- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Dawn Clark of Vienna insists that choosing to build a gazebo in her back yard was one of the best decisions she ever made. Throughout the summer, she and her family spend hours relaxing in it. Even in light rain, it still can be enjoyed.

“We live on it,” she says. “My husband only reminds me every summer at least two or three times what a brilliant idea it was.”

Gazebos, which are popular garden buildings, can take on many shapes and styles. They also can have many functions, including serving as a focal point in a garden or providing a place to enjoy outdoor activities. The structures usually are roofed and open-sided, providing a shady resting place.

The outside rooms have been popular in many cultures. Roman gardens, for instance, frequently had similar buildings, and long, arched colonnades supported grapes in Colonial days. Gazebos often are found in large parks and private estates as free-standing structures. Today, they are being built in the yards of average homes.

More recently, they are being attached to a part of a house. For example, Mrs. Clark’s gazebo stands at the left end of her deck. The cedar wood has been stained light gray to blend with the rear facade of the home, which has gray siding.

Even though the gazebo is outside, it practically has become another room of the home. It has been wired with electricity to run lights, stereo and Internet access, adding to the value of the home. It also contains six chairs and a table, along with potted plants.

The design for the area, which features a shake roof supported by four columns and a beamed ceiling, was created by Joan Honeyman, who is a partner with Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture in Northwest. She is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects in Northwest.

“More and more people are wanting to improve their landscape and properties,” Mrs. Honeyman says. “A gazebo is very often a request.”

When designing a gazebo, Mrs. Honeyman takes many possibilities into consideration. For instance, some clients approach her wanting a place of shelter in the yard. Depending on the degree of shelter they want, there are different options, including installing screens and storm windows or having the structure completely open-air.

The shape of the gazebo is another point of discussion. Although the classic gazebo usually is octagonal, squares, circles and rectangles also are popular. In most cases, clients want the architecture of the gazebo to reflect that of the house. In order for people to move comfortably, the structure should be at least 8 feet by 8 feet.

Where the gazebo will be viewed, whether it needs a pathway or steppingstones leading to it, and whether it should be partially covered by foliage are other items to consider. Further, the flowers in the gazebo should coordinate with the other plants in the garden.

Types of materials in the building can vary, including wood, brick, stone or copper. Depending on the requests of the clients, Mrs. Honeyman’s gazebos usually cost $8,000 or more. The price increases with the amount of detailing and the materials used.

Although some people may simply order a gazebo from a Web site, such as www.gazebos.com or www.gazebo-enterprise.com, Mrs. Honeyman warns against that idea, saying the structure should not be erected on a whim. It takes a lot of planning to coordinate the building with a yard and home. After a custom plan is designed, a carpenter should be hired to build the structure on the property, she says.

“You just don’t want to plop a gazebo in the middle of the yard,” she says. “You have to marry it to the rest of the landscape.”

For those who lack $8,000 to build a custom gazebo, other options are available. Well-made structures can be purchased on several Web sites, starting at around $1,000. If the customers opt to install it themselves, they can save money that way as well. The kits, which come in varying dimensions, usually can be constructed in a weekend. Even the Web sites offer gazebos that cost up to $30,000, however, with additional costs for optional installation.

Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse south of Alexandria also offers gazebo kits through its special-order catalog. Customers must buy the gazebo and the floor separately. The gazebos range from $1,454 to $4,000, and the floors cost $1,200 to $2,000. Other options, such as a two-tier roof, increase the price.

Occasionally, clients have specific ideas about how to use their gazebos, such as Bob Nowak of Silver Spring, who uses his to house a hot tub. Mr. Nowak is a client of Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture. He enjoys watching the stars at night while relaxing in the warm bubbles. His gazebo also is connected to his deck.

“We use the hot tub quite a bit, even in the wintertime, usually in the evening,” he says. “Neighbors and friends come over. … You can look up and see the sky.”

Even ordinary activities, such as playing cards and eating meals, take on a new charm in a gazebo, says Armeda Pallone of Burke. Her white gazebo is attached to a brick patio, which leads to the deck in the back yard. The walkway around the structure has a white railing, which is strung with twinkling lights.

“In the evening, we might have our supper out there,” she says. “We work most of the time, so we don’t get much time to do anything, but when we have time, we like to go out in the gazebo.”

Apart from everyday activities, outdoor buildings also can be perfect for entertaining guests during a party, says Laura Blumenfeld of Northwest. She has strung lanterns in the structure in her back yard on special occasions that make it come to life at night. The white, free-standing room has a slate floor and latticework on the back and sides. Unlike most traditional gazebos, it has an open roof of trelliswork.

“It looks magical,” she says. “It has created a very pretty, artistic back yard, which had kind of been an eyesore for a long time.”

This environment makes a perfect romantic setting, says Lila Fendrick, founder of Lila Fendrick Landscape Architect in Chevy Chase. She is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

For instance, the buildings can support climbing vines, such as roses, or edible plants such as kiwis. Further, high-quality furniture can be used to furnish gazebos, including chandeliers.

“People are spending more money on their homes and gardens and looking for more ways to relax,” Ms. Fendrick says. “This offers a wonderful way to sit outside. It gives a different vantage point than inside the house.”

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