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A Breath of Fresh Air

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Now that the holiday season has come and gone, it won't be long before the warmer temperatures of spring and summer have arrived and everyone will be clamoring to get outside. That is especially true for those fortunate enough to own a home at the Jersey Shore, where the whole idea is to spend time with loved ones under a clear blue sky.

Those opportunities are not just restricted to the beach or Boardwalk, either. Just as outdoor living has experienced a tremendous boom at primary residences in the past two decades, so too has the trend carried over to the Shore.

"It was always big but over the past 10 years it's really grown, especially when COVID hit and a lot of people were tied to their homes and were not able to go on vacation or go out in public," says Therese Simon, part of the sales and design team at Oskar Huber Furniture & Design. "They decided to spend the money at home and create these more elaborate outdoor spaces. It's grown even bigger because there's more product than ever before. A lot of companies have grown their product line almost into an extension of their indoor spaces."

Of course, there may be challenges unique to a vacation property, such as smaller lots or concerns about coastal weather. House & Home spoke to area professionals to learn more about what homeowners need to know while planning an outdoor living space at the Shore.

Have a plan in place
The first step is creating a stunning yet functional outdoor space is partnering with the right company. Before signing a contract, homeowners should ask for references, speak to previous customers, make sure their personalities mesh well with the team they are hiring, and find a comprehensive design/build firm that can handle all aspects of the project.

"No one wants to be calling 10 different contractors, so whether we're putting in a pool, patio, kitchen, irrigation, all the way down to planting the sod, it's a one-stop shop," says Nick Erman of Evergreen Pros. "From the irrigation to the pavers to the shrubs, you're dealing with one person, the main project manager, through the entire project."

Erman also advises customers to be honest about their budget, and he in turn will be upfront about what his team can deliver. A beautiful yard does not always mean they have to break the bank.

"Generally speaking, a person will put 20% of what their house is worth into their backyard," he says. "So if somebody has a half-million dollar home, 20% of that is what they're going to spend. My rule of thumb is you can make a $100,000 house look like a $1 million house or you can make a $1 million house look like a $10,000 one because of the way it's landscaped. You can make it look horrible or you can make it look beautiful."

Since the sprawling properties that many people may have at their primary residences may not be realistic at their Shore home, where the lots are usually smaller or even oddly configured, planning ways to maximize the space ahead of time is crucial.

"If there's a concern about space—and I'll usually do this anyway—I'll go out to the house and measure the space, and I have a floor planner that I use," Simon says. "I input the measurements and we just start building off of that. We come up with the best solution for that space in terms of function, the use of the space, how many people are going to be using it on any given day in the summertime, and we try to bring all of those factors together and make it work."

Must-haves for the space
As Simon notes, people spending time at the Shore want to be outside as much as possible, even into the nighttime since it stays light out much later in the summer. So their outdoor space should be able to suit a number of functions.

"Not every place, but some of the bigger homes probably have three or four decks, so they may have a couple of different dining areas," she says. "They probably have a seating area with a sectional and a fire pit, chaises by the pool, and sometimes they'll create a bar in the backyard with bar stools that coordinate all of the finishes together. Just like you would do custom indoors, we're doing that outdoors."

It's imperative to use the right kind of furniture that can hold up to the conditions of a coastal environment. Simon explains that the standard material many companies use consists of recycled plastic milk jugs, and it is designed to last for generations. She adds that some manufacturers are taking it a step further by using marine-grade polymer that is even harder than the milk jug plastics.

"It can hold up to salt and any kind of weather," she explains. "It's good because it's heavier, so in windy conditions it won't blow away. That's important, especially at the beach."

Pools are becoming more common on Shore properties as well, and Erman suggests that fiberglass is a solid option because it doesn't require as much maintenance as other pools and comes with a lifetime warranty. No matter what kind of pool a homeowner installs, however, he stresses that hiring an experienced contractor and understanding the varying site conditions at the Shore are both important.

There is no time to delay
Since most people consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of the summer and want their outdoor spaces to be ready for guests by then, it makes sense to start the process as soon as possible, whether it's an entirely new project or they're just adding new furniture or amenities.

"This is our peak season," Simon confirms. "It will go like gangbusters from January into May and early June. Knockdowns for most houses are in fall, and then they're ready to start ordering in January and their deadline is usually Memorial Day. So this is the time period for people to order outdoor."

Although this is a hectic time of year for Oskar Huber, Simon loves coming to work and helping people create an outdoor environment they can be happy to entertain or just relax in with family.

"Every project is different and you meet so many interesting people," she says. "Their needs are different and the whole process is so interesting. In the design process, I really enjoy getting into it with people and creating something that is uniquely them. I like them to get involved; I don't just want to pick for them, I want them to be involved in the whole design process."

Evergreen Pros
Cologne, N.J.
(609) 214-8552

Oskar Huber Furniture & Design
Ship Bottom, N.J.
(609) 494-8127

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 24, Issue 2 (Shore Home Spring 2024)
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