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The new 'it' room at your home is outdoors

Port Washington's Peter Cafaro turned his outdoor room

Port Washington's Peter Cafaro turned his outdoor room "that looks like an inside room" into the place to be for family and friends to hang out. He spoke on June 19 about how adding a humidor, fireplace and TV made it "magical." Credit: Howard Simmons

After a l-o-n-g, crazy year, many folks have determined that, well, to steal a famous phrase, "there’s no place like home." And to that end, they’ve extended their dwellings’ livability by focusing on outdoor spaces. Whether it’s converting a simple porch into a popular social gathering haunt or creating a luxe, full-on outdoor family room, open air spaces are now the coveted "rooms."

The rush to create multifunctioning outdoor spaces has reached epic proportions says Garrett Magee, a principal of Brooklyn-based landscape design company ManscapersNY and co-author of a book, "Take It Outside," ($35, Clarkson Potter) due out in December. "We’ve been asked over and over to create an oasis or retreat with this idea of the home being a ‘staycation.’ " he says, adding that his crew has dreamed up everything from outdoor gyms and yoga studio to offices and even settings that include movie screens.

For Peter Cafaro of Port Washington, his home’s side porch was "a saving grace during the pandemic," and still gets heavy use. There’s a wood-burning fireplace, heaters, a TV and comfortable if not fancy seating along with a cigar humidor and old school cigar stand. He considers it an extension of his personality, not to mention his home, and a carved wooden sign dubs it "Pete’s Porch."

An alternate to a traditional man cave, he chuckles when he says, "My wife calls it a fraternity house," and even today he holds regular gatherings two or three times a week during which time he serves up cocktails from his bourbon stash, watches sports and shoots the breeze. "It’s a special spot," he says.


Interior designer Jackie Higgins of the Huntington-based Beach Glass Designs says, "Everybody is feeling like there’s no place like home. Rather than being travel-focused they’re making home their destination even after people have started going back into the outside world."

For one Huntington client, a major sports fan, she and architect Deluca Designs, created a luxe, covered outdoor family room with "a cozy sectional, two high top tables, a wood-burning fireplace, a TV and full outdoor kitchen. During the winter they put out restaurant-style space heaters and even now, it is an extremely popular spot," according to Higgins.

Another Huntington designer, Kim Radovich of Kim Radovich Interiors is beyond busy with outdoor upgrades. Her advice? Get a leaf blower. "I just ordered one for a client in East Hampton. Outdoor living is exquisite on Long Island and people are entertaining in all months," (oh, but those pesky leaves). Even winter is not off limits says Radovich, who in addition to heaters, encouraged clients to place faux-fur throws on their outdoor chairs for extra warmth.

To date, she has installed loads of dramatic lighting, plenty of firepits featuring ledges that serve as cocktail tables along with "outdoor draperies that provide little vignettes for dining outside," and outdoor rugs, pillows, showers and ping pong tables. She says, "The way people are moving forward across the board is to provide family-friendly spaces where they cannot only have their children but also entertain their friends all year long. People are beginning to really appreciate and use what they have."


Befuddled on how to create your own outdoor oasis? We asked the experts for help.

First, clean it up: Mel Brasier, a co-star of Bravo’s “Backyard Envy,” says, “Do a ridiculous cleanup, get rid of everything — old kids toys, dead plants anything that you know should go.”

Divide and conquer: Whether you’re working with a professional or not Brasier says to divide spaces into zones starting with the one closest to your house and “make a list of all your priorities — are you a person who entertains every weekend? Do you need a play area for kids?” Adds co-star and business partner Garett Magee, “Figure out how you want to use the space — dining, entertaining, a lounge zone, a workout zone.”

Gather up: Interior designer Jackie Higgins of Beach Glass Designs in Huntington Bay says, “Create any kind of gathering space. It could be around a fire pit which is one of the season’s most sought after items, or just four chairs grounded by an outdoor rug and accented with pillows. It should be warm and inviting.”

Do you: “What’s your favorite aesthetic?” asks interior designer Kim Radovich. “If it’s Palm Beach than take a risk and add bold pink and green pillows.” And she adds that even the simplest outdoor spot such as a cafe table and chairs can be amped up via lanterns, candles, flowers and a spectacular table setting.

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