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Aluminum pergola on the Sojag label for setting up a zone for being social in the backyard.

Add a few accessories to your backyard patio, or build a full kitchen to enjoy the outdoors this summer. Your outdoor space is your own. Here are some backyard ideas and product recommendations that you can use.

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I recently wrote about landscaping your front yard for curb appeal and increased property value. Now it’s time to touch on some backyard ideas for more private purposes.

The backyard becomes our sanctuary in good weather. We get out of the house after a long winter, connect with nature, and relax with friends and family. It becomes an extension of the indoor living areas with hopefully some additional room to play!

So many reasons to build an outdoor space

A well-designed outdoor living area can extend the outdoor gathering season into spring and fall. In the heat of the summer, cooking outdoors will reduce energy use and cooling costs.

Outdoor living spaces offer a good return on your investment and increase your property value, depending on where you live and how large the project is. There is a wide range of options from building a full kitchen and living area to simply installing a few accessories on your existing patio.

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Slip-resistant and durable rubber (yes, rubber!) interlocking pavers from BuildDirect.

Browse for rubber pavers.

Let’s start small

Say you’re on a budget, but you desperately want some change. As always, figure out your needs and what you can afford to pay.

Maybe a new set of patio furniture will do the trick. Scrub down your patio, replace and repair pieces that are broken, and add some new furniture for a fresh look! Define seating and dining spaces with durable outdoor area rugs.

Outdoor area rugs

Outdoor area rugs; designed to thrive outside.

Browse for outdoor rugs.

Tabletop and stand-alone fountains are inexpensive and easy to set up. No plumber needed! It’s been proven that the sound of falling water is meditative and relaxing. Isn’t that what your backyard is for, to relax?

To extend your season in spring and fall, add a stylish portable heater or fire pit. There is nothing like sitting around a fire in spring when it’s still chilly. It’s kind of like sticking your tongue out at the weather!

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California Outdoor Concepts San Simeon Chat Height Fire Pit from BuildDirect.

Browse for fire tables.

If your patio is too hot in summer, and you can’t fully enjoy it, consider a gazebo with shade curtains you can pull to block the sun. Plant some shade trees, too. It’s easy to spruce up your backyard without a lot of investment. You also avoid the hassle and expense of building permits and contractors.

Larger projects

If you love to entertain, you probably have your sights set on something bigger. My idea of a beautiful outdoor living space is a living room that opens out onto the patio. One large space is created, and people can easily flow from one to the other.

An outdoor kitchen should also flow from its indoor counterpart to transfer food and supplies with ease. If your kitchen and living room are next to each other, find the best way to blend the outdoors and indoors. You might be rebuilding your exterior wall to accommodate a new traffic flow.

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One way to cool down is by imbibing in cold drinks. Here’s a place in your outdoor kitchen and dining space to keep them chilled; Broilchef Stainless Steel Built-In Mini Refrigerator from BuildDirect.

Browse for outdoor fridges.

Counterspace and cooking outside

You can opt for a built-in cooktop and oven, or a portable grill big enough to feed a crowd. Your choices will depend on whether you’re after a formal or casual feel. You will have to bring in a gas line for a cooktop.

Counter space is crucial in any cooking area. Make sure you have enough with storage below. A mini-fridge will fit underneath and hold enough supplies for a gathering. Install good lighting over your work surfaces. You will need to run electricity to this area.

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An outdoor sink allows you to clean up on the spot instead of dragging dirty dishes inside. A plumber will have to run hot and cold water to the sink, and supply drainage as well.

Browse for outdoor grills.

Not a DIY project

Building an outdoor living space with a kitchen is a major renovation. Consult with contractors and landscape architects. Again, figure out your budget and how you will pay for it. Consult a real estate agent to make sure you are not over-building for the neighborhood. You want a return on your investment!

Now is the time to think about creating a new outdoor living space, so you can actually enjoy it this summer!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.