Spectrum Design Group

Spectrum Design Group Logo

Author name: Renee

A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Fire Pit

Creating a Backyard Oasis: A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Fire Pit

As the weather warms and the days stretch longer, the allure of spending evenings under the open sky grows stronger. Transforming your backyard into a cozy haven with seating and a fire pit not only enhances the ambiance but also extends the functionality of your outdoor space.  These extensions of our homes can quickly become some of our favorite places to spend evening hours. I enjoy starting a bonfire, roasting marshmallows with the kids, or chatting with friends on summer nights. Staring at the flames while sitting under the stars is so relaxing! I’ve learned recently that if you’re looking to add some of this cozy ambiance to your outdoor space or upgrade your current fire pit setup—whether for a balcony or sprawling deck—there’s likely an option available. Below is a guide to help you figure out the who, what, where, why, and how of fire pits. I’ve also shared some of my personal favorites. Why Install a Fire Pit? Fire pits are more than just beautiful features; they are centers of social and familial gatherings. It can be a perfect spot for gathering with friends and family for a night of storytelling, laughter, and relaxation while providing a source of warmth that allows you to enjoy your outdoor space longer into the evening and during the cooler months.  But it’s not just about social gatherings. You can also use your fire pit to make s’mores, grill burgers, or cook a full campfire meal. They serve as an attractive focal point in your backyard, adding a touch of style and sophistication. Choosing the Right Location The placement of your fire pit is crucial for safety and enjoyment. Place the fire pit at least 10 feet away from house structures or flammable materials. Ensure the area is open and has good ventilation to avoid smoke accumulation. Consider prevailing wind patterns to avoid smoke blowing into your home or seating area and position it where you can enjoy the best view of your garden or the stars. Lastly, ensure the fire pit is easily accessible and has ample comfortable seating space. Wood-burning Fire Pit A wood-burning fire pit is ideal for the authentic campfire experience. It is perfect for areas where wood burning is allowed, and you enjoy the crackle and smoke of real wood.  It is generally the most economical choice and is relatively straightforward to set up. Assuming you’re allowed to burn in your neighborhood, you choose a safe location to set up and stack the logs inside before lighting a fire. Attractive options are available in both traditional and smokeless varieties. This modern Corten steel option is handmade and would elevate any outdoor space. Some smokeless fire pits like this one by Solo Stove have removable ash pans for easy cleaning. If you are using wood, ensure that where you store it is clean and covered. You don’t want to burn wet wood.  Propane Fire Pit If you’re looking for a fire pit option that doesn’t involve smoke and flying sparks and doesn’t require a permanent installation, a propane fire pit is a good option. Propane pits are cleaner than their wood-burning counterparts. Additionally, they are portable, can produce as much heat as a standard patio heater, and come in various styles.  Ecosmart’s Ark 40 boasts a minimalist architectural design. For all their conveniences, however, one downside to some propane fire pits is that not all styles elegantly hide the propane tanks that fuel them. One noteworthy exception is this sleek and colorful option from Loll Designs, which is stylish while keeping the propane completely self-contained. Natural Gas Fire Pit If you’re ready to commit to a permanent enhancement for the patio, a natural gas-burning fire pit may be the way to go. These fire pits require a dedicated gas line installed by a professional.  While this adds to the setup cost and complexity, using a natural gas fireplace is a snap once they’re in place. There’s no need to worry about keeping fuel hand or fear of running out mid-fire.  These fire pits burn cleanly and produce significant warmth, which might be attractive as summer turns to fall. There are many gorgeous options out there. Some vendors, like Lumacast, offer white glove delivery and setup, lessening the setup barrier.  I love Lumacast’s sculptural Paolo model. Paloform’s Fold and Kodo fire pits are other options that would give any outdoor space an edge. Bioethanol Fire Pit Bioethanol fire pits are among the most versatile options and are often selected for this flexibility. They vary greatly in size and style and can be burned indoors or outdoors. Many are even designed to sit on a tabletop.  Manufacturers tout the fire pit’s environmentally friendly fuel source, which is derived from plant by-products and releases no harmful emissions. Fuel sources come in liquid or gel form, depending on the fire pit. These fire features don’t put off nearly as much heat as other fire pits, making them an option for small spaces or where traditional wood-burning fire pits aren’t allowed.  One of my favorite options in this category includes this retro fireplace by Modfire, and its little sister, the Mini-Mod. Both have a fun vintage mid-century look and come in great colors. Adding a Fire Pit to Your Outdoor Space A fire pit is a wonderful addition to any outdoor space, offering functional and aesthetic benefits. You can create a delightful outdoor retreat in your backyard by choosing the right type, location, and safety measures. Whether roasting marshmallows on a summer night or enjoying a warm drink on a crisp fall evening, a fire pit can make any outdoor gathering magical.

Partnering Effectively with Your Design Team

Partnering Effectively with Your Design Team

Once you’ve decided to renovate a part of your home that’s not working, you want to hit the ground running. We get it! Each day spent in a dated, dysfunctional kitchen or a cramped, dim bathroom feels increasingly cumbersome. While your design team typically has preferred methods for navigating the design process efficiently (see SDG’s process for an example), clients play a crucial role in maintaining momentum and progress.  Have a united front. As a design team, we’re here to listen to your needs and develop solutions catered to you and how your family lives. That job is much more difficult when we hear different priorities from partners within the same household! Nothing slows down a process like lack of focus. Discuss overarching design goals with your partner before engaging a designer to maintain focus. While specifics, like stained versus painted cabinets, can be determined later, clarity on whether to renovate the kitchen or bathroom is essential from the outset. Communicate your needs clearly. It’s essential that your design team understands your practical requirements for the space you’re renovating. Whether it’s more counter space, a larger pantry, a coffee bar, or a sink in your island, share your non-negotiables immediately. Leaving your designer to guess your functional needs can lead to design rework and a prolonged design phase. Tell your designer what you want to spend. In the world of renovation, the sky is the limit. Having frank conversations about budget throughout your project is a fantastic way clients can help keep things on track. If you aren’t sure what a reasonable cost for your project might be, your design team should be able to listen to your goals and give you a budget range. If you started the design phase without a clear understanding of cost and needed to work with your designer to set a reasonable budget, loop back to item number one on this list and ensure your partner is on board before moving forward. Having your designer over (or under) design your space doesn’t serve anyone. Lean into the process. Most designers have figured out how they like to work. Ask them about it! Understand their phases of design, the expected outcomes of each phase, and what the deliverables will look like. Find out when you’ll need to be available to meet with your designer—either in your home or at their office—and put these dates in your calendar immediately. The process can’t move forward if you aren’t available. Do your part, too! Your design team will work diligently to meet the requirements of your project. They’ll strive to select the right paint colors, flooring, plumbing fixtures, and pendant lamps to create the perfect atmosphere for your space. However, they can’t do it alone. When your designer asks for feedback, provide it promptly and honestly. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts if you have strong feelings about something they suggest.  Trusting your design team and giving them enough space to do their best work is always appreciated, but design is a collaborative process. Stay involved and enjoy the experience. Work on the same team as your designer; before you know it, it will be time to start planning for construction.

Roux and Neko

Furniture Made for All Family Members

My family adopted two miniature poodles this spring. Meet Roux, the mild-mannered apricot-colored fluff ball who loves watching pet-focused reality TV, and Neko, his scrappy, dark-coated brother who has an insatiable zeal for treats and has never met a stranger. This adorable pair has kept us on our toes and, for the first time in our lengthy pet-owning experience, convinced us that they should be allowed on the sofa. We’re not sure if the stumpy tail wags, literal puppy-dog eyes, or the pleading of our kids convinced us this was a good idea. However, we are glad that, given the circumstances, we considered more than good looks last fall when we chose our new family room sofa. Pet-Friendly Furniture Tips If you, like us, share your home with four-legged family members, here are a few things you might remember when shopping for pet-friendly furniture: Look for furniture with solid construction. If your pets (or kids!) launch on and off each day, flimsy furniture may need to be replaced sooner than anticipated. Go with coated leather upholstery if you have a pet that sheds a lot. If constant lint rolling or vacuuming your upholstery, isn’t your idea of fun, fur doesn’t stick to coated leather! If you prefer fabric upholstery, read up on pet-proof options. Velvet, chenille, microfiber, and outdoor fabrics are among the top performers. Consider buying furniture the same color as your pet – for obvious reasons. If you have cats, invest in multiple, sturdy scratch posts. Ensure they don’t move when your cat scratches them, and “train” your cat to use them by sprinkling them with cat nip. This doesn’t guarantee the cat won’t scratch the sofa, but it doesn’t hurt to try! Of course, if you’re a dog owner, you could also train your pup to stay off the furniture, but really, who doesn’t want to snuggle into a poodle pile and watch some Lucky Dog?

On the Seventh Day of Christmas: Seven Interior Design Blogs to Read

On the Seventh Day of Christmas: Seven Design Blogs to Read

On the seventh day of Christmas, we give you: Seven Interior Design Blogs to Read, Six Festive Cocktails, Five Holiday Wishes, Four Tips for a Successful Renovation, Three Blogs Not to Miss, Two New Traditions, and One Room to Refresh. If you’re like me, the combination of more time spent indoors during winter along with holiday season “downtime” often turns into a push to complete (or even just start) a home improvement project I’ve been thinking about for months! On Day 7 of our 12 Days of Christmas series, I share with you seven of my favorite sources of design inspiration from across the web. 7. The Design Files Though it aims to be “Australia’s Go-To Design Destination,” The Design Files’ posts are definitely relevant to those of us not living down under! The blog is full of gorgeous home tours, architecture, and interior posts sorted into useful categories that make it easy to find just the right inspiration – minimalist, family, coastal, etc. 6. Mad About The House Mad About The House features the pragmatic and engaging content of Kate Watson-Smith, a journalist turned design blogger and consultant. Kate’s posts are as personable and entertaining as they are informative. Her recent thoughts on the need to push past the desire to attain perfectionism in our homes got me thinking. 5. House Beautiful House Beautiful’s online presence is every bit as satisfying as its print edition. It’s packed with design inspiration for every style and every room of the house. Once your interior is situated, extend your home outdoors with House Beautiful’s inspiration for the garden. 4. Design to Inspire Put together by a Canadian and Australian team, the posts on Design to Inspire are focused on homes across the globe. Their content is a delight to scroll; it’s light on words and heavy on dazzling photography. 3. Yellow Brick Home Yellow Brick Home follows the renovations of DIYer couple Kim and Scott. The couple covers five renovations in-depth, often sharing what they’ve learned and why they made the design decisions they did. Check out some incredible Before and After galleries. 2. Style by Emily Henderson From luxury renovation projects to high-end looking DIYs, Emily, and her crew at Style by Emily Hendersen cover all the bases in posts that are helpful and a voice that’s friendly and authentic. Also, if you’re still after last-minute gift ideas, I found Emily’s gift guides this year to be spot on! 1. Cup of Jo Though not expressly an interior design blog, Cup of Jo has featured some of my personal all-time favorite house tours. The interviews accompanying the tours offer glimpses into the lives of the home’s occupants that enhance the tour as much as the photography. Cup of Jo’s weekend link lists have been a staple of my weekends for years! Now it’s your turn. What are some of your go-to blogs for inspiration?  

On the Fourth Day of Christmas: Four Tips for a Successful Renovation

On the Fourth Day of Christmas: Four Tips for a Successful Renovation

On the fourth day of Christmas, we give you: Four Tips for a Successful Renovation, Three Blogs Not to Miss, Two New Traditions, and One Room to Refresh. If you’re like many homeowners, once the decision to start a home renovation has been made, you’re eager to begin as soon as possible. The months or even years of living in a space not well-suited to your lifestyle have taken a toll, and you want to make forward progress right away! While we understand the desire to roll up one’s sleeves and jump in, slowing down and taking a little time to consider the following four tips allows homeowners to start their renovation with a foundation as solid as the one their home is built on and to move through the project with confidence and grace. In fact, three of the four tips are for before construction even begins! This highlights how important it is that homeowners take their time preparing and planning for what will undoubtedly be a large investment of both time and resources. 1. Make it personal – Start with a solid plan personalized for your lifestyle. Reflect on what made you even want to do a renovation in the first place. If it helps to clarify things, write down your goals for the final renovated space. Think about functional needs before you think about aesthetics. What really needs fixing? Do you need more pantry space? Is your kitchen too dark? Does the soaking tub in your bathroom take up too much valuable real estate? Consider the needs of your family and make sure you can communicate clearly the problems you’re trying to solve with any partners you’re working with. After you have a solid grasp of functional needs, it’s time to think about aesthetics. Consider what overall look and feel you’d like your home to have. Do you have your heart set on creating a modern and minimalist space, or does the architecture of your home lend itself to a more classic but cozy feel? Think about colors you love, any specific materials you’re interested in, and where in your home it feels reasonable to splurge vs. save. A top priority for a family with young kids and pets might be a durable tile kitchen floor while a recent retiree might finally install the blond wide plank wood floors they’ve been dreaming of for years. Now is the time to gather your Instagram or Pinterest inspiration and use it as a tool to communicate your functional and aesthetic needs to the designers and/or contractors you’ll be partnering with. 2. Work with the right people – Form a solid team you can trust. Speaking of partners, engaging the right people to help with your project is key! If the thought of being able to define your overall project makes you sweat, engage the help of a design professional to walk you through. A qualified design professional will have an established process. They will get to know you by visiting you at your home and asking lots of questions about your needs, lifestyle, and budget. They’ll listen carefully and will use this input to design for your practical needs and visual preferences. They will also produce design deliverables useful to contractors. Additionally, make sure you work with trusted contractors. Ask friends and family who they have worked with and what their experiences were like. Interview potential contractors to get a sense of their personalities and to ask questions about how they approach their work. Look at their portfolios online or ask them to send you photos. You can also ask for references. An alternate option is to work with a design-build firm that will work with you on the design process and then manage the construction from start to finish. Working with a design-build firm means you’ll have a partner all the way through the project. 3. Be prepared – Start preparing well before the demo crew shows up. Once you’ve designed for the end goals of your project and have engaged the right team to help you get it done, being prepared includes both taking the practical steps you’d expect to prep your space, as well as adjusting your mindset to help you manage the inevitable ups and downs that will present themselves along the way. First, decide where you’ll set up a temporary kitchen and construction-free zone where your family can relax, prepare simple meals if your kitchen will be out of commission, and eat. Gather everything you’ll need for this area – this might include a microwave, electric kettle, and other small appliances. Also, decide where you’ll put your refrigerator in the short term. After items needed for your temporary kitchen are set aside, plan to pack up furniture and personal items in your space. Move out everything you can and store your things in another part of the house. This prevents your items from getting dirty or damaged, and it makes contractors more efficient as they aren’t working around obstacles, moving them about the space, or needing to spend time taking extra precautions required to protect your things. Aside from these pragmatic steps, managing your own expectations can also be a help. Despite all your preparations, things will not go according to plan. Expect to be flexible and to pivot as needed as work gets underway. Be prudent and structure your project with flexibility built into your timeline. Also, set aside additional funds to address unexpected costs that arise. Even the most thorough planning won’t help you predict hidden complexities. Finding old wiring that must be brought into code compliance, insufficient insulation, or mechanicals in locations that don’t work for your new plan are all common problems. Unexpected material delays are another. Expecting challenges to arise will allow you to respond in a more confident and timely manner when they inevitably do. 4. Communicate effectively with your team – Be a good client. As you can tell, we value planning and preparation when it comes

Exterior Shutters Are More Often Wrong than Right

It’s starting to feel like Spring! If you’re like me, the melting snow and milder temperatures have you thinking about sprucing up the exterior of your home. After months of gray skies and dead vegetation, you want color! You want pop! You want to…add shutters to your house!? I understand the attraction. Exterior shutters can add architectural interest and an element of color to the right home. They also might feel like a relatively small upgrade compared with the other items on your long list of home improvements. However, before you head to a home improvement store or call your favorite contractor, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself. Do I have windows that are the right style for shutters and will allow my shutters to be sized appropriately? Exterior shutters, if they were closed, should cover half of the width of the window. Shutter height is important too; shutters should be as tall as the window (not the window and sill). Making sure shutters are appropriately sized is critical to making them feel authentic – even if your shutters won’t be operable. In general, windows that are wider than they are tall, shouldn’t have shutters. Similarly, if you have casement windows that open out, these windows typically wouldn’t have shutters. The same is true of bay windows. Is the style of my home suited to having shutters? To answer this question, first, do some quick, anecdotal research. Look at homes similar to yours while you’re out and notice which shutters look most authentic. (I promise during this process you’ll see lots of windows with shutters that shouldn’t have them!) Second, look online. A quick search on shutters for your style of home will help you decide not only if shutters are a good option but also which style would be most complementary. The resources online are, of course, plentiful! I found Timberlane’s article to be a helpful general overview that covers typical home styles and matches them up with viable shutter options. For vintage homes, I like the perspective of the Old House Guy. Given this food for thought, where do you stand? If you answered “yes,” to both questions, move forward with your shutter project with confidence! The right shutters on the right house can really make the home shine. They “feel” right, they look thoughtful, and they give the home a timeless quality. Words of caution are only warranted because when shutters are used inappropriately, they can do, well, the opposite. The shutters featured in the photo were custom-built to match the cottage style of the home. Complete with bespoke flower boxes, the shutters elevate the home and achieve the desired quaint look. They have a cozy quality that make me want to garden or maybe sit on the porch and drink tea while someone else gardens? Either way, they add great atmosphere. To make your new shutters evoke a similar affect, consider making them operable (or look operable) with the appropriate hardware. House of Antique Hardware has lots of options, as does Hooks & Lattice. Rejuvenation has some more limited, but really beautiful classic pieces too – I’m loving this shutter lock. Anyone else get overly excited looking at hardware?? What if you can’t justify shutters? So you just figured out exterior shutters aren’t appropriate for your home, but you still want a refresh out front. What do you do? First of all, don’t despair! There are plenty of other simple exterior projects that have equally satisfying results. Here are a few ideas to get you started: Change the color of your front door. This can drastically change the look of your home with the added bonus of being low risk and low commitment. Think accessories. New planters and a welcome mat are a super easy way to make things feel fresh. Swap out a builder-grade mailbox for something more fitting, look for house numbers you love, switch out your exterior lighting for standout fixtures, or add landscaping lighting in preparation for when things are again lush and green. There are so many ways to spruce up outside that will look beautiful and feel authentic. If you’re feeling stuck, reach out to your local interior design firm. Many designers consult on exteriors too and can give you suggestions to up the curb appeal of your home – with or without shutters in the mix!

Scroll to Top