Creating a comfortable home means ensuring your space is well maintained, functional and safe. Those qualities shouldn’t be confined to areas within your home, and outdoor space plays a major role in sustainable living. Spend some time designing your backyard, front yard, gardens, patio and even your driveway. Take life outdoors and maximize your family’s living space.
Think About How You Live
Do you enjoy spending time beyond your backdoor? Consider what types of activities you tend to get involved in outside, whether sports, hobbies or manual labor (apparently some people love pushing a lawn mower). Then imagine how you can incorporate those activities into your outdoor living space.
Golfers dream of having their own putting green in the backyard. Gardeners love to get their hands into fresh dirt and massive compost piles. Sports fans can make plans to install a basketball net, swimming pool or beach volleyball court. Sunbathers need a patio with southern exposure and avid BBQ fans can design an outdoor kitchen of their dreams. Any and all of these options are possible with the right amount of planning, a reasonable budget and the help of an experienced contractor.
If you’re not an outdoor person, consider what it is that keeps you indoors. Many people want to set reasonable limits on their exposure to sun1, or work hard to avoid bugs and other outdoor pests. Your yard should include the features necessary for your comfort, but they should also encourage you to move beyond the back door and get outside. Consider a screened in gazebo to keep out the bugs, or a retractable awning to provide shade when needed. Create an inviting area catered to your own wants and needs allowing you to fully relax and breathe in fresh air.
Essential Components of Outdoor Living Spaces
Your outdoor space should provide the same level of comfort as your indoor space, although the finishes and materials used may differ. Design your outdoor space to create rooms; include a backyard kitchen and grill, dining area, lounging space and exercise corner. Arrange the furniture, fixtures and structures just as you would inside, with considerable thought and personalization.
Which of these essential outdoor living components fit into your dream yard?
- deck or patio – to create a comfortable, usable living space with minimal transition from the indoors
- hot tub – for luxurious relaxation any time of the year
- gazebo or screened in porch – a closed in (or semi-closed in) spot to eat, relax and converse
- porch swing – in the front yard or the rear, this classic cozy seat is a family favorite
- garden – for the flower lovers and to provide healthy homegrown fruits and veggies
- trees and shrubs – for shade, beauty and cleaner air
- paved driveway and pathway – safe and easy to clear in the winter
The Practical Elements
Photo credit: Field Outdoor Spaces
Your outdoor space needs to be safe, as well as comfortable. Installing a level walkway that can be easily cleared in the winter is smart, as is providing enough space for all of the family vehicles2. Think of your property as a whole, and plan to use every square foot of your outdoor space just as you would for indoor living.
That doesn’t mean you should build an Olympic sized swimming pool to accommodate the neighborhood. But it may mean paving an extra-wide driveway to leave room for the vehicles of overnight guests. Think about practical outdoor needs across every season, and accommodate for those needs with outdoor storage (sheds, garage, or simple racking systems) and solid, level ground for vehicle and foot traffic.
Lighting is another practical element of outdoor living. Consider solar outdoor lights for low maintenance, renewable solutions that allow you to spend even more time outside3. You can find solar path marker lights, post cap lighting, garden lamps and in-deck lights that run entirely on solar power, without the need for transformers.
LEDs are another smart option, providing longevity and an unobtrusive layout. Look for flush mount LEDs to install in your stairs, along pathways, in the patio and down the sides of your driveway. Outdoor lighting provides greater safety and allows you to spend more time in your outdoor living space.
How about heat? Extend the backyard living season with patio heaters. You’ll find a wide range of products, from wall-mounted commercial heaters to lamp styles and tabletop heaters designed for smaller spaces. Use these products on the patio or front porch and bask in the fresh air all through the evening. Consider investing in energy efficient brands, and be sure to size the heater properly for your outdoor space.
Design your outdoor living space with your own lifestyle in mind. Plan for and build structures that create rooms your family will use on a regular basis, and don’t forget to include practical elements like paving, lights and heating to help your outdoor living stay safe and enjoyable. Small homes do not mean small living, especially when every square foot of your property is put to good use.
1. Holick, M.F., (December 2004), Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease, Retrieved on January 2012 from National Center for Biotechnology Information.
2. M&S Paving & Sealing, (2005), The ABC’s of Paved Driveways, Retrieved on January 2012 from M&S Paving and Sealing.
3. Scarlet, (November 16, 2011) Benefits of Solar Landscape Lights, Family Focus Blog, Retrieved on January 2012.