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Patios for the People
The nectar of commercial real estate
Commercial real estate comes in many flavors, and most operators gravitate to a specialty. Some folks are dialed in to class B warehouses, others - rural self-storage, urban multifamily, or select service hotels. Some sickos - office.
Our business is a commercial real estate sub-specialty: patios.
Our patios average maybe 1/15th of an acre but done right they can improve the value of millions of square feet of surrounding property.
The more desirable we can make our patios, the more desirable the surrounding hotels, offices, shops and residences become. It’s a virtuous circle built on tacos and beer.
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We build patios (and the surrounding buildings) then team up with talented restaurateurs to activate the experience. Their tools of the trade range from aperitifs to digestifs, hoppy IPAs to watery domestics, and fried chicken to fritto misto, deployed as necessary.
If you’re interested in creating a kickass patio for yourself, think of it as an outdoor room and start with walls - the most important part is some sort of enclosure on two or more sides - a hedge, a building, a knee wall:
A roof, at least a partial one helps frame the space. Tree canopies, awnings, umbrellas, can all do the trick.
Floors - changes in elevation help, as do well-worn finishes. Bonus points for grass or moss creeping between pavers.
Just like big fluorescent lights would be a bummer in your living room, the best patios have distinct areas of light and dark.
Views are a bonus but big wide-open vistas can be overpowering and framed peek-a-boo views feel better.
Sitting is the primary activity on a patio - engineer serendipity with a variety of comfortable seats.
Just like homogeneous light feels sterile, same for temperature - radiant heaters, fire pits, and fans combined with shade and sun let folks find their own comfort zone.
Patios work best when the scale is like a garden courtyard. Too big and it loses the energy, too small and it feels cramped. Rectangles are the best shapes and 30-50 feet in any direction feels about right. Bonus points for stringing several patios together.
Trash and sewer smells are no bueno, instead - think open fire and open kitchens.
“This patio is too lush - I wish there were fewer plants”.
- No one
Overdo it - or at least try to - with trees and ivy. Bonus points for both edible plants used in the surrounding kitchens and flowers at eye height.
The right restaurateurs (and therefore the right staff) make all the difference in a patio - love means never waiting for a refill. And refills make friends, family, and even dogs more entertaining.
Decoration brings life to buildings. Murals, tile, signs, and neon all create personality. Don’t be bashful with them, and hand paint signs whenever possible.
Sounds: John Coltrane hits different than Waylon Jennings, Wu-Tang, or Taylor Swift. Adjust as necessary to create the desired energy. Live music escalates the energy but use it sparingly to avoid overwhelm.
Road noise is the enemy and fountains provide defense.
Avoid food and drink fussiness. Shareable crowd-pleaser food you can eat with your hands keep both the vibes and cholesterol levels high.
Spaces that are neither indoor nor outdoor have a liminal quality essential for a good hang. Awnings, sliding doors, and trellises all create such spaces.
Use operable windows to link the patio with the surrounding interiors.
Great patios can’t be copied. But they all share the components listed above, and these components can - and should - be copied. Think of them as first principles for patios, and use them, in your own way, to make something wonderful.
While we use patios as a catalyst for enhancing the value of surrounding commercial properties, there’s no harm in creating a wonderful personal patio for yourself: