From the October/November 2018 Issue  

Always in Season

Writer Ren Miller  |  Photographer Dan D'Agostino  |  Architect Plan Architecture LLC  |  Builder ESC Homes  |  Location Washington, NJ

A roaring fire invites family members to cozy up and watch a movie, often one by Walt Disney, a lifelong inspiration to homeowner and architect Dan D’Agostino.

An architect designs an outdoor gathering spot for his family to enjoy nearly year-round

In warm weather, the D’Agostino family relaxes in an outdoor living room covered by a roof that shades them from the sun at their home in New Jersey’s Township of Washington. In cool weather, they enjoy the same space by cozying up to a blazing fire and watching a movie. Along the way, the space has also become the go-to site for watching favorite television shows and movies, celebrating on New Year’s Eve, watching the Super Bowl, smoking cigars, working and writing emails away from the confines of the indoors.

“We envisioned this space as a daytime-to-nighttime destination,” says homeowner Dan D’Agostino, a member of the American Institute of Architects and principal of Plan Architecture in Little Falls, New Jersey. The D’Agostinos knew that would be the goal from the start. The porch is part of a new home that D’Agostino also designed on a parcel that once held a 60-year-old ranch. “My best friend and I tore it down, subdivided the land and built dream homes for our families.”

The roof over the outdoor living room not only shields the family from the sun but also is high enough to allow breezes to flow through the space. D’Agostino located the space carefully so the roof also serves as a balcony for the master bedroom on the second floor yet doesn’t create any shaded areas within the house.

To create a homelike atmosphere, he chose painted cedar shiplap for the ceiling and split-face stepped limestone for the fireplace surround, hearth and mantel. The fireplace itself is in a stone wall that is an “aesthetic fin” that makes the overall structure feel more substantial, he says. “Unlike an interior fireplace and mantel, the scale of an outdoor fireplace must be significant,” he explains. A 65-inch LED outdoor television above the fireplace keeps the family’s attention during favorite movies and television shows.

The seating has a rustic look thanks to a sustainably produced wire-brushed solid wood frame with a weathered finish. Thick yarn-dyed cushions offer a comfortable spot to lounge.

To add drama after sunset, the porch has recessed lights, a ceiling fan and light, and carriage house lantern sconces at the columns. The flooring is durable bluestone.

It all comes together as a destination spot for the D’Agostinos, even as summer fades into autumn and they plan for a new season of enjoying the outdoors.