It is hard to beat outdoor living, and there is no question that a functional outdoor space will add value to your home. You may decide that the time is right for you to do a large renovation, but if you are not willing to commit the time or money to a major project, there are still some things you can do to expand your functional living space out of doors.
Creating an outdoor “room”: You don’t need walls to create a space that feels private and is protected from rain, wind or the prying eyes of neighbors. There are lots of options which won´t break the bank. Retractable awnings are a great way to create a semi-enclosed space. You can also build screens with potted plants to create a sense of having walls – bamboo is a great choice for this purpose, but vines growing up a lattice screen can have the same effect. Try indoor-outdoor carpeting to give some structure to the space.
Music is a must-have for outside living, and will help to make your space more enjoyable. But it definitely requires some advance planning. Because open spaces have different acoustic properties than your living room, you need to carefully plan the location of outdoor speakers so that you don’t need to turn your music up so loud that no one will want to be near it – including your neighbors! Evenly distributed outdoor speakers with about 8-10 feet between them will be your best bet, and careful placement will ensure an even and directed distribution of sound. The installation of an outdoor sound system can be done affordably, and will greatly enhance the space.
The right lighting is an excellent way to accent or define any room, and an outdoor space is no different. Use lighting to highlight seating areas and pathways, or to accent a special piece of furniture or accessory. If you entertain at night on a regular basis, it may be worth investing in a permanent outdoor lighting system. Otherwise, overhead strings of lights may be a better option. You can also consider investing in solar powered lights which can be placed anywhere you choose – they come on strings with whimsical shapes, or on stakes that you can drive into the ground in the garden, or to mark pathways.
Having appropriate furniture is important if you want your outdoor space to feel like a part of the home – you can probably improve on the fold-up chairs you have in the garage! Pay attention to the design of the outdoor space, giving some thought to how you are most likely to use it. If you imagine yourself spending time reading or relaxing, make sure that you have comfortable lounging areas. If you plan to entertain in the space, make sure that you have lots of chairs and table for people to sit, to put their food and drinks and to relax. Consider arranging chairs and tables in small groups so that conversations can happen easily. There are lots of great outdoor furniture ideas to consider!
A chill in the air doesn’t need to be the end of your outdoor living. If you think you might need to heat things up a bit, there are lots of options to consider. Patio heaters are a popular option, with the advantage of having the heat source off the ground so there is little risk of accidental burns. Chimeneas are also popular and let you enjoy the crackle and pop of fire without the open flame. Fire baskets or fire pits are other options to consider. Be sure to put safety first, and take into account whether there will be children or pets running around your event.
Sadly, mosquitos and other pests can be enough to drive you back inside. Do what you can to minimize insects by making sure there is no standing water or other attractive breeding areas for bugs. If you are comfortable using chemical sprays, consider doing a regular pass around your outdoor space, paying particular attention to bushes and areas with tall grass or other plants. Some pests – like wasps – can be lured away by traps set away from your outdoor living area, while others can be repelled by fans or citronella candles. Consider hanging mosquito netting to create a bug free zone!
With some careful planning and attention, you can create a functional outdoor living space that will add value to your home without a significant investment of time or money!