Category Archives: Entertaining Tips

Things to Consider Before Setting Up an Outdoor Firepit

Outdoor-Firepit-Paragon-Homes-BlogIt is easy to understand why outdoor firepits are gaining increasing popularity. There is something soothing about sitting around the fire while you socialize with family and friends. Many great memories can be made around a fire with some marshmallows, and a ghost story or two.

Given how popular firepits are you probably know someone with one. You may have spent some time enjoying a firepit at someone else’s house or at a restaurant and now you want one of your own. Before you rush out and start digging a hole in your yard, there are certain things you should keep in mind and regulations you will probably need to follow. In this article, we will take a look at things you should consider before setting up your outdoor firepit.

The Four Types of Fire Pits

To begin with, there are four different types of fire pits. Which is the right type for you will depend on a variety of factors. You will want to consider the setting, the design of the firepit, the type of fuel you want to use, safety issues and any local regulations or county regulations you might need to follow.

1. Wood Burning Fire Pits

There is nothing like the smell of the smoke and the snap and crackle of the wood. The red glow of the logs as they burn adds to the ambiance. The drawback is that you will have to constantly chop wood or buy wood to keep it going. You will also have to have a storage area for the wood to keep it dry enough to burn. The wood, in turn, always attracts insects, so you will have to be prepared for that.

If you choose to have a wood burning fire pit you have a few design options including a wood burning grill for cooking. You can also choose an outdoor fireplace design that is similar to an indoor fireplace made of brick or stone. Finally, you could make a pit of brick or stone. That is the easiest design option and many people build their own.

2. Propane Fire Pits

Propane fire pits are extremely convenient. There is no need to worry about constantly replenishing wood or gel. Propane lends itself to large firepits with dramatic designs the use materials like faux wood, rock pebbles and glass. The potential drawbacks are the price of purchasing propane and the possibility of the propane running out while you are entertaining. Also, many people find that propane is inferior when it comes to cooking. It doesn’t add the kind of flavor that wood grilling does.

Propane fire pits come in portable designs that can be easily moved anywhere in the yard. They also come in elegant copper bowl designs. Copper’s high melting point ensures they are durable, but they can be expensive. Firepit table designs mimic tables with the fire in the center. They come handy ledges around the edge that provide a safe distance from the flames and a place to rest a drink or plate of food.

3. Gel Fuel Fire Pits

Gel fuel fire pits are an option that many people find attractive because they burn without scent or smoke. They are versatile and can be moved. The drawbacks to gel is that it can be hard to find in stores and many people find it easier to buy it online. It also doesn’t give off as much heat.

Gel fuel comes in two designs. It can be purchased as gel fuel logs. The clever design creates the look of a wood fire while concealing the gel fuel holders. The logs can be used in any fire pit design. Tabletop fireplaces allow you to have a small, portable fire indoors or outdoors.

4. Natural Gas Fire Pits

Natural gas fire pits burn clean and you never need to worry about running out of fuel. It can also be a less expensive fuel option. The drawback is that you must run a separate gas line which can be very expensive to install. It also becomes a permanent fixture, which means you can’t move the firepit.

Natural gas fire pits have a couple of designs they can be incorporated into. Sunken designs are dramatic and add to the look of a patio or yard. They present a bit of a safety risk because they are an open flame design. Square, round and tabletop designs are raised above the ground and have elegant designs that are made of stone, brick or copper.

Conclusion

A firepit can be a great addition to your backyard. Keep in mind, however, that they can be a fire risk. Along with the other elements of design, you should consider safety when you create your firepit. Pick a location where it is safe to have an open fire, use care when managing open flames, and follow all local regulations to make your firepit safe and enjoyable for you, your family, guests, and neighbors.

7 Secrets to Successfully Creating an Outdoor Cooking Space

Each year when the weather turns warm the thoughts of many homeowners turn to all things outdoors. There are beautiful plants to maintain, pools to enjoy, lawns that need to be manicured, and outdoor sports to watch and compete in. Then there is one of the most pleasurable outdoor pursuits- cooking. With so many fresh fruits and vegetables in season and so many wonderful recipes to try out it is one of the best things about summer. Just as homeowners want the best in landscaping, pools, and lawn furniture to show off, they also want the best in outdoor cooking spaces to enjoy summer’s bounty.

1. Climate drives the choice of outdoor materials.

The first consideration when designing your dream outdoor cooking space must always be the climate that you live in. It is the driving force behind many of the elements in your design. First, it must dictate the materials you choose for your cooking space. Given the cost and the effort involved in installing the wood and brick that typically provides the foundation of an outdoor cooking area, it is extremely important to choose materials and designs that will stand up to the climate you live in. This is true whether you are living in a climate with harsh winters and hot summers, like New England, or a climate with long months heat and humidity, like the southern states or a climate with dry, arid heat, such as the desert southwest.

2. Let the natural space dictate design.

Look around at the natural beauty of your surroundings. Any outdoor cooking space should reflect and enhance the natural surroundings. When making choices about the materials used, the furniture and appliances, and decorative accents you should consider how they work with the natural surroundings. The good thing about designing an outdoor cooking space as opposed to an indoor kitchen is that you already have a backdrop for your design. Nature provides you with a palette of colors and a design motif to work with. You get to use that when you dream up your perfect outdoor looking space.

3. Use the light.

When you have an outdoor area for cooking and eating you have planned for variations in light and temperature. There are a variety of options when it comes to lighting. You should look at where you are creating natural spots for both cooking and gathering to eat when choosing the placement of light sources. The type of lighting you choose should work with the over design. The same is true of shade. You can choose from many different attractive ways to create shade for cooking and eating. For variations in temperature, there are a variety of fans that can circulate the air. Attractive fire pits and large grills create warmth in cooler weather.

4. Go small.

When you are designing an outdoor cooking space you should plan for the amount of food you will be storing and cooking. You will find that you might not need full-sized appliances. Smaller appliances such as mini-fridges can work for you. Since you most likely will only need to store and cook enough food for one meal smaller appliances can be a good solution. They are less expensive and take up less space, leaving more money and space for the more decorative aspects of your outdoor cooking space!

5. Go big- but not too big.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of designing your own personal outdoor cooking space. You want it to have all the impressive gadgets and for the furniture and appliances to have all the latest features. Let your imagination run free but then consider reigning it in a bit. If you take a moment to step back and analyze your lifestyle and the cooking you will be doing outside you might find that there are some gadgets and features you don’t really need. You don’t have to shell out money and make room for something you probably aren’t even going to use. Be deliberate in what you choose to include in your outdoor cooking space.

6. Just add water.

One of the most important features you should consider adding to your outdoor cooking space is a good sink. While the plumbing involved might be a little tricky it can be totally worth it to have a sink outside. Having a sink makes both food prep and clean-up easier and faster. It also makes it easy for people to wash their hands before eating. Think about including a sink in your plans.

7. The devil is in the details.

Time to get real. There is, after all, a difference between looking at pictures of perfectly manicured outdoor eating spaces with pristine furniture and the latest appliances and making it happen in your own backyard. To begin with, start with a design and a budget that is right for you. Don’t rush that first step. Then you should carefully vet any contractors you use. Make sure they are reliable and have a reputation for quality work. Before you begin any work check in at town hall and make sure you are following town regulations and ordinances and that you have any permits you need. Following those steps will make the process smoother and give you the outdoor cooking space of your dreams!

The Art of a Perfect TV Night: Tips from Paragon Homes

people-watching-tv

The Academy Awards are upon us, and every fan of the Oscars knows that if you aren’t at a swanky red-carpet party, then you’re probably at home — hopefully a Paragon home — in your pajamas, with your favorite snacks, and perhaps a glass of wine. But whether you will watch the awards show or the Walking Dead or Gilmore Girls on Netflix this Sunday night, the general rules for the perfect night of television at home are all the same. So here we go!

Paragon Homes Presents: The Art of a Perfect TV Night

  • Tip #1: Get Comfy. The most perfect TV nights involve cozy jammies or sweats and a warm blankie.
  • Tip #2: Snack Smart. While it’s tempting to binge on chips and dip, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, or peanut butter straight from the jar, we recommend smart snacking. (Think: popcorn, apple slices, fresh veggies, raw fruit, almonds.)
  • Tip #3: The Right Seat. If you’ve ever hosted a Super Bowl Sunday party, you know that, when it comes to TV, the right spot can make all the different. So whether you are sitting on a pouf, lounging on the couch, or relaxing in a recliner, choose a seat that’s right for you and get to veggin’ out.
  • Tip #4: A Good TV. Shows like the Oscars require the GOOD TV. Most of us have one of these in the house: the one everyone clamors for. Use that one. This is your night.
  • Tip #5: Relax. Don’t work or check emails while you watch TV. Focus on taking it easy, and, if you want to spice up your Academy Awards experience, fill out a ballot or take bets on who will win what.

As always, Paragon wants you to have the experience that YOU desire. When it comes to our custom-built homes, we infuse your personality and style, and are all about luxe finishes, small details, your personal taste, and high-quality comfort. We think that even your TV experiences should be the same: comfortable, and unique to you.

 

 

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Paragon Homes has been building custom homes in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 25 years.  In that time they have come to be recognized as one of the premier custom home builders in Western Pa.  In fact they have been honored to receive over 25 Housing Excellence Awards from the Builders and Realtors Associations of Metropolitan Pittsburgh and the Washington County Builders Association including several for New Custom Home of the Year designations. You can reach Paragon Homes at 412-787-8807, or visit us online at http://www.visitparagonhomes.com

Ashley Boynes-Shuck is a well-known blogger, author, and social media pro from Pittsburgh, PA. She was voted Best Blogger in Pittsburgh and Who to Follow on Twitter 2010, one of Pittsburgh’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2011, a 2012 Woman of the Year and Athena Young Professional awards candidate, one of Pittsburgh’s Most Influential Twitter Users by the Pittsburgh Business Times, and happily lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, dogs, frogs, and cats!  In her free time she focuses on advocacy and volunteer work, as well as rooting on the Pittsburgh sports teams!

– See more at: http://paragonhomescustombuilder.com/paragon-homes-blog#sthash.juyKb90B.dpuf

Spring Holidays: Entertaining for Easter in your Paragon Home

easterplateWith the Easter season approaching, many a family with gather to celebrate the holiday at home.

Some tips for entertaining for Easter in your Paragon Home include:

  • Hosting a casual Easter brunch buffet in kitchen. (Or, try green eggs for St. Patrick’s Day next weekend!)
  • Cooking a large feast in your spacious, functional, Paragon kitchen – large enough to cook with your family and friends!
  • Serving a traditional Easter dinner in your dining room.
  • Try a Greek Easter menu, and grill a leg of lamb outside on the patio.
  • Utilize your indoor and outdoor space by having an Easter egg hunt for the kids. (Or, for St. Patty’s day, a green-themed party for the adults.)
  • Will the weather too unpredictable for an egg hunt? Have a family-friendly egg painting party on or near Easter Sunday.
  • Spice up your Easter décor by featuring an “Easter tree,” a fairly new trend that Martha Stewart Living suggests trying.
  • Change up your home décor for the spring, featuring floral displays, cherry blossoms, orchids, and even bird themes, pastels, and sunny hues.
  • Paula Deen suggests focusing on different egg dishes for Easter, and also serving dyed deviled eggs or hard-boiled eggs at your Easter fete.
  • According to Taste of Home, an Easter-bonnet party for little girls would be a smash hit for this holiday! Or, try an adult version with an old-fashioned tea party complete with fancy hats and cucumber sandwiches for a refreshing and unique twist on the Easter season.
  • Don’t skip the spring cleaning! You’ll want to keep your beautiful Paragon home in tip-top shape all year ‘round and spring is the perfect time for a fresh start and a cleaner, more organized home. Let your living space reflect your inner space – think calm, peaceful, serene, and de-cluttered.
  • Spring is also the perfect time to start caring for your lawn. Don’t neglect your landscaping! Start anew this spring with lawn manicuring and fresh flowers and plants.

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, spring is a great time for fun with family and friends. Brush off the doldrums and dust of winter and “spring ahead” with joy, whether it’s a lush garden party, a lighthearted Easter egg hunt, or, an intimate dinner – and don’t forget to “spring ahead” this Sunday by setting your clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time.

~~ Ashley Boynes-Shuck

Paragon Homes has been building custom homes in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 25 years.  In that time they have come to be recognized as one of the premier custom home builders in Western Pa.  In fact they have been honored to receive over 25 Housing Excellence Awards from the Builders and Realtors Associations of Metropolitan Pittsburgh and the Washington County Builders Association including several for New Custom Home of the Year designations. You can reach Paragon Homes at 412-787-8807, or visit us online at http://www.visitparagonhomes.com

Ashley Boynes-Shuck is a well-known blogger, author, and social media pro from Pittsburgh, PA. She was voted Best Blogger in Pittsburgh and Who to Follow on Twitter 2010, one of Pittsburgh’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2011, a 2012 Woman of the Year and Athena Young Professional awards candidate, and happily lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, pug, frogs, and kitten!  In her free time she focuses on advocacy and volunteer work, as well as rooting on the Pittsburgh Steelers!