First you will need to check with your local building department as to your zoning for size, height and setback (distance from property lines) restrictions and if planning to have a bathroom and/or kitchen what septic requirements you will have. That aside I would then look at how I will be using the space? Do you want enough space to have an eating area or maybe couches and television? I usually like to make a space like this “convertible”, so the shape and size are useful for different uses so it can be changed as life changes. I also like to have a large openings leading out to the pool so when left open the space feels like and open roof like resorts have. And finally, I would always recommend a little larger than your original thoughts because the most common regret is, “the space could have been bigger.” I know I didn’t give you an actual size but I hope these ideas help.
First if in direct sun this top can become very hot so if that is the case than look for a lighter color and under trees will have a tendency to always have dirt and leaves that can stain on them. As far as conventional outdoor stones are concerned (e.g. Bluestone, Crab Orchard, Limestone, etc) they are great looking, but very porous and will stain especially with grease from grilling. Marble can be used especially if you want a special patina feel because they will dull out quickly and if honed they will need sealing often. Granite probably the best natural stone choice, but some of the lighter choices will be more porous and need to be sealed often. Granite will also loose some of its shine over time. Quartz countertop materials (e.g. Silestone, Cambria, Ceaserstone, etc) unless UV protected cannot be used outdoors and currently I don’t know of any that can. There is a newer man made product which is my favorite choice today for an outdoor kitchen. This is Denton; it is a completely impervious material, super hard, will not stain and is very durable. Currently it only comes in 2cm thick and about a dozen colors. All in all try to pick a material that suits your style and surroundings and has a pattern or swirl that might show less dirt because even the morning dew will add dirt marks.
Well this is a little bit of a loaded question and I can probably write an entire book on the subject. I think the main parameter of this question would be budget. A gunite pool will generally cost double the comparable vinyl pool installed. There are also long-term maintenance concerns as well as local property tax considerations. Then determine if the additional cost is worth the long-term durability or if you like the softer, smooth feel of a vinyl pool. There also are fiberglass pools to consider that give long term durability, very interesting shapes and internal features and will use the least amount of chemicals to keep functioning properly. I think the best solution is to look at all of these factors, how long you plan to be in the home and really interview well established and high rated pool installers. This is a very hard one to fix if done wrong so which ever pool you decide on don’t go cheap, you might end up regretting it. Please feel free to contact me again with any other concerns or questions on this subject.
There are a few things first to consider; gas, real wood burning or both using gas to start the fire. I find the latter is one to consider for someone who doesn’t have the time, skill or patience to get it started. As far as gas, these can be extremely easy to install because most come pre-made and can be installed on raised decks (usually requiring a non-flammable deck board), placed closer to eating areas (no smoke), different styles using lava rock, glass stones, big bowl styles, stainless steel. You just need a good plumber and gas (or a propane tank).
A masonry fire pit can a little trickier. First, they do make a great deal of smoke so seating should be around the entire pit or moveable based on the wind. I would also not place it too close to combustible structures, or where smoke can be a nuisance. They will need a good foundation so they don’t shift and fall apart and drainage so they don’t fill up with rainwater. They can be made of really any masonry materials; pavers, brick, fire brick, stones. One important design feature is to make them large enough to use a raised grate to promote air flow under the logs to get a good fire going. The nice thing about a masonry fire pit is that it will get hotter. The actual masonry parts will become like a radiant heater so they can really generate a lot of warmth.
I know it sounds stupid but every year we are repairing siding from putting those BBQs too close to your home. Even just the heat can melt vinyl siding from 3-4 feet away, it can discolor wood sidings and coatings, and don’t think cement board type sidings are indestructible either. Keep your BBQs at least 5-6 feet away from your home and never under an overhang. Protect your home and family like our Veteran Heros have always done for our country!! Stay safe. Happy Memorial Day!