A party on the patio, with friends or family, is one of the great joys of summer. Great companionship. Good food. Pleasant surroundings.
The first is a gift. The second often is accompanied by the enjoyment of easy conversation around the grill. The third, well, that takes some planning and effort to make sure your patio and the landscape surrounding it are both beautiful and welcoming.
A pair of area companies—Willaman Designs and Miller Custom Exteriors—offer plenty of advice to help get a patio space ready for parties.
In years past, patios were just those rectangular concrete slabs that extended from the exterior of homes.
Now, the patio space is a more meaningful extension of the home, both in architectural design and living style, says
Kevin Willaman, owner and operator of Willaman Designs of 11309 Wright Road NW in Lake Township.
“It’s not just a plain patio anymore,” said Willaman. “In years past, it was a patio with a table and some chairs. Now it’s evolved into an outdoor kitchen. It’s evolved into a decorative landscaped area, consisting of gas or wood fire pits and gathering seat walls, enhancing all that with LED light technology.
Willaman and his five employees find themselves designing places of peace more often these days, rather than merely putting in patios. Having done landscaping while he was in high school, Willaman developed a passion for turning the space surrounding a house into an outdoor reflection of a family’s lifestyle inside their home.
“The first thing we do is pay attention to what the customers want—what their thoughts are,” said Willaman. “We sit down and get an idea of what their family vision is for an outside space and what they want from that space, whether it be entertaining a large number of people or sitting around and enjoying it with family.
“Then from there, we design and develop an area that fits all their needs and at the same time creates a lot of value.”
In general, people want “comfortable and efficient” party spaces said Willaman, who started his “outdoor living” construction business—everything from pergolas and stamped concrete to fire structures and landscape lighting—early in the 2000s.
“It’s generally in the rear of the home where they have the most privacy, but it does depend on the layout of the home,” said Willaman, who noted that the ideal starting place is to get an idea of the initial budget of a patio project. “And we can try to construct it accordingly to try to create as much value for the dollar as possible.”
Value can be measured, in the most obvious sense, in square feet. An average comfortable patio to be used for entertaining ranges from 475 to 675 square feet, estimates Willaman.
“That allows for a table, furniture, grill, fire pit and the room to move around,” Willaman explained. “When you get a small patio with a lot of things on it, you can see why square footage becomes a priority.”
Beyond the basic “floor plan,” it’s best to design a patio built to last for many seasons, rather than just for the party of today, Willaman advised.
Think out of the traditional box patio that was your father’s backyard getaway. Consider cooking equipment once kept to the kitchen, perhaps an outdoor refrigerator, convenient chairs and tables, comfortable lounging furniture, gas fire features that are easily maintained and walkways leading from the patio to nearby lighted landscaping.
“All the leading products and technology, that’s what people want,” Willaman said. “We pride ourselves in that. We’re not about price, we’re about customer service and quality, and quality is what lasts.”
Miller Custom Exteriors
If you invite guests to your home for a patio party this summer, they’re going to get a good look at the house. You’ll want it to be appearing pretty.
Face-lifts of homes can be as easy as a seasonal power-washing or as involved as a full-house makeover, said Lorin Miller, co-owner of Miller Custom Exteriors with his brother, Ed Miller.
Miller’s company, started as a seamless siding business by his father, Jacob Miller Jr., and it remains a family business. Four other brothers—Nolan, Joe, Nate and James—work at the company, as does nephew Jaron Miller. Lorin Miller’s wife, Ann, is the company’s marketing person, while Ed Miller’s wife, Betty, is the bookkeeper.
“Dad was doing all sorts of construction—pole buildings, gutters and siding—in the 1970s,” recalled Miller. “We started with seamless siding in 1987. Then we started doing more windows, doors, metal roofing and, within the last year, concrete floor coatings. Today, we pretty much do all the exterior, from roof down to concrete coating.”
Maintenance or replacement of all those elements indeed does create a greatly improved setting for summer entertaining, Miller noted.
“People are staying in their homes a long time. The number of homes over 20 years old is at a peak,” said Lorin Miller. That means the number of homes needing improvements is peaking, as well.”
Patios and all-season rooms are in demand. Miller said that his company goes “above and beyond” to customize such entertainment venues.
“We make it look more like a part of the house.”
Old patios can be given a face-lift, however, noted Miller, by applying a vinyl concrete coating.
“It really improves the appearance of the concrete in garages, sidewalks and outdoor patios. It can take dull concrete and make it look new,” said Miller, who noted that the coating comes in a variety of colors. “We’ve even done driveways. We repair the cracks first so it looks brand new with this coating.”
A whole-house makeover can include adding stone facades, installing metal roof materials that have the appearance of slate and hanging stainless steel siding that takes the danger out of being distracted when you are cooking outside.
“You don’t have to worry about getting your grill too close and melting your siding,” said Miller. “It happens.”
A visible update to a home can be cultured stone, a man-made manufactured stone product.
“We can use it as an accent around the foundation,” said Miller, “or just run it around the entryway.”
The entry is when guests get that important first impression, said Miller, who recommended one simple update.
“Adding a nice front door dresses up a house,” he explained. “Putting on a nice fiberglass or steel entry system can add a great deal to the look of your home.”
That’s one thing that can be done immediately and not interrupt your entertainment plans. Then, you can wait a few months for additional more intrusive improvements.
“We work year-round, so you can do the rest at a time when you’re not entertaining,” said Miller. “Start it this winter and be ready for next season.”