Outdoor Living Area Design

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It’s time to start thinking about summer! Yes, the nights are cold, and there may be snow on the ground, but winter is the best time to plan your yard and gardens for summer enjoyment.

The design process for your outdoor living area is the same as for your indoor spaces. Function, size, wants and needs will create rooms to extend your living and dining rooms for years to come. The design may be as simple as a café table and a couple of chairs, or it could be a complete kitchen and living room.

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In warm climates, outdoor living spaces are frequently bigger than the indoor space, since they can be used so often. Climate may help drive your own design.

Budget will be another consideration. Before embarking on any designing beyond dreaming, figure out what you can spend and how you will pay for it. Get approved for a loan to see what you can borrow, and work within that figure.

This can be a DIY project or you can hire a professional landscape architect. That will eat into your budget, but if you can afford a big project, then a professional is the wise way to go.

Outdoor living area beyond the patio

The house I grew up in was made for entertaining. My mother loved to cook beautiful, delicious dinners and throw big parties. Formal dining and living rooms off the kitchen led to a screened-in porch, where there was another full living/dining room. From there, a screen door took you out back to a brick patio, where there was more outdoor furniture surrounded by shrubs and flowers. Beyond the patio was an expansive lawn that ended at the native forest. There was plenty of room for guests to wander and mingle on a warm summer night.

A screened-in porch is a necessity in places where there are bugs. That doesn’t mean you can’t be outside, as my childhood home shows. We ate dinner on the porch at a large glass-topped table almost every night – corn on the cob and iced tea are two of my favorite memories. The outdoor furniture allowed us, as a family, to be outside and away from mosquitoes, and it was the perfect place for company as well.

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Outdoor kitchen area

The kitchen is the central area of any home, and it makes sense to recreate this hub outside. The complexity will depend on your needs, your budget and how much space you have. It can be anything from a grill and a picnic table to a commercial range, prep area, kitchen sink and dishwasher. You can have a family size table or an intimate breakfast nook. A pizza oven and a bar would make a great place to have a party!

Recreate a living area outside

Recreate your living room outdoors with couches, chaise lounges, chairs and artwork. Arrange the furniture for conversation. A fire pit is an excellent focal point with several uses. To me, fire was the first tv. It is mesmerizing and entertaining. I can sit and stare at a fire for hours. It’s more fun with friends, too! A fire pit will also provide some warmth on a cool night, extending your outdoor living season. Fire pits can be wood or gas, and some are portable, so they can be moved to different parts of the yard, or you can loan yours to a friend for a party.

Most houses in hot climates have a swimming pool in the backyard. Create a complete living space with the pool as the main focus. Add seating, a fireplace, a hot tub and a small bathhouse for pool parties.


Connecting outdoor living areas

You can connect several outdoor rooms with walkways. A kitchen can be close to the house, and a walkway could lead to a living area with ample seating for conversation. A wall of vines can separate the two for privacy or differentiation of purpose. Another area could be a gazebo or a simple bench in a garden. Yet another could be a pool and hot tub.

An important aspect of outdoor living is lighting. Mainly, it is for safety reasons, but it can be used for dramatic effects. Upwards lighting can accent trees, statues or the architecture of your house. Downwards lighting creates a cozier feel. Either way, uninteresting parts of the yard will melt into the darkness. Add lights next to seating, just like in your living room, to make reading easy.

Enjoy your outdoor life anytime!

The point is to bring your indoor life outside. Enjoy the outdoors as much as possible in good weather. Or bad weather. I love sitting on my covered porch in a rainstorm. Researching this post, I came across a few home décor websites where there were weather-proof TVs and other electronics. I say leave the technology inside, and get outside to enjoy fresh air, stars and sunshine.

See my outdoor living Pinterest board for more ideas to create a beautiful and functional outdoor living area.

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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.