Outdoor Spaces Revamp Vegas Homes
BY TONY ILLIA
Las Vegas’s balmy, sun-drenched days foster a robust outdoor lifestyle. Airy, uncluttered residences have long been in fashion as a result, offering large swaths of glass that bring daylight indoors. Meanwhile outdoor space is increasingly being viewed as an extension of the home. But the very latest in today’s real estate market has taken these concepts one step further and made a blurred boundary between indoors and out a desirable design quality.
“In Las Vegas, outdoor spaces are a part of the home,” says Kristen Routh-Silberman, a luxury property realtor with Synergy Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s more than a design approach. It’s a lifestyle: outdoor living as indoor living.”
Savvy builders and architects use a variety of tools and techniques to excel backyard living spaces. Glass doors that slide or fold back can accentuate the illusion of uninterrupted space, while indoor flooring that extends outside can further connect the home with its surroundings. Some homes have outdoor living rooms, with oversized furniture and conversation fire pits. Covered patios, screened porches, gazebos, and barbecue islands are familiar fixtures in Southern Nevada, and the backyard has moved to the front stage as a setting for informal gatherings and late-afternoon soirées.
“Bright, cheery places appeal to emotion,” says Rob Jenson, chief executive officer of the Jenson Group. “Homes gain another dimension by going up and out.”
Southern Nevada homes are often oriented to take full advantage of the subtropical climate and surrounding vistas: The better the view, the better the value. Locals and visitors alike have lovingly embraced the southwestern environment for its rugged, indigenous beauty, with Joshua trees, Mojave yucca plants, creosote bushes, and blackbrush plants—plus views of the Spring Mountains, which include Mount Charleston. Sweltering summer heat and dustcarrying winds are a problem local architects, such as Las Vegas–based AssemblageStudio, have learned to address.
“We believe that you can live outside in 110 degree weather and still be comfortable, but the outdoor space has to be done correctly with wind screens and proper ventilation,” says Eric Strain, principal of AssemblageStudio. “The outdoor space is almost a vestibule. It can help adjust your internal thermostat when transitioning from an air-conditioned area to an open-air setting.”
Cleverly arranged desert landscaping can provide sheltering shade that acts as a buffer against the natural elements. Lush, flowering, drought-tolerant trees, plants, and shrubs can additionally suggest an oasis-like setting, or adding hints of water, Strain says, such as arroyos and rivulets, can have a subtle but potent psychological effect that tricks the body into cool-down mode. Other architectural devices for making desert living livable are deep, shaded overhangs, window louvers, and fans.
“We try to screen-direct heat and diffuse daylight into the home,” Strain says. “Or we will place windows away from eye-level, for unexpected views. The effect feels like you’re bringing landscaping into the home.”
Obscuring the line between indoors and out often starts with the glazing: Skillfully placed protective glazing can make a home glow like a lantern at night for a sense of ethereal transparency. Several industry trade tricks can produce this quality as well: Open-flowing floor plans, for instance, allow greater uninterrupted expanses of space that allow daylight to penetrate deeper and further inside a room.
Shelves, reflective hues, and articulated façades can refract and amplify light. Window size and placement, meanwhile, play an important role for achieving an open-air ambience. Clerestory windows, low-lying openings, and skylights can carry light from unexpected angles for uniquely illuminated perspectives that gracefully meld indoors and out.
High ceilings are another device that may lend volume to a room and amplify sunlight for a warm, lustrous feeling that spells “home” for many Southern Nevadans. “People don’t want to feel like they’re inside a dark cave,” Jenson says. “Home buyers really want a ‘wow’ factor with light-filled open floor plans and great views, which add to a sense of space. It’s a quality all the finer homes in Southern Nevada possess.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC PENROD/PERFECT IMAGES;photography by john martorano/jpm studios (promenade); eric jamison/studio J. Inc. (ridges); eric penrod/perfect images (lairmont)