A must in the mountain house? Outdoor space for entertaining

This home at 160 Hamilton Creek Trail in Silverthorne features a large deck and fire pit for entertaining.
Photo by Karin Mattern/Nelson Valley Real Estate

In Summit County, residents and vacation home owners are focused on exploring the area’s plethora of outdoor activities, which means designing a home with custom outdoor living space to meet to their specific needs.

At least that’s what local experts say: business partners Ned Walley and Debbie Nelson own Nelson Walley Real Estate and say outdoor spaces are one of the most crucial elements of a luxury home, a notes that Allen-Guerra Architecture co-owner Suzanne Allen-Sabo agrees.

Walley and Nelson said about a quarter to a third of their sales are in the luxury home category, which they consider to be $2 million and above, which equates to half of their sales volume.



Allen-Sabo started his business in the late 1990s and has since designed more than 600 luxury homes in the county.

Basic Features in Outdoor Spaces

“People want to be able to see the view from inside and outside, whether it’s a balcony or a patio,” Nelson said.



Walley said some of the most common features are aimed at enticing owners to extend their time outdoors. For example, high-end hot tubs with swim jets, in-ground natural gas fireplaces, and outdoor cooking areas are most common in luxury homes.

In addition to these features, Allen-Sabo said it’s common for homeowners to want to open up the home to outdoor space.

“One of the things that’s really popular…is huge sliding door systems,” Allen-Sabo said. “…The idea being that you could open up an entire wall and have it glazed over during the winter and closed off. But during the summer, you can open it up and bring your indoor and outdoor spaces together.

Allen-Sabo said another common feature she sees is outdoor kitchens, whether on a covered patio or an open deck.

Along with planning what features to have in their space, Nelson said most homebuyers are looking for private outdoor spaces.

“People want views, but they also want some privacy,” Nelson said. “People in luxury homes are usually pretty strategic about placement of trees, placement of fences if they’re allowed, (and) orientation of the house to give them the most privacy.”

This home at 160 Hamilton Creek Trail in Silverthorne features an outdoor pool and panoramic views of the Gore Range.
Photo by Karin Mattern/Nelson Valley Real Estate

Unique Features in Outdoor Spaces

“A lot of times people design…homes that are very specific to them and their family’s needs,” Walley said. “And then every time they go to sell, these super unique homes can sometimes be difficult for another buyer to fit into the same mold that was designed for the people who built the home.”

While Walley said he recommends homeowners be more generic in their design, if only to make the selling process a little easier, some of these super specific features make luxury homes extremely unique.

Case in point: Walley said he knows of a luxury property that has a helipad and an outdoor pool, two uncommon features for homes in Summit County. Walley said the original builder of this house had a specific purpose for the house, which explains these extraordinary features.

“This was built by the original developer of Hamilton Creek, when the neighborhood was first developed, and he obviously wanted to build a good example and a showcase home for the direction he wanted to see the neighborhood move in,” said Walley said. “I think 25 years ago, 30 years ago, Summit County was more remote, and I think having an extra helipad for a medical emergency – or what he was really considering was an executive retirement.”

The buyer who ended up with the property was attracted by the huge terrace and the swimming pool, which ultimately sold the house.

Other unique features Allen-Sabo says he’s seen recently are wood-fired pizza ovens and trampolines that connect to the deck.

“The list goes on and on,” she said.

Expert recommendations

By way of wisdom, Allen-Sabo said she recommends homeowners consider the orientation of the home when designing, as well as ways to extend the life of their outdoor space so it can be used for longer periods of the year.

Outdoor heaters, we can build them into the soffits of outdoor roofs, which extends the usability of many of our outdoor patios, porches, covered decks,” she said. “Only in winter you wouldn’t use it.”

Walley and Nelson agree that having an expert help design an outdoor space is something builders or homeowners should invest in as they plan.

“First and foremost, I think they need to work closely with an architect…and closely with a designer and a landscaper when they design their home. And there are specialists in exterior design, not just landscaping, but landscaping design,” Nelson said. “Some of the most amazing homes I’ve seen, the architect has worked hand-in-hand with an interior designer, and I think that’s become important when you’re trying to create that outdoor space.”