While in the past Vineyarders might have found themselves packing up their outdoor furniture for the winter about now, this year many are not only keeping the al fresco life going, but are expanding their outdoor living spaces.
Patricia Giumarra, owner of Vineyard Hearth, Patio and Spa, has seen a marked increase in demand for everything outdoors. “It’s not just fun in the summer this year,” she says. “People are really having to extend the season so that they can still enjoy gathering with friends and family safely.”
Giumarra notes that she has a number of customers with an immunocompromised family member who have managed to keep their families connected by entertaining outdoors as much as possible. “It’s really been a game changer for a lot of people,” she says. “They’re still able to visit with their families. It’s crazy how much outdoor gatherings can improve your entire well being.”
Heating, of course, is an essential component of any all-season outdoor set up. One of the items the State Road business has seen flying out the door lately is fire pits. “We’ve sold a lot of gas fire pits, wood fire pits, fire tables,” says Giumarra. “Firepits are so much fun and provide a certain ambience. They’re pretty to look at as well as warm. For me, the appeal goes back to being around the campfire when we were kids.”
For those who have recently set up intimate areas for fresh-air dining or lounging, the store also carries a variety of radiant heaters that hang from a wall or ceiling or are free-standing.
“We’re finding that more seasonal residents are staying on through New Year’s,” says Giumarra. “There’s nothing to go home to, so why not stay here and enjoy living in nature.” In order to enjoy all of the advantages of rural living as much as possible, many are opting to put in outdoor kitchens this year.
“We’re seeing more interest in full outdoor kitchens,” says Giumarra. “It’s been a trend for a while but this year it’s really taking off.” Vineyard Hearth, Patio and Spa offers both custom-designed kitchens, as well as the more affordable option of one-piece kits that can provide you with an outdoor kitchen overnight.
For those who don’t have the space or the budget for that much of a commitment, Giumarra recommends something called the Big Green Egg – an all-in-one Kamado-style ceramic charcoal cooker that can be used for grilling, smoking, roasting, and baking. The Big Green Egg, which comes in a variety of sizes, heats up quickly to prepare just about anything that can be made in an oven. “You can bake a cake or make pizza in it,” says Giumarra. “A lot of chefs or serious amateur chefs are buying them now.”
Of course once you embrace the outdoor life, you’re going to need to furnish your newest “home extension,” and Vineyard Decorators carries a huge selection of outdoor furniture to suit all needs.
“Over the summer we sold more outdoor furniture than we ever have,” says store manager Emily Lowe. “People are looking for ways to do safe entertaining.” Among the most popular items currently are Adirondack chairs, which Lowe notes are “great around fire pits or in lounge settings,” and extension dining tables with add-on leaves that allow for expanded social distancing options.
“The focus for people right now is on making their outdoor spaces as comfortable as possible,” says Lowe. “Quality outdoor furniture is always going to be a good investment.” She notes that sofas and lounges are popular right now, as are outdoor poufs, which provide the advantage of versatility. She says that you can use a pouf, or ottoman, for seating, or as a footrest or with a tray on top as an extra table.
Lowe, like Giumarra, has noted an uptick in people adding outdoor kitchens to their homes. “It’s another way to bring the inside outside,” she says. “The kitchen has always been the heart of the home so when you’re doing a lot of your living outside, you may want to bring that same sort of gathering space to the outdoors.”
Vineyard Decorators also offers outdoor lighting solutions like lanterns and string lights that can add a warm ambience to any outdoor setting.
Want to plan an outdoor dinner party — maybe even a fresh air Thanksgiving? If it worked for New England pilgrims, perhaps contemporary Islanders are made of the same sturdy stock to brave the cold. LeRoux at Home has lots of options to make a lawn party as elegant and easy as one hosted in your dining room. Store manager Therese Giegler has some great suggestions for setting the outdoor table, as well as for keeping food warm even on the chilliest evenings.
Giegler says that LeRoux sells a lot of Tag Melamine plates, platters, and bowls. “They look just like ceramics and they come in so many different colors. They hold up really well and are dishwasher safe.” These attractive pieces make it easy to load your dinnerware into a bin for transporting into and out of the house without worrying about breakage. LeRoux also carries stainless steel wine glasses that keep your beverages cool (not so much of an issue these days) but are also durable for carting back and forth.
If you prefer more conventional dinnerware, and want to support a local business, you might consider shopping for ceramic pieces from Merry Farm Pottery in West Tisbury. Craftsperson Micah Thanhauser, who grew up on the Vineyard, designs beautiful rustic plates, bowls, mugs, and more, all made using minimally processed natural materials, including glazes made from wood ash in clear and honey tones for an attractively organic look.
Want to try something different for your 2020 Thanksgiving? It may be time to finally try deep-frying a turkey. LeRoux carries a propane-fueled oil fryer from Masterbuilt that’s big enough to serve this purpose and, since the unit can really only safely be used outdoors, now might be the time to try this southern favorite.
Giegler has a few suggestions for keeping your dinner party entrees hot in the great outdoors. She recommends serving entrees or soups in a cast iron dutch oven, which she says are the best option for retaining heat. LeRoux carries a variety of brands, including many colors and styles of the popular Le Creuset line of cookware, as well as dutch ovens and other heavy-duty pieces by Staub and Lodge. The latter makes non-enameled pieces that can be placed directly on the grill for cooking or for keeping food warm. Dutch ovens can also serve for making bread, making them the perfect item to add to your kitchen gadget collection for 2020.
You’re going to need to keep warm while enjoying a fall outdoor gathering, so why not not consider bundling up in a locally grown/locally made sweater, hat, or throw? The Allen Sheep Farm carries all types of woolens, including some made on-Island from their own wool. Check out their selection of throws by weaver Clare Ives, which are offered in a twill pattern with a warp of natural shades of cream and brown from Allen Farm sheep; or add some complimentary color to the mix with their wide variety of color options. The farm store also carries handknit sweaters made from their own Corriedale wool, as well as locally knit sweaters in cashmere and other yarns.
Island Alpaca is open every day, including Thanksgiving, if you want to enjoy a trip to the farm pre-feast. There you’ll find a huge variety of products — both locally made from their own fleece as well as from a Fall River-based fiber co-op, which uses fleece from a number of area farms (including Island Alpaca) and sources local mills to produce alpaca products from a blend of New England fleece. These products are a more affordable option than those that are Vineyard grown and hand-knit on-Island, but still offer the same great quality and warmth factor.
“Alpaca fiber is not only hypo-allergenic, but the alpaca’s hollow-cored fleece makes their insulation quality far superior to other fibers,” says Island Alpaca owner Barbara Ronchetti.
With a little imagination and some preparation, there’s still time to gather outdoors, enjoying all the Vineyard has to offer during these beautiful fall days, before winter weather sets in and chases us all indoors again.