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Real Estate Experts Discuss Trends in Outdoor Living

Moderated by Michael Braverman | August 8, 2018 | Home & Real Estate

If the indoors come out and the outdoors come in, are there any boundaries left? Our roundtable of real estate experts cuts through the philosophical confusion in this chat about trends in outdoor living.

real-estate-experts-0005.jpgPanelists (from left): Roy, Nunzio Zappola, Michaela Keszler, George Berry and Linda Silich.

Outdoor living is about so much more than having a pool. This week’s panel of experts—broker Michaela Keszler, landscape designer Linda Silich, interior designer Melanie Roy, builder Nunzio Zappola and fence vendor (and architect) George Berry—can help expand your mind.

What’s new in indoor-outdoor living?
LINDA SILICH: We like to create living areas all around a property and try to mimic the interior design outside. It’s important to look from the inside out.

MELANIE ROY: I’m not only designing homes and outdoor spaces but a lifestyle. People want outdoor dining and living rooms. And the reverse inside: Last year I did a room with a fern wall.

GEORGE BERRY: If a house is a container of human activities, and each room is specialized, the same is being applied [outside]. People maximize the property.

LS: One client wanted us to create a walking meditation labyrinth.

MICHAELA KESZLER: The pizza oven! And 20 years ago, people suddenly had outdoor TVs.

LS: The smoker! I had to do a different patio for one, away from the house.

MR: Outdoor beds! As soon as you purchase a house in the Hamptons, you become a host.

GB: There are still buildings north of the highway where it’s a house and a pool. The first thing you do is try to break that box.

NUNZIO ZAPPOLA: We get plans now that have all the landscaping figured out, so it’s a lot more involved with the [home] exterior. It’s becoming more relevant with products that open up entire walls.

real-estate-roundtable-2.jpgThis glass rear facade by N. Zappola & Associates opens 16 feet to extend the living room into a living area.

Do clients come in wanting those things?
MK: They want certain criteria, but they’re intrigued as to what’s on the market.

GB: We’re supposed to show people what they haven’t seen or dreamed of.

MR: I spend a lot of time with architects with my clients, walking through the house in the plan, to determine their lifestyle and how [the house] is going to accommodate their family.

NZ: A lot more projects come to us through designers. And we get the architect for the designer, so they’re now as worried about structure as we are. It’s a different process.

MR: Absolutely. There’s a lot of teamwork.

real-estate-roundtable-4.jpgA playful, inviting entrance to a Bridgehampton beach house designed by Melanie Roy.

What else are we seeing?
LS: People are branching out into concrete products for hardscaping, like molds that look like hardwood.

NZ: It’s like a stamped concrete; you form it based off whatever you’re trying to mimic. You can do unlimited things. It comes down to resilience and sustainability.

MK: It’s really cut to what people want. A lot of times, it’s not even second homes with my customers; it’s third or fourth. They want to bring amenities they have in their modern home to the beach.

NZ: A lot of people are manipulating nature so it’s more rigid. The trees are aligned perfectly. It’s beautiful, but it’s not natural. It’s more formal.

GB: We’re also in the age of the meadow. But that goes back to the client’s personality or philosophy.

LS: There are still people who want boxwoods, very neat and clean.

GB: It’s interesting that the choices are more perfectly designed on either side. The meadow—in theory, this thing you don’t have to design—is extremely designed.

MK: It comes down to maintenance. The buyer today, it doesn’t matter which price range, doesn’t want to have any maintenance. It’s sometimes easier to sell a 2-acre property than a 4 or 6.

real-estate-roundtable.jpgUsing furnishings from Dedon and The Rug Company, Melanie Roy designed an outdoor living area off a bedroom to extend beach living in the summer.

How do you take advantage of nature?
MR: I pull blues from the ocean and sky, and soft palettes from sunsets. I always take the fabrics, paints, wallpaper and rugs out to the site, because the light is so different here.

LS: One of the most important things is where the sun sets. You have to ask the client, too, because not everybody loves the sun. You have to make sure you’re not putting any big seating arrangements in the wrong place.

NZ: We had one plan with a lot of sculpture, and we cut into the surrounding woods and put the sculpture there, with site lighting. You don’t see it during the day, but at night, suddenly, there it is. It’s beautiful.

LS: I had a culinary person who wanted a long table, surrounded by an allée of trees. It felt like Wölffer, the winery.

GB: We’re blessed to have so many types of landscapes here. It gives you different things to respond to and inspire you.

MK: A lot of people want to see a house in the evening. Once they like something, they have to come back and see it lit up.

NZ: It’s a totally different feel on any project between night and day. When you’re at the place for longer than to just do your job [and] then leave, you realize the side of that tree is going to be lit by the moon.

real-estate-roundtable-3.jpgA luscious tree-lined path by Linda Silich.

Any last thoughts?
GB: Think about that front, public edge of your property, where the fence goes, and develop that with landscaping. It’s your first impression, the arrival sequence, which also leads into the interior design. Our fence is a retracting technology, so anything you want to go away, we can handle it.

MK: More important, you want the pool fence, especially with kids.

NZ: We’re often asked about that. But OK, we’ve got the outside protected, now anyone on the inside is vulnerable.

MR: I bring in beautiful, durable products for outdoors, so families can relax with dogs and children.

GB: And a glass of wine.

Meet the Panelists

GEORGE BERRY: Founder, Modern Fence Holdings, 914.709.7813,
MICHAELA KESZLER: Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 70 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631.204.2743,
MELANIE ROY: Owner, Melanie Roy Design, 646.858.6321,
LINDA SILICH: Owner, Groundworks Landscaping, 530 Montauk Highway, East Hampton, 631.324.7373,
NUNZIO ZAPPOLA: CEO, N. Zappola & Associates, 98 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 631.527.5505,