Photography courtesy of Rosewood Custom Builders.

Outdoor gatherings are finally becoming more common. And warmer spring weather, as it always does, prompts Texans — eager to escape inside confines after an extreme freeze — to venture outside. At last looking to what lies beyond the back door, neighbors might have noticed something missing — perhaps a relaxing place to coax melanin back into the skin, or just the opposite, a cool and comfortable place to avoid baking in the sun. So they turn to experts, people like Chris Dauwe at Rosewood Custom Builders and Daniel Sneed at Mecox Gardens, to help create the backyard oasis of their dreams.

The market’s effect

Rather than trying to find a new house, neighbors are turning attention to renovating and remodeling current homes, says Dauwe, who’s been working at Rosewood since he was in his 20s. Now a co-owner of the company his parents started the year he was born, he says demand for improved outdoor living spaces, such as kitchens, patios and pools, has been increasing for about 10 years. But, he says, “the pandemic just basically shot it full of steroids, made it go faster.”

Spikes and setbacks

The cost of some materials has changed over the last year, with lumber in particular becoming more expensive. But Dauwe says customers went ahead with plans to build and paid the higher prices. Some jobs, such as pool installations, also began to take longer to complete. Many people decided to opt for a pool anyway and faced long waiting periods as companies that spray gunite, a concrete added to pool shells, scrambled to keep up with demand. And when February’s freeze came, there was a need for plants and shrubs. Dauwe says his crews showed up at nurseries as early as 6 a.m. to get first picks of the latest shipments.

What’s trending now

Sneed, the manager at Mecox Gardens, says concrete (for concrete-topped tables) and teak furniture have always been popular. Recently, Mecox has been selling more synthetic woven materials that allow rain to easily seep through, as well as colorful outdoor ceramics and garden stools. “Now that it’s getting a little warmer and, I think, loosening restrictions, people are definitely doing more and kind of switching over to a little bit of entertaining,” Sneed says.

Dauwe has seen more interest for artificial turf, which attracts fewer insects. Clients have also been requesting retractable screens and in-ceiling infrared heaters.

Creating an outdoor oasis

Selecting a contractor is an important first step. Dauwe’s advice is to be wary of “self-proclaimed” builders and laborers, who often emerge when demand is high. Look for a company that has been active in our neighborhood for at least five years.

Architects will be able to map out an appropriate space for a project and its main features, and when it comes to furnishing the space, Sneed says measurements are key. Treat a trip to the store or showroom for buying outdoor furniture just the same as one for purchasing indoor furniture. “Really take the time to measure your space out and again, to know how you use it and live with it,” Sneed says. A higher price doesn’t always indicate a higher quality, he warns, but he recommends brands such as Palecek and Oasiq. Recognizing the purpose of the space is also important. It’s fine, for example, to opt for a more inexpensive table and chairs if they’re placed under a covered area that won’t get much use. But for an area that will undergo heavier use, it may be worth it to invest a little more.

A final piece of advice from Dauwe when it comes to creating an outdoor space: “Think three or four or five years down the road instead of just this summer.”