While the official square footage of your new home only includes the interior dimensions, actual useable living space can be extended outdoors. It’s one of the most exciting aspects of owning a home with a yard. There’s just something about fresh air, flora, fauna, and blue or starry skies that makes outdoor living spaces so enticing and wonderful.
And to make that space even more enticing and wonderful, we’re sharing five tips to help you make the most of your outdoor dining or living space.
1. Give It Structure
There are several ways to give an outdoor space some definition without enclosing it within four walls. Pavers, stone slabs, pebbles, concrete and any number of flooring options serve as a demarcation between your outdoor living space and your yard.
A pergola or a pagoda is another way to give an outdoor living space some structure. These options give the impression of a room without limiting airflow. The difference between the two is that a pagoda has a proper roof that blocks sun and rain, while a pergola generally has an open type of roof. If you live in a really hot or really rainy area, a pagoda makes sense, or if you want to have plenty of greenery, you can grow vines on a pergola.
2. Fire Features
Fire pits are hardly new, but customized and built-in fire features are becoming more common and are being integrated with your outdoor dining area or lounging space. And the range of styles and materials has expanded from just wrought iron.
For dining, Cooke Contemporary Furniture offers a huge selection of luxury fire pit tables that integrate fire features right into the dining surface with a modern result. Most home goods stores sell fire pit patio sets that include matching seating and fire pits, like those by O.W. Lee. If you’re willing to put in the effort, it’s even possible to build your own fire pit.
For lounging, look for something smaller and cozier. The Fire Bowls by Eldorado Stone come in a range of sizes and styles. Remember that these fire features aren’t limited to nighttime use! Sipping a cup of coffee next to a fire pit is a wonderful way to start the day.
3. Keep It Cozy
To create an outdoor space that is truly an extension of your indoor living, you should keep it cozy and comfortable and you. One way to do that is to use furniture designed for both indoor and outdoor use, or to simply use indoor furniture that is easy to move outdoors when you want to use it there. Wendy Blackband of Blackband Design explains, “Just as we aim to bring the outdoors inside in our interior designs, we like to bring the indoors out for exterior spaces.”
Your style should dominate, indoors and out. People often compromise on the style of outdoor furniture because the materials need to be more durable and water-resistant or waterproof, but with a little effort, it is possible to find something that naturally fits with your style. And fortunately, manufacturers are making more and more outdoor furniture in a range of styles. There are even many stylish outdoor sectionals.
Another way to make an outdoor living space cozy is by adding a couple of elements that most people wouldn’t include indoors — namely loungers and hammocks. Instead of a typical poolside lounge chair, consider a modern double lounge chair with a cushion. Among the many styles of hammocks available, spreader-bar hammocks on a stand are easy to get in and out of, plus they add an architectural element to the outdoor living space.
4. Consider the Light
For an outdoor living space, you’ll want to consider lighting for both day and night. If you live in a sunny place, you’ll want to ensure there’s a shaded area — or you will find your outdoor space vacant on bright or hot days. You can create some shade with an umbrella, triangle shade sails, or the aforementioned pagoda. A pergola covered with a tarp (yes, I promise there are attractive options) or a dense vine would also work.
Once the sun starts to set, you’ll want adjustable lighting that can brightly illuminate while eating and provide a relaxing glow while lounging. Beyond illumination, how the lights look is also important. “Lighting is the jewelry of your space, and your patio isn’t an exception,” states designer Shannon Wollack of Studio Life/Style. I love that description! Mat Sanders of Consort Design recommends lanterns for outdoor lighting. “They’re also mobile, so they can travel around to light other parts of the yard as needed.”
5. Flexible and Versatile
There’s really no need to have an outdoor dining area and an outdoor lounging area and an outdoor pool area. You can have just one versatile space that is used flexibly and furnished according to the occasion. Having lightweight furniture that is easy to move around is key, as is furniture that can serve double duty, like a dining table used as a buffet and lounge chairs for lap-top dining. Be creative — and have fun with your new home’s outdoor living space!
Sarah Kinbar is a writer and editor with a passion for design and images. She was the editor of Garden Design magazine, curating coverage of residential gardens around the globe. As the editor of American Photo, Kinbar worked with photographers of every genre to create a magazine that told the story of the photographer’s journey.
She has been writing about architecture, landscape design and new-home construction for NewHomeSource since 2012. During that time, she founded Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides content for website redesigns, blogs, inbound marketing campaigns and eNewsletters.