Creating an outdoor “destination” in your back yard not only adds more available living space and enjoyment of the outdoors, it can potentially add more value to your home. If you’ve got the vision, we can help you bring it to life. Here’s a handy five-part checklist to kick-start your planning:
1) Identify the Space
- Location: where is the best place to situate your outdoor oasis? A new terrace or deck, perhaps through new French doors from the dining room? Or set towards the back of the yard as more of a nature retreat, surrounded by existing trees or a nearby stream? Does your rooftop have potential, converted for the purpose?
- Use: when do you plan to use it most? Weekends, or throughout the week? Day and night, or primarily evenings? Summers only? Year-round?
- Purpose: How do you plan to use it? Getaway for quiet reading? Family dinner nights? Entertaining friends? Small outdoor cottage for art or guests? All of the above?
2) Create Structural Definition
Just like a large front door helps to define the entry and first impression of your home, structural elements help define your outdoor space, while creating a sense of security and comfort. Examples include:
- Overhead wooden trellis structure (with or without a clear or roofed cover)
- Deck (consider including planter boxes or stepped tiers for definition)
- Pre-fabricated wrought iron pergola
3) Address the Issues
- What is the underlying surface? Grass requires excavation, preparation, and some sort of underlayment or foundation layer before you can install outdoor pavers, or build a deck (no one wants weeds growing up through a deck, or soil settling a section of your patio or deck). If you’re already starting from a cement slab or pavers, verify that the surface is level. If the space will not be covered (or only partially covered), is drainage adequate? Are gutters necessary? Where does rainwater go during a storm?
- Based on its location and use times, how much “weather mitigation” will your space need? What is the sun, heat, and wind like during peak use times? Would retractable sun shading or an extra wall for wind protection add to your comfort? Will you want the space permanently covered for use in rainy weather, and if so, with clear plastic for light, or a more permanent roof for full shade and longevity? What about mosquitos and flies, will you want sliding screens or permanent screenwalls?
- How much privacy / enclosure do you want the space to have? Do you need to mitigate any environmental factors including traffic sounds, or unattractive views? Options include a semi-enclosed space (latticework or tall plantings), an optionally enclosed space (sliding walls, retractable shades, outdoor curtains), or a fully enclosed space (a fence or wall).
- Will you need to bring in any utilities, such as electrical outlets and underground wiring, a gas line for a hot tub or barbecue, or source of water for an outdoor sink?
4) Light it Up
- Structural lighting: under a deck railing, at the edge of paved stairs, wall sconces, etc.
- Uplights: soft reflected light from behind an outdoor couch or chair, at the base of a large potted tree, etc.
- Strings of small patio lights (or even smaller white holiday lights)
- Hanging fixtures: eclectic “chandeliers”, round paper “Chinese” fixtures, or vintage metal lanterns
- Lamps (for that extra cozy “living room” feel)
- Candles (always a must)
5) Furnish it for Comfort
- Outdoor food preparation: options can include a fireplace with a rotisserie, an outdoor brick or stone pizza oven, or a full scale kitchen set up.
- Seating options: benches, chairs, floor cushions—if the space will not be used during the winter, think about what materials your furnishings are made of (Durable resin? Wood? Metal? Restored vintage?) and how / where these items will be protected and stored.
- Function-specific options: dining, coffee, or end tables; storage benches (with a seating cushion on top); toy boxes.
- Soft furnishings: bench and chair cushions, pillows, throw blankets, rugs, gauzy curtains or woven grass screens.
- Rugs: woven grass mats, woven recycled plastic rugs, fabric rugs for more enclosed spaces, or astroturf.
- Water sounds: plug-in electric water feature ranging from a small table top fountain, wall sconce, or converted ceramic pot, to a larger dramatic sculpture, or adjacent pond (this can be an entire project in itself).
- Live plants: free standing pots, hanging plants, or a wall of mounted pots
- Décor: art, statuary, candles, wind chimes, hummingbird feeders, etc.