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Trends in Outdoor Living


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Despite rain, snow, sleet, hail – and even hurricanes, tornadoes, and heat waves – Americans still love the great outdoors. Throughout the country, people take pride in creating beautiful outdoor living spaces that add charm, functionality and comfort to their surroundings.

People create outdoor venues for a variety of reasons. Some are concerned about privacy or security. Others want to enhance or diversify their living areas. Some people seek to re-create the serenity of a wooded glen or a forest brook in a convenient location. Today, designers, architects and landscape architects excel at creative amenities and attractive features that not only enhance quality of life, but also boost a property’s curb appeal and significantly increase its value.

Walpole Outdoors, headquartered in Walpole, MA, specializes in designing and installing pergolas, arbors, enclosures, gazebos, fences, gates and various types of exterior décor for commercial and residential clients. Lou Maglio, President of Walpole Outdoors, notes that whatever goals or intentions people have, they often turn to exotic woods to create outdoor amenities that are durable, low-maintenance, elegant and tasteful.

“Pergolas are a particularly popular outdoor enhancement now,” according to Walpole Outdoors’ Purchasing Manager Bob Coyne. “A pergola is essentially an indoor/outdoor room that allows for breeze and light sun, but offers protection from the harsh glare of direct sunlight,” he says. A pergola may be a garden feature, a shaded walkway, a sitting area with vertical posts, pillars, an open lattice, or a retractable awning overhead.

Exterior showers are also fashionable. “In addition to being very practical, many outdoor showers are beautiful, sculpted works of art,” Coyne says. “There is truly something magical about singing in the shower alfresco accompanied by a chorale of birds and the echoing strains of Mother Nature.”

Outdoor features such as pergolas, gazebos, gates, enclosures and open-air showers often incorporate traditional exotic woods, such as teak, mahogany, sapele or ipe. “These woods are hard, stable and durable,” says Coyne. Teak is well known for its strength and resistance to water, insects and rot along with its rich golden brown color and lush texture. Teak’s high oil content, high tensile strength and tight grain makes it particularly suitable for outdoor applications. It is easily worked, an important consideration for pergolas, arbors and decorative gates, which can be very ornate. Teak can however, cause severe blunting on edged tools because of the presence of silica in the wood.



Mahogany Alternatives for Exterior Use Shine


Mahogany has long been prized for its straight, fine, even grain and lustrous reddish brown hue. Mahogany is relatively free of voids and pockets, has excellent workability and is extremely durable. Genuine mahogany is costly and is becoming difficult to obtain.

However, more designers, architects and landscape architects who specify materials for outdoor applications are turning to other lesser known, but equally stable exotic species.

One exotic gaining favor is Cedrela, a member of the mahogany family. Cedrela is commonly known as “Spanish cedar,” (although it is neither Spanish nor a cedar). This fragrant wood with good resistance to wood-boring insects and rot is traditionally used to make cigar boxes and for paneling, veneer and general outdoor and construction work. Cedrela is a relatively uniform light rose to reddish brown-toned wood that darkens with age. It has a straight or shallowly interlocked grain, medium texture and moderate natural luster. Random pockets of gum and natural oils are often present. Spanish cedar works easily, but due to its low density and softness, it tends to leave hazy surfaces and must be machined with sharp cutters. Extra sanding with extremely fine grits may be required to obtain a smooth surface.


Older slower-growing cedrela trees tend to produce wood that is more durable than wood from younger plantation-grown trees. “Nootka Cypress, often called Alaskan yellow cedar is an up-andcomer that is frequently specified for outdoor applications,” says Coyne.


This beautiful pale blonde wood is native to the west coast of North America. When finished, it displays a soft golden glow. It has a straight grain and a uniform color that darkens with age and exposure to sunlight. If the wood is left untreated, it weathers to a uniform gray. Alaskan yellow cedar is hard, durable, offers good dimensional stability and is resistant to weather, insects, and contact with soil. It works easily with hand or machine tools, resists splintering and wears smoothly over time.

Like the more familiar exotics, these lesser-known varieties of exotic and domestic woods are strong, long-wearing, stable, resistant to decay and able to withstand humidity and intense sunlight. As traditional woods become more expensive and difficult to source, these species provide an economical alternative and offer endless possibilities for creating outdoor environments that are functional, innovative, and aesthetically pleasing.   IW



Bob Coyne, Purchasing Manager
Walpole Outdoors