A mountain home must-have? Outdoor space for entertaining

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

In Summit County, residents and second-home owners are focused on exploring the area’s plethora of outdoor activities, and that means designing a home that has a custom outdoor living space to fit their specific needs.

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

Walley and Nelson said about one-fourth to one-third of their sales are in the luxury home category, which they consider $2 million and up, equating to half of their sales volume.



Allen-Sabo launched her business in the late 1990s and has since designed over 600 luxury homes in the county.

Staple features in outdoor spaces

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



Walley said some of the most common features are focused on getting the homeowners to extend their time outside. For example, high-end hot tubs with swimming jets, in-ground natural gas fire pits 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 the home up to outdoor space.

“One of the things that’s very popular … is the huge sliding door systems,” Allen-Sabo said. “… The idea being that you could open up a whole wall and have it be glass during the winter and closed. But during the summer, you can have it open and have your indoor and outdoor spaces meet.”

Allen-Sabo said another common feature she’s seeing is outdoor kitchens, whether those are on a covered patio or open deck.

In addition to planning which features to have in their space, Nelson said most homebuyers are looking for the outdoor spaces to be private.

“People want views, but they also want some privacy,” Nelson said. “People in luxury homes are usually pretty strategic about tree placement, fence placement if they are allowed, (and) orientation of the home to get them the most privacy possible.”

This home at 160 Hamilton Creek Trail in Silverthorne has 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 whenever they do go to sell, sometimes these super unique homes can be challenging for another buyer to fit into that same mold that was designed for 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 bit easier, some of these super-specific features make for extremely unique luxury homes.

Case in point: Walley said he knows of a luxury property that has a helipad and outdoor pool, two features that are uncommon for homes in Summit County. Walley said the original builder of this home had a specific goal for the house, which gives reason for such extraordinary features.

“That was built by the original developer of Hamilton Creek, when the neighborhood was first being developed, and he obviously wanted to build a good example and a showcase home for the direction he wanted to see the neighborhood evolve,” 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 envisioning was an executive retreat.”

The buyer who ended up with the property was drawn to the massive terrace and pool, which ultimately sold the home.

Other unique features Allen-Sabo said she’s seen lately are wood-fired pizza ovens and trampolines that connect to the deck.

“The list goes on and on,” she said.

Recommendations from the experts

As parting words of wisdom, Allen-Sabo said she recommends homeowners think about the orientation of the home as they design 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 soffits on exterior roofs, so that’s extending the usability of a lot of our outdoor patios, porches, covered decks,” she said. “Only in the winter would you not use it.”

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

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