Outdoor Patios: A Place Where Pretty Meets Practical

by Marc Dickinson

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When it comes to the outside of your home, your back porch is probably the most used area of the exterior. Since it's out of view from the street and other passersby, it can act as a small hideaway from the world. But unfortunately, many people's back porch simply consists of a sliding glass door and a concrete slab. This is an important part of the house, so why not take advantage the space you have? Make it a tropical oasis or another outdoor kitchen area. But in order to create a proper backyard sanctuary, you have to blend together two crucial ideas: comfort and style.

A Romantic Retreat
It's smart to set a mood. Therefore, your outdoor patio has to be functional and beautiful at the same time. Never let one override the other. First off, you need to address the porch itself. What kind of area are you going to be planning the rest of your yard around? Luckily, there are lots of interesting choices on the market. Courtyard patios constructed with interlocking pavers have become a very popular trend. Or install a stamped concrete patio to replace that poured concrete slab. And, of course, any type of decking (whether it is simple or intricate) helps to enhance a yard's appearance.

Develop Your Décor
But once you've remodeled your porch, you now have to decorate it. When selecting décor, you want to make it pretty, but you have to think practical:

5 Tips for Outdoor Spaces

The Seating: The chairs and tables will probably become your main focal point. So make sure you have enough places to sit, and remember that this furniture doesn't have to be made of cheap plastic. Buy a bench or a wicker couch, and spread the seating around. There are limitless possibilities with tables, so whether it is glass or wrought iron, make sure it's durable and fits your taste.

The Grill: A charcoal or gas grill is what makes a barbecue a barbecue. However, they're often stuck in the corner and ignored. Make them the focal point by installing an outdoor kitchen. These pre-manufactured grill islands often come with counter space, sinks, fridges, and even a dishwasher, making them fashionable and useful. There's nothing more convenient than having a fully-functional outdoor kitchen to cut down on foot traffic. Plus, outdoor kitchens can often be installed professionally in about a day, but they're also expensive (several thousands of dollars). Nobody said being chic didn't come at a price.

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The Architecture: Make your outdoor patio stand out with some unique architectural features. Of course, an outdoor kitchen itself adds a touch of architecture, but you could also install a gazebo for a romantic mood, or erect a pergola to accent your landscape and walkways. Not only are these beautiful additions to any yard (they can be decorated themselves with Christmas lights or a fresh coat of paint), they also create additional seating and gathering spaces for your guests.

Scenery Makes the Space
It won't matter how much you remodel a porch if the rest of your yard looks shabby. Instead, make sure your landscaping is worth showcasing. Of course, you should regularly mow and fertilize your lawn, but there is more that can be done to really make a yard pop. If you're going to spend a lot of time on your porch, then you might as well hire a landscape architect to transform your lawn into something that is worth looking at.
Walkways: Gardens and rock beds are sure to please the eye, but by adding some paver-stone pathways throughout your landscape you now have a practical (yet charming) walkway.
Lighting: If you can't see your yard, then what's the point? Add some lighting features, such as lanterns, flood lights, or small spotlights that can highlight your hard work.
Fencing: If you want a hideaway, there is no better way to gain some privacy than by erecting a fence. You may want to check with your homeowner's association to see what is acceptable since there are lots of options out there. And though you may think fences seem unfriendly, as the old saying goes: good fences make good neighbors.

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.