In the past, an outdoor living space was usually a sprawling lawn with a picnic table and grill. Today, complex landscapes and hardscapes are common as families make the most of their outdoor living spaces. The best part is, there’s no need for an acre-wide yard or a limitless budget for new design elements that make your outdoor living space more pleasant.
If this piques your interest, keep reading for ten designing tips to help you make the most of your outdoor living space.
Designing Your Outdoor Living Space | 10 Essential Tips
1. Install an Outdoor Kitchen
In cooler climates, everyone looks forward to the warmer months with bated breath. Summer brings not just a much-needed reprieve from the cold, but also tons of opportunities for backyard parties, barbecues, and meals. The outdoor kitchen layouts from RTA Outdoor Living are designed to accommodate everything from intimate family get-togethers to huge parties. They make it easier for residents to take full advantage of everything summer has to offer.
2. Plan for Foot Traffic
Want to add new landscaping or hardscaping elements to a smaller yard? Adequate planning is a must. Make sure there’s a plan in place for managing foot traffic throughout the area. Leave a lot of open space near the door to the home and create a main pathway to the kitchen, pool, or another focal point that’s at least four feet wide. These simple planning steps will ensure that residents and guests can move freely throughout the space without risking damage to the landscape.
3. Add Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting allows people to use the space even after dark. Don’t settle for installing security lights around the doors and calling it a day. Creating a comprehensive landscape lighting plan that illuminates not just the living spaces but also select trees, shrubs, or garden beds adds ambiance and ensures that guests can move safely throughout the yard. Just make sure to choose fixtures that are rated for outdoor use. Indoor light fixtures and outlets aren’t designed for constant exposure to sunlight, rain, snow, and wind.
4. Take Advantage of Shade
Just like outdoor lighting is a must for anyone who plans to spend time outdoors at night, adequate shade is essential during the hottest afternoons of summer. If there are existing trees, they can be incorporated into the landscape design as a source of natural shade. However, it’s important to remember that a tree will only be as healthy as its root system. Don’t plan to install patios, kitchens, or other built-in hardscaping features right beneath the family’s favorite tree. Instead, use movable furniture or add a patio umbrella or awning above the living space.
5. Include Plenty of Storage
Improving the livability of a yard will encourage residents and their guests to spend more time outside. More often than not, that means there will be more toys, seasonal furniture, and other items to keep track of and pack away during the winter months. Incorporate plenty of storage, either in the form of a garden shed or built-in four-seasons benches that have storage compartments underneath their seats. It will be much easier to keep things clean if people don’t have to trek in and out of the house to pick up outdoor items.
6. Protect the Plants
It’s always wise to designate spaces for socializing outside, especially if the landscape contains sensitive trees, shrubs, and other plants instead of just grass. Adding a brick or paver patio can help, especially if the house doesn’t have a deck. Many homeowners also choose to install brick or gravel pathways to frequently used areas of their yards, including driveways, pergolas, pools, kitchens, and other living areas.
7. Plant Vertical Gardens in Small Yards
Any outdoor space can be turned into a lush, verdant paradise perfect for relaxing after a hard day’s work, even if it isn’t large enough to accommodate tons of guests or expansive plantings. Vertical gardens offer a perfect solution for homeowners with small decks or patios instead of sprawling lawns and flower beds. They can even be installed on or near existing fences and lattice.
8. Add Privacy
Have a completely open yard that’s visible from all sides and sick of dealing with nosy neighbors? There are plenty of ways to add some privacy, from constructing a full privacy fence to adding outdoor curtains to patios or decks. If curtains seem like the best solution, make sure to buy products that are designed for outdoor use to avoid problems with water and sun exposure and take them down for the winter.
9. Keep It Kid-Friendly
Kids love spending time outside. In fact, some experts think it’s essential for their development. Make it more pleasant and safer for kids to play outdoors by creating designated spots for child-friendly activities. If there’s not enough room for a full sandbox or swing set, think stackable play tables and waterproof toys. There’s no such thing as a yard that’s too small to be family-friendly.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative
There’s no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to designing a functional outdoor living space. The tips above are meant to act as a jumping-off point, so don’t consider them the end-all-be-all of outdoor design. Get creative with colors, add interesting plants, and use the yard as an outlet for personal expression. It’s also important to seek input from all the residents who plan to use the space. That way, everyone will enjoy spending time outdoors, no matter what they want to do.
The Bottom Line
It’s time to turn that drab backyard into an outdoor oasis. Get started by drawing up a map and brainstorming different uses for each zone, remembering to include plenty of spaces for socializing as well as interesting plants. Just remember, while there are plenty of outdoor renovations that can be undertaken by handy homeowners with all the right tools, serious landscaping, and hardscaping jobs should only be undertaken by a trained professional.
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