How Do I Create an Outdoor Living Area?

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 11, 2017

Outdoor living area

It’s strange to think that once upon a time there was no “indoor living”? Yet, whether it’s hiking, camping, or just sitting outside, there has always been a draw toward the great outdoors. This fascination with outdoor living has grown to the point that many homeowners spend just as much time and money remodeling the exterior of their house as the interior. However, things have changed in the last decade. Gone are the days of charcoal grills and plastic lawn furniture. Now, if you really want to add some value to your home, you’ll want to start investing in an actual outdoor living area.

What’s an Outdoor Living Area?

It’s not just a patio and table anymore. Not just some plants on a deck. Today, the exterior of a home is literally turned inside out in order to create the feel of an indoor area. But how can you make the outside feel more cozy and inviting? Well, it all begins with the initial design. It may be a good idea to hire an exterior designer who can coordinate the space to fit your needs. They’ll first want to know how you intend to use the space: entertaining, cooking outside, or gardening. Then comes a design concept: do you want a pleasant patio, a quaint courtyard, a stylish gazebo, or a country-style porch? Next, they’ll try to harmonize the backyard. Most of the time, you’ll want every area of the exterior to be a room unto itself, each with its own function and purpose while still creating a cohesive style.

The Floor Plan

You want to think of your backyard as a part of the house, which means it should come with its own logical layout. First off, if you don’t have them already, patios and decks are the most common exterior installations for homeowners because you have to have some kind of focal point to work around. But even when you have a central location, you need to organize and compartmentalize the space. Here are some basic “rooms” you should consider installing outside in order to fully realize your exterior blueprint.

  • Kitchen: Cooking outside is a summer tradition, buy why limit it to grilling. Outdoor kitchens have become a popular renovation for any chef who wants to go beyond hot dogs and hamburgers. Add some counter space and cabinets. Install an oven, a range, a wet-bar, or a sink. Of course, make sure these items are made out of the appropriate weather-resistant materials, such as sealed concrete and stainless steel.
  • Dining Room: After cooking outside, you’ll probably want to eat out there as well. So, patio furniture is crucial. Tables, chairs, and umbrellas are important, but you may also want to think about other decorative touches such as gliders, porch swings, or a screened-in porch that keeps out the bugs.
  • Family Room: Once you’ve eaten, it may be time to adjourn to a common room. Therefore it’s a good idea to have a relaxing retreat, a place to entertain. Add a cozy outdoor fireplace for those chilly nights. Or, if you have the budget, a hot tub and a pool is a great addition: they’re fun, they’re attractive, and they add value to the home.
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“Exterior” Design

If the kid’s have flown the coup that old playground equipment may not be doing the trick anymore. So when it comes to decorating your backyard, you’ll want to tackle the same elements as interior design. You simply have to rearrange your think a little when it comes to color schemes, lighting, and decoration.
Color Scheme: When it comes to outdoor living, nature becomes your main source of décor. Your lawn, plants, and gardens become your color palette: they’re your wallpaper and paint. Ponds, waterfalls, and pergolas become your decorations: they’re your wall hangings and ornamental knick-knacks. So make sure to hire a landscape architect to design a stylish backyard oasis.

  • Lighting: Landscape architects can also take care of lighting issues: spotlight your vegetation, illuminate your walkways, or add tiki torches to your deck to add some ambience (and to control the summer insect infestation).
  • Decoration: You may want to think about more permanent additions to your exterior décor as well, such as cement benches, stamped concrete, or other decorative flooring.

Micromanaging Contractors

If you want a well-rounded backyard with several different rooms and functions, then you’ll probably need several different contractors. For a kitchen alone you’ll need a plumber, electrician, countertop contractors, and kitchen remodelers. You could hire each on an individual basis, which gives you a certain advantage since each person can then come up with their own unique ideas and input. Plus, it gives you ultimate control over bid negotiations. But another more convenient route would be to hire one central designer who can then subcontract all the different projects: it won’t necessarily save you money, but you’ll at least have some organization over this large outdoor undertaking. This person can help you incur savings by helping you to find the best stove or gazebo prices on the market, possibly directly from manufacturers.

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