When I was a kid, our outdoor living space consisted of folding, rickety lawn chairs (I can still hear the click, click, click, click as mom set up her lounging spot), a spray bottle for cooling off, dad’s mobile grill on the uncovered back patio, a can of OFF!®with DEET, and most importantly, an escape plan from any threat of bees, wasps and yellow jackets. What’s more, we only ventured out to the “outdoor living space” — better known as just our backyard — during the summer months, as cold-weather outdoor entertainment solutions were sparse and not always affordable. So unless we wanted to try our luck at rubbing two sticks together, and inadvertently burning the house down, we stayed inside!
Decades later, outdoor living spaces top the chart as the most popular “special function room” among homeowners, according to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey. Perhaps that’s because today, there are thousands of versatile and more-affordable outdoor living options available to create a more comfortable, relaxing and functional “backyard” year round. Rickety lawn chairs have been replaced with luxurious all-weather couches, love seats and lounging chairs. Spray bottles have been traded in for stand-alone water fans and built-in water misters. Grilling areas have evolved into fully functioning outdoor kitchens. And who cares if it’s cold? Robust fire pits and sophisticated patio coverings help keep homeowners comfortable, whatever the weather.
Are you building or updating your outdoor living space? Here are PrimeLending’s five favorite outdoor living essentials that can help homeowners enjoy their outdoor escape during all four seasons:
Patio & Deck Coverings
There are many great options available for a patio or deck covering that can help you weather Mother Nature’s elements, as well as protect your outdoor furniture and keep insects away. Some of the most popular patio coverings, according to HGTV.com (home of the beloved Yard Crashers), are awnings and pergolas. Permanent, removable and retractable awnings are available in various shapes, sizes and materials. Pergolas, made from wood, vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass, are a great option for pairing with greenery, like an evergreen Butterfly Vine or Glacier English Ivy. The beams or laths on pergolas provide an ideal balance of sun and shade left as is, coupled with an outdoor-friendly fabric, such as canvas, or outfitted with a retractable cover. For an all-weather setup, you can even add roll-down bug screens, cold-weather zipper screens with windows and gutter systems.
Gone are the days of those lawn chairs with plastic strips as cushion that left hot, sweaty imprints on the backs of your legs. Today, outdoor furniture designs receive as much attention to detail as indoor furniture. Combine that with revolutionary weather-resistant fabric cushions and throw pillows, your outdoor living space can look like an elegant extension of your indoor living space. Here’s what to consider:
Seating – Visit your area furniture stores, big box retailers (i.e., Target, Walmart, etc.), and even local hardware stores for outdoor seating furniture, including couches, love seats, chaise lounges, individual chairs, ottomans and, if appropriate, bar stools.
Unique Seating – When planning your outdoor living space, look for features that can double as an extra seating area, such as a retaining wall that provides extra bench seating — also called a seatwall.
Accent Tables – You’ll need a place to park drinks, books, plates, etc., so find an outdoor coffee table and/or some smaller side tables that complement your space.
Dining Table – Outdoor dining rooms have graced the cover of popular store catalogs and home magazines. With so many options out there, you can really complete your outdoor space with the perfect outdoor dining table and chairs. And don’t forget to finish the look with durable dishware and decorative linens.
Fire & Water
Fire pits, fireplaces and water features can bring your outdoor living space to a higher level of cozy and intimate for you and your guests. The fire and water features you choose will depend on your budget and space.
If you’re working with a lot of square footage, nothing says “bringing the indoors to the outdoors,” quite like a beautiful outdoor fireplace. And if designed right, the fireplace’s hearth can double as extra seating. For smaller outdoor spaces, consider purchasing a fire pit for warmth and roasting marshmallows. If your space won’t allow for a fire pit, consider a chimenea, heating lamp or tiki torches.
Of course, where there’s fire, there should be water! To bring more balance and tranquility to your space, consider adding a water feature, which can also be designed to double as additional seating. There are many types of outdoor water features, from large, cascading waterfalls to a stand-alone water fountains like this one. For inspiration, check out HGTV.com’s Peaceful Garden Retreats. Also, for the hotter months, consider a built-in water misting system or a stand-alone water fan.
When it comes to choosing your outdoor entertainment features, a lot will depend on the intended use of your outdoor space. Are you hosting family holiday gatherings? Birthday parties? Socials? If you’re hoping to enjoy your outdoor space with others, you may consider installing a sophisticated audio, visual system that includes a television, surround sound speakers, and Wi-Fi to stream music and movies. If you’re looking to keep your outdoor space enjoyed by only you and a small few, perhaps a more conservative audio system for playing music will suffice. Your outdoor entertainment intentions will also help you decide between installing a full-blown outdoor kitchen and bar, or keeping things on a smaller scale with a portable grilling cart and outdoor drink cooler.
Now this is where you can really have fun and show off your style —decorating your outdoor living space! We suggest:
Turning on the lights – You’ve likely already incorporated some porch lighting or built-in lights to your covered area and/or outdoor kitchen. But you can add more ambiance and character by incorporating strung lights along your awning or pergola, as well as on trees and within shrubbery.
Cushioning your seats – Set your color and design scheme with your weatherproof furniture seat and back cushions. Don’t forget to account for cushions for any additional seating at an outdoor fireplace, waterfall feature or seatwall. You can also tie everything together with some comfortable, water-resistant throw pillows.
Warming things up – Throw blankets are a great way to bring design and colors together, while also warming up your guests. Because your throws need to stay inside until it’s time to enjoy them outside, consider purchasing blankets that complement both your indoor and outdoor décor.
Playing with fabric – Weather-resistant drapes and curtains are another way to add extra privacy and personalized design to your outdoor space. You can hang them from your awning or pergola to help shield you from the cold, wind and insects.
Covering your area – An outdoor area rug can really help complete your outdoor space, as well as protect your outdoor flooring from food and beverage stains. Rugs are much easier to replace than fresh stone, deck boards or tile.
With our 5 favorite outdoor essentials, we think you’ll be set up to enjoy your outdoor living space during all four seasons. And as an added bonus to your attention detail, remember that completed outdoor rooms add value to your home for any future sale. If you find yourself ready to move, a PrimeLending home loan expert is here to help.
From the PrimeLending blog, by Mandy Jordan