Totally Overrated Home Design Ideas, Part II

As I confessed last week, I am addicted to the DIY channel. As much as it makes my kids uncomfortable to hear it, the DIY channel is my porn. I watch and watch, and eventually, I have to go work with some wood. I can’t help it. I have the tools. And the ideas. It’s a bit of a curse sometimes…

While I have some training and experience in the home reno ring, I also have a good eye for colour, practical design, and space. There are many professionals out there, and some pretty funky ideas, and I am usually fairly open-minded to designs that don’t exactly suit my personal taste. But there are trends – some emerging and some, thankfully, dying – that just don’t make a lot of sense. Like my take on indoor waste-of-money projects, here are some for your outdoor living spaces.

6 Worst Outdoor Home Design Fads

Fire Features. If you live in the city, beware the fire feature. outdoor fireMost municipal bylaws forbid open air burning. This includes all of the fire pits, fireplaces, chimineas, and the like. Sure you can buy them – who doesn’t want to make a little money off you. And you can go ahead and use them. But if your neighbours complain about smoke and stink, the fines can be hefty. And if your fire grows out of control, your homeowner’s insurance may not cover the damages. For some, the catch is that open air fires are allowed if you’re cooking food. But firemen aren’t stupid; you’ve been warned. The alternative to open air fires is the propane fire features and outdoor heaters. Consider carefully before investing in these. The cost of the fuel – when your guests will be more likely to opt for indoor comfort over mosquito infested cool summer evenings outside – could very well outweigh the beauty factor.

water featureWater Features. We’re not talking pools and hot tubs here; those toys have integrated cleaning systems and obvious utility. Features like ponds and fountains, however, usually don’t. They may look terrific when first installed – and who doesn’t love the feel of running water close by? – but without a filtration system or constant water replacement provision, the growth of algae and smell of stagnant water can make these backyard extras nothing but back-breaking extras. Before incorporating these beauties into your plans, make sure to thoroughly investigate both the work and cost involved in maintenance, repair, and winterization. You may end up opting for a simple birdbath!

Outdoor Furniture.Gone are the days when you could zip out to the store and pick up a simple patio set. patio furnitureNow we have fully furnished outdoor living spaces that rival our indoor decor. The plastic weaves and powdered metals are terrific weather proof materials, and, at a cost, can provide years of enjoyment. But throw in the cushions, floor mats, knick-knacks, and accessories, and you could end up paying more for storage than you did for the chairs. Even with new weather-friendly fabrics, soft decor should be stored out of the rain and worse. Which is fine if you’re expecting bad weather. But too many panicked trips through the yard stashing all your hard-earned goodies can take a toll on the enjoyment of your backyard space. Keep that in mind as you amass a different collection for each season.

mulchDecorative Rock and Mulch. You can fill an entire garden with beautiful bright white gravel, or fragrant cedar chips, or a sharp backdrop of black mulch. And it will look terrific, setting off the rainbow of pansies and petunias. But after a few good thunderstorms, a little wind, the odd goose and raccoon, and – oh blast! – the first autumnal avalanche of leaves, you’ll be wishing you’d filled in the gaps with something a lot easier to maintain. If you can’t rake it, blow it, or hose it, take lots of pictures while it’s fresh; a year from now, it’s going to take a lot of work to make it look like something you intended.

Outdoor Kitchens. You spend a lot of time, energy, and money keeping the inside of your house looking magazine ready. outdoor kitchenAnd it’s worth the effort with every compliment you receive. But build yourself an second kitchen outside, and you may find you’ve bitten off more than you can swallow. Outside, with the bugs and the cobwebs, critters and bird doody, your ‘kitchen’ counters will be begging for attention every time you want a burger. Keeping an outdoor fridge stocked and running, a second supply of dishes clean and handy, and the convenient exterior sink worthy of your food stuffs could put a kink in the strongest of marriages. He’ll see it as an extension of the kitchen. She’ll see it all as BBQ accessories. And the battle over who cleans it could be the end of it all.

paver patioPavers and Stone Pathways. Assuming you’ve enjoyed a professional installation and your walkways and patios are beautifully laid out and finished, maintenance of these features could catch you off guard. Sand-filled joints between stones don’t hold up well to constant and regular sweeping and hosing. Eventually, and sooner than you’d think, the lines become gaps filled with all kinds of wonderful and unwanted litter that will need some serious attention. But the biggest caution sign is covered in a thick layer of snow. If you’ve ever tried to shovel six inches of the white stuff off the irregular bumps of the stone walkway, you know the shoulder-jarring, back-wrenching, teeth-grinding pain of every step. Bottom line, if you’re going to have to clean it, go with the smooth stuff.

All in all, you can spend a LOT of hard earned cash on a home renovation. Just make sure you really think through the upgrades before you sign on the dotted line. Let me know what you think are the biggest renovation dollar guzzlers in the comment section. What’s the biggest reno regret you’ve ever suffered?

Check out last week’s

6 Worst Indoor Home Design Fads…

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