of Houston’s outdoor kitchen projects on Houzz.
Or, if you’re ready to dive right in – simply contact us for an estimate and get started today!
Outdoor living spaces improve your quality of life. They can also boost the value of your home.
This is especially true in Houston, where a housing shortage has pushed new home prices out of many people’s budgets.
“Demand for homes has continued to grow, depleting inventory and pushing home prices to new heights,” writes real estate reporter Nancy Sarnoff in a May 14, 2014 Houston Chronicle story. In response, Sarnoff reports, many people are staying in their existing homes – or renting in dwellings meeting immediate needs for space or proximity to work – till home prices become affordable again.
For those who feel stuck in their existing homes, we ask: “Why not just remodel instead of buying new?” And of course, we think outdoor living spaces are a wise, enjoyable investment.
First of all, there’s the “quality of life” component.
“Building or renovating outdoor rooms illustrates our need to relax and reconnect with family and friends,” says Martha Baker, best-selling author of “The Outdoor Living Room: Stylish Ideas For Porches, Patios & Pools.”
Outdoor living spaces can also increase the value of your home. But experts agree – they must be well-designed to recoup 100 percent of the cost. At least that was the point made by New York-based real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers in a June 21, 2013 Wall Street Journal article on outdoor living spaces. And by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, which in this article on outdoor living spaces, especially recommends incorporating commercial-style grills, gas hearths, mosquito eliminators and propane outdoor lighting and patio heaters.
If you’re looking for high-quality outdoor living space design in Houston - well, that’s where we come in.
We here at Outdoor Homescapes of Houston pride ourselves on having an in-house design team. First, we offer state-of-the-art 3D graphic renderings and virtual video tours that allow you to see your project from every angle before it’s built. Second, an in-house design consultant works with our clients throughout every step of the design process, helping them browse our image libraries and coordinate colors and finishing materials. And finally, our top-notch outdoor space planning ensures your outdoor kitchen, covered patio or other outdoor living space not only looks good – but functions well.
Have outdoor living spaces have improved your quality of life or your home’s value? If so, what are the most enjoyable elements for you? Leave a comment and let us know! We’re always looking for ideas and feedback!
Here are a few of our favorite Houston fire pits – all part of outdoor kitchens, covered patios and other outdoor living spaces designed and built by Outdoor Homescapes of Houston:
Nighttime fun around the fire …
This fire pit by Outdoor Homescapes of Houston helps extend outdoor entertaining into the night with its warmth and glow. Conveniently located near the covered patio and its outdoor kitchen, outdoor media room and outdoor bar and grill area, cool drinks, hot steaks and tonight’s game are only a few steps away. And patio chairs can be brought over at night to create a cozy fireside conversation area.
Linger a little longer …
As is the case with many Houston fire pits, this design has a rustic, down-to-earth glow that matches Houstonians’ blend of energy and hospitality. The wicker swivel chairs around the dining table can be brought to the fire as nighttime settles in (or as the season grows colder). And a glass of wine or bottle of cold craft beer is always nearby – on the other side of the outdoor bar and grill island.
Family time …
We’re all so busy and in front of screens all day. Why not start an evening ritual of family time around the fire? This is the ideal environment for it – with a dining table for family dinners nearby. Just a few steps more, and you can snuggle up, let your dinner settle, listen to some wind-down music from the speakers above and share something about your day.
A personal retreat …
Even though Houston fire pits typically beckon a crowd, they also provide an ideal get-away in a world of distractions, worries and obligations. This intimate setting, with a fire in the middle, creates a focal point, a sense of calm and an infusion of energy.
Like what you see? Want a fire pit – or outdoor living space – of your own? Just contact us today! We’ll get the ball rolling!
You can also find more design inspiration for Houston fire pits on Houzz.
Get an outdoor refrigerator and side burner FREE with a built-in, 30-inch RCS grill when you get an outdoor kitchen designed and built by Outdoor Homescapes of Houston.
To participate or learn more, just contact us!
The RCS (Renaissance Cooking Systems) grill in the promotion is a 27 Cutlass Series II Grill With Rear Burner (list price $1,599). It’s a definite favorite of ours (after all, owner Wayne Franks cooks on one himself).
Measuring 29 3/4 inches wide by 18 inches deep by 11 inches high (with a 27-inch wide grill area offering 577 square inches of cooking space), this high-performance, commercial-grade grill offers two stainless steel burners and a 15-inch stainless/ceramic high-heat rear burner. Other features include a stainless steel rotisserie motor with heavy forks and rod, 30,000 BTUs of cooking power, 417 square inches of primary cooking space, 160 square inches of secondary cooking space, an interior halogen light, stainless steel cooking grids, grilling zone separators, stainless steel “flame tamers” and a Sure-Strike Ignition System.
The RCS outdoor refrigerator, valued at $369, measures 4.8 cubic feet, with high-quality stainless steel construction that holds up to the elements. It includes a door lock, stylish stainless steel door front with black trim, interior light and adjustable feet/levelers. This model also offers an adjustable thermostat, adjustable interior glass shelves, an automatic defrost system and two inner drawers.
For more information on outdoor refrigerators, check out this great article, called “How to Buy An Outdoor Refrigerator.”
The RCS drop-in side burner, valued at $379, measures 8 1/2 inches wide by 16 1/2 inches deep. It also offers commercial-grade 304 stainless steel construction, 12,000 BTUs of cooking power and a cover/lid.
Don’t wait to take advantage of this limited-time offer (worth a combined value of $748)! Contact us today!
Big Green Egg Grill Giveaway alert! Only one week left to participate!
Here’s the deal: Get a built-in, large Big Green Egg grill FREE when you let Outdoor Homescapes of Houston design and build your outdoor kitchen!
But – just to review – what’s a Big Green Egg? And why would you want it built into your outdoor kitchen (or summer kitchen, or patio kitchen, or whatever you prefer calling it)?
A Big Green Egg is what’s known as a kamado-style ceramic cooker. So what’s a kamado, you ask? Well, it’s a grill, oven and smoker in one with an airtight ceramic chamber that allows for greater heat and moisture retention. This renders food incomparably moist and delicious, with all the flavor sealed in! Kamado style cookers are especially popular right now for briskets, roasts and anything you’d normally cook in an indoor convection oven.
Oh, and it’s green and shaped like an egg – hence the name “Big Green Egg.”
The Big Green Egg, however, must be elevated to a proper working height. You can buy a metal stands, called a Big Green Egg Nest, but you still need working and serving space. For this reason, Big Green Egg tables or carts are also available. But in our humble opinion, they look kind of awkward:
And, since many of today’s outdoor kitchens are acquiring a growing number of amenities and appliances, the most popular aesthetic and functional option is combining them all in built-in islands.
Pictured above is our latest Big Green Egg outdoor kitchen island.
It’s 16-feet long, complete with a Big Green Egg (size small) and an RCS outdoor refrigerator on the left. The countertop is a honed and filled, hand-picked, NYSA 18-inch travertine tile. Moving toward the right is a stainless steel 42-inch professional-grade RCS grill with a infrared burner for searing.
The grill – along with the Fire Magic double burner for crawfish and shrimp boils - help accommodate all the outdoor entertaining done by the homeowner. So do the outdoor sink and built-in storage from several stainless steel doors and drawers. The island walls are dry-stacked Virginia Profit ledge stone.
So why put it off anymore? You work hard – don’t forget to play! Join our Big Green Egg Grill Giveaway today!
Silver travertine tile is a stylish, unique choice for outdoor kitchen countertops, as you can see in this video of Outdoor Homescapes of Houston’s latest outdoor kitchen.
In it, company owner Wayne Franks features a small, stylish outdoor kitchen with silver travertine tile counters and an easily accessible outdoor kitchen fridge.
“It’s a natural stone,” says Franks of the silver travertine tile, noting the nicely finished backsplash complete with electrical outlets for countertop appliances.
Echoing the hue of the silver travertine tile is the stainless steel of the high-performance grill and storage, drawers and doors housed in islands. Contrasting beautifully with the silver are white Austin limestone dry-stacked island walls.
The same Austin limestone can be seen on the columns of the adjoining covered patio and its audio-visual TV wall – visually tying the spaces together.
“What’s kind of unique here is that we’ve placed the outdoor fridge and drink cooler on the outside of the kitchen island,” notes Franks, panning around to the outside of the island, facing the TV and conversation area by the pool. “Real easy access for everyone.”
“The client put this pool in, but we helped with the structure,” explains Franks.
Do you like the look of the silver travertine tile on countertops? If so, you may want to check out some of these images of silver travertine tile on Houzz.
It’s our Big Green Egg Giveaway – Week Two!
That’s right! On April 7, 2014, we here at Outdoor Homescapes of Houston announced we’d be giving away a large Big Green Egg grill (the most popular model, with an estimated retail value of $849) to anyone getting a custom outdoor kitchen designed and built by us!
The Big Green Egg promotion is a fun way to kick off the season after a particularly cold, wet, miserable winter. To participate, all you have to do is go to our Big Green Egg Giveaway website page or our Wishpond Big Green Egg Giveaway landing page!
What’s a Big Green Egg?
For the uninitiated, a Big Green Egg is a kamado-style ceramic charcoal cooker. Not only is it versatile, with the ability to function as a grill, oven or smoker – its airtight ceramic chamber retains heat and moisture, rendering food juicy and delicious! We’re talking restaurant quality!
The thing with the Big Green Egg and other kamado-style cookers is, you need to lift them to a proper working height. You also need to provide them with working and serving space. Although you can buy Big Green Egg tables and metal stands (called “Big Green Egg Nests”), people are gravitating more to cabinets and islands for their outdoor kitchens – so they can keep all their outdoor appliances and amenities functionally – and aesthetically – coordinated.
Why Big Green Egg islands?
Here’s a gallery of some of our Big Green Egg islands. And we’ve got to tell you - people love them! In fact, our Big Green Egg islands on Houzz are by far our most popular images on the site.
And here’s a video of our latest Big Green Egg island, narrated by company owner Wayne Franks:
Interested in getting your Big Green Egg for free? Well, you’ve only got two weeks left! So visit one of our Big Green Egg Giveaway pages (above), or just contact us today!