There is nothing like a day outside to revive our bodies and feel a smile return to our faces. Yet being comfortable outside depends on the space we’re in. Outdoor living places can be as inviting as indoor ones—and even more so when you discover how to make the best use of your space!
Types of Outdoor Living Spaces
If your yard looks more like a flat lot than an inviting living space, it can be tricky to imagine it as anything else. However, with strategic landscaping and a little creativity, you might be surprised by how many functions your outdoor space can serve!
Living and Dining: The most common living space found in the average Quad Cities yard is a patio with a dining set. If your patio or deck spans a large area of the yard, consider adding a separate outdoor “living room,” complete with comfortable outdoor lounge furniture. This provides a comfortable space to sit and relax after dinner, or a spot to sip your coffee and read the paper in the morning.
Outdoor Kitchens: In recent years, more families have been bringing the entire mealtime experience outdoors. Outdoor kitchens are a hot trend in landscape design right now, with options for every budget and style. You can go as simple as a covered grill with a small food prep station, to a full-on chef’s kitchen with wine coolers, refrigerators, and even a pizza oven.
Recreation Space: Whether it’s a dog run or a fenced-in pool, every yard feels more welcoming when there’s room for the family’s favorite activities.
Nook: The concept behind an outdoor nook is to create a mini “escape” within the yard. A great option for busy parents or professionals, the nook is a place to temporarily retreat and enjoy some peace and quiet. Imagine passing off “kid duty” to your spouse and stepping away to read a few chapters of your book, work on a painting or sculpture, or just lay down undisturbed for a few hours!
Front Yard: The front yard is your home’s first impression to guests and neighbors—but it’s also the first thing you see when you come home! Putting some thought into creating a warm and welcoming space always pays off. A front deck can help you get to know your neighbors better, and a well-cared-for yard will delight guests—and someday, buyers.
Service/Work Areas: Whenever possible, it’s nice to separate the grittier outdoor areas from the more refined living spaces. For example, a hidden area in the back for recycling and trash disposal, and a well-organized shed for storing tools, and an area of the garage for tuning up bikes and other tricky projects.
Completing Your Outdoor Living Areas
Seating and Lounging
Our indoor living rooms are defined by their seating, and so are our outdoor spaces. Architects know well that the best yards offer a range of seating—steps, tree trunks, benches, chairs. Offering a wide range of seats let visitors select the one that makes sense for the occasion. Different kinds of seating also encourage you to wander through and enjoy all areas of the yard.
Garden Swings: You don’t need to have young kids to install a garden swing. They are for all ages, if not for the nostalgic look it lends to a yard, then for the pleasure of gently swaying beneath a tree. And if you do have kids—or grandkids—let them enjoy the yard as they swing the old-fashioned way—beneath the strong branches of an old tree.
Hammocks: Those who love hammocks love them a lot. There’s something a little magical about lounging and relaxing inside the suspended netting. If you have a few strong trunks or fence posts, you’re well on your way to enjoying the luxury of a hammock.
Trees, Vines, and Flowers
We wouldn’t plop down a sofa into our living room and assume the place is complete. Likewise, we don’t complete our yards by simply adding a chair. Inside, we’d add paintings, lighting, shelves, and house plants. Outside, our light is the sun and our walls are the living shrubs around us. With some savvy landscaping, we can shift the lighting and grow a place of comfortable beauty.
Shade Trees: You usually don’t have the option of planting a tree inside your living room (though some modern architects have attempted it). But outside, your floor is the living earth itself. Your outdoor living room really is living. Take advantage of it—plant trees for shade or for any of their countless benefits.
Green Walls: A green wall along the side of a house or garage increases your growing space while surrounding your outdoor room with living plants. Trellises for vines are another option for adding greenery. They make your walls come to life and can act as a privacy screen when set up along your property line.
Flower Borders: Flowers are like the paintings of your outdoor room, except they provide more than color. They exude scents, attract butterflies, and inspire you with new scenes throughout the seasons. We often think of them as scenery, but they can become important “furniture” in your outdoor spaces!
Pergolas, Patios, and Gazebos
The hardscapes of your outdoor rooms are just as important as the living greenery. Whether a simple patio, fireplace or a gazebo, they give you the comfort of indoors while letting you enjoy all the pleasures of the garden.
Gazebos: Gazebos give protection from mosquitoes, shelter from the rain, and shade from the sun, while still letting in the breeze and bird songs. They have a mysterious charm that makes them an appealing place to gather for any occasion and they can boost the value of your property, too.
Patios: The pattern and color of a stone patio can be as beautiful as a flower garden. They provide a comfortable clearing where you can admire the blooms around you while keeping your feet dry and the tables and chairs stable.
Pergolas: Often working in tandem with a patio, pergolas have a similar appeal to a gazebo, yet are more open and versatile. Their beams can support trellises for vines. Their overhead joists lend shade as well as a feeling of seclusion and shelter. Like the branches of a tree rising overhead, they can complete the feel of an outdoor space.