Project Spotlight: Outdoor Living

With its big-screen TV, barbecue grill, bar area, and fireplace, this outdoor room is much more than a changing room for swimmers.

December 10, 2014

When Lance and Cheryl Rygg met representatives of San Diego-based Marrokal Design & Remodeling at a home show, they hit it off immediately. The Ryggs were thinking about building an addition to their home in La Jolla, Calif., but after further reflection they decided they would get more use out of a cabana.
 
“We live outside; that’s our thing,” Cheryl says. “We wanted to do an outdoor living space where we could spend a lot of our time.”
 
The Ryggs have lived in their home for 14 years. Prior to the remodel, the large back yard included a swimming pool, a patio with an island for barbecuing, and a seating area shaded by a pop-up canopy. When the couple’s daughter and nephews were younger, it was their favorite place to hang out. “It was a problem when the kids would visit, because my daughter traveled in packs,” Cheryl says. “I’d have to go to my bedroom if I wanted privacy.”
 
She admits to wanting a lot out of the project; her wish list included a barbecue grill, sink, refrigerator, and bar area; a seating area with a TV set; and a dining space. And she got it. The new covered outdoor space is connected to the pool and serves as a family room, equipped with a fireplace, kitchenette, and various seating options. As Cheryl points out, “[The cabana] provides a whole other area where people can watch TV and have their own thing going.” 
 
For Marrokal, the challenge was to properly integrate the freestanding structure with the house without having it look like an afterthought, says Lori Bryan, vice president and chief operating officer. This was achieved by matching the cabana’s roof pitch as well as the roofing and siding materials to the existing home. “The new structure aligns with the home, which ultimately helps establish a relationship of an edge to the property,” Bryan says. Deep roof overhangs act as a passive cooling feature, and ceiling fans keep the air circulating. 
 
Creature comforts in the 543-square-foot cabana include a gas fireplace and ceiling-mounted heaters that make the space usable year round. According to Cheryl, the heating elements are capable of bringing the structure to room temperature on a chilly night. 
 
It was her idea to hang an abstract painting over the fireplace mantel to conceal a big-screen TV. “I painted that picture in an afternoon when we were leaving for a Christmas holiday,” she says. “We lift it off to watch TV.” 
 
Cheryl’s artistic talent and vision are evident in other aspects of the project, such as the custom-made chandelier, which she designed, and various finish material and fabric selections. The travertine floor, which is a golden walnut color, marks the entry to the cabana and gives the space definition. The countertop in the bar area was made from a slab of granite that Cheryl found in a granite yard. “[The pattern] was very unique and could have been either a hit or a miss, but it turned out to be phenomenal.”
 
A concrete-capped fire pit acts as a connecting device between the old and new living spaces and creates a casual overlap of entertaining. The richness of the wood in the exposed ceiling gives the space a cozy feeling, while can lights, wall sconces, and the aforementioned chandelier can be adjusted to set the mood. Because the Rygg residence is close to the ocean, Marrokal installed full-height, motorized retractable shades on the two west-facing openings to shield the structure from coastal winds. 
 
Minimal demolition
Marrokal kept the demolition work to a minimum, removing only the existing barbecue island, two planters, and approximately 550 square feet of the patio slab. New concrete was poured for the base of the cabana.
 
There were some changes here and there, Cheryl says. For instance, the original design didn’t have seating around the fireplace. “I said, ‘Why not put a bench there?’ We talked it out and decided it would work. It makes [the cabana seem] more like a room.”
 
The fire pit, too, wasn’t part of the initial design, but the large expanse of patio between the house and the cabana convinced her to add this feature. “[Marrokal was] really great about that,” she says. “They tore out a planter bed underneath the kitchen window to build the fire pit. It was one of the best things we put in—it gives us another living space.”
 
Cheryl added a layer of crushed, colored glass to the fire pit to make it glow. She did the same treatment for the fireplace in the cabana as well as the fireplaces inside the home. 
 
No one has to fight for a seat in this cabana. In addition to the bench seating, there are stools at the bar, a sofa in front of the fireplace, and chairs around the dining table. The gas barbecue, TV set, and surround-sound system are all top of the line (“It’s a guy thing,” she says). 
 
The Ryggs’ daughter is presently away at college, but she and the nephews thoroughly enjoy the new “room” when they visit. “Everyone loves it,” says Cheryl, adding that numerous friends and family members have built versions of the cabana for their own homes.
 
Not surprisingly, it’s the most-often-used room in the Rygg home. “Every night when my husband comes home from work, he walks straight out there to watch the game,” she says. “I think he’s changed his address.”

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