The idea of a year-round outdoor living room is fine "” except for visits by Old Man Winter. But that's what topped the wish list of Gregg and Wendy Vonderhaar when they signed on Kennedy Gray Design Remodel to transform their plain backyard patio.

"What folks don't always understand is this isn't a climate like Florida or Arizona" with hospitable outdoor temperatures year-round, says Chris Kennedy. "But we did want to give them an extension of their living space outside that they could use 10, even 11, months of the year," he says.

"And we didn't want it to look like an add-on," says Gregg Vonderhaar. "We wanted it to blend with the rest of the house."

A design with three living and entertaining areas, bolstered by two fireplaces, put the Vonderhaars' Lakeside Park, Ky., home on the annual Tour of Remodeled Homes for an encore appearance this year.

The first, 10 years ago, marked the transformation by another firm of their '50s-built ranch into a two-story Tudor with limestone accents to accommodate their growing family that now includes three children.

The Kennedy Gray Design Remodel project spotlights a backyard living room, about 1,300 square feet, where a plain patio once stood.

The design, by architect Michael Gray, includes an open-sided, shingle-roofed structure, about 600 square feet, opening off new doors in the family room with half walls at the corners with stone-based custom fiberglass columns, a tongue and groove beveled pine ceiling with fan, a stone-faced wood-burning fireplace, TV, granite top serving bar, conversation center and dining table. Two open areas flanking the roofed portion include a gas-powered fire pit with seating flanked by gently curving stonewalls and an open patio with dining table and chairs. A quartzite stone floor ties the three areas together, cut limestone picks up the home's Tudor accents, and a reclaimed beam from a horse barn in central Kentucky adds a local twist to the design.

The family passed up plumbing the area because it is so close to the kitchen, but designers incorporated a serving sink to keep beverages cold that empties into the plantings by Don Gilb Landscaping.

"The reality is that we are out there almost year-round," Vonderhaar says. "It was finished in October 2010, and we were out there until the first weekend in December. Then it got a little brisk. But we were back out for Christmas and New Year's then opened it for the season on St. Patrick's Day for an office gathering. And we've been out there all but about five days since."

The enclosed area stays about 15 degrees warmer than outdoors thanks to the wood-burning fireplace and seasonal drapes the Vonderhaars added at the entryways. And the gas fire pit takes the chill out of colder summer and fall evenings without the worry of building a fire for short-term use.

"It's unlike anything we've built before," says Kennedy, "and we give them a lot of credit for knowing what they wanted. We started with just a talk about generalities then pulled ideas from our library and took it to a custom level." 

What: Tour of Remodeled Homes, self-guided tour from the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky in conjunction with the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati

When: Noon-5 p.m. Oct. 1-2

Where: 19 homes (map provided)

Tickets: $5 day of show, $4 at Kroger stores