Outdoor living spaces are most often associated with summer barbecues and time spent enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. But at the first sign of a chill in the air, the festivities head indoors, the outdoor furniture is stored away, and the patio stays empty until spring.
Changing seasons and colder weather don’t have to mean abandoning your outdoor living space for indoor fun. Even when the temperatures fall, it’s possible to enjoy your deck or patio for most of the year. In fact, with a few clever additions, you might even make spending time outdoors more fun in the winter than in the summer.
The first step to making your outdoor space winter-friendly is to add heat sources. No one wants to sit outdoors shivering, so creating a cozy, warm spot is a must. The most obvious choice is to add a fire pit or fireplace where you and your family can gather ‘round, but if you already have one, don’t hesitate to add additional heat sources. Portable outdoor heaters can make a seating area more comfortable, for example. A covered space can help ward off some of the chill as well, especially when you incorporate an outdoor ceiling fan. The idea of a fan might seem counterintuitive, but when the blades are set to turn clockwise, they will push warm air down without creating a breeze. This can help maximize any warmth from heat sources, making the space cozy and comfortable.
The sun goes down earlier in the colder months, and even the daytime light isn’t always as bright as the summer sun. This means you’ll need additional lighting to illuminate the space. Solar lights are a good option, as well as lighting that does double duty such as lighted heaters or a fan with a light. Include several types of lighting, including lights along paths or decorative string lights, for safety and ambiance.
Your backyard’s landscape design can go a long way toward creating an all-season space. Work with a landscape designer to determine where the sun will provide the most warmth, and which direction the wind comes from. Planting trees (especially evergreens with thick branches) can provide a windbreak to keep things warm in the winter and offer shade in the summer. If you have a covered deck or patio, you can get a similar effect by hanging curtains, and closing them when the temperature drops.
Although there’s a lot to be said for gathering around the fire, your backyard oasis can offer other forms of entertainment in the winter. If you have the space, and it gets cold enough, building a backyard ice skating rink can provide hours of fresh air and exercise for the whole family. If skating isn’t your thing, consider adding a relaxing hot tub. A hot soak can feel especially relaxing on a cold night. Another option is to add a movie screen. A projector and a white sheet will do in a pinch, but you can also invest in an inflatable movie screen for outdoor viewing. Even on a chilly night, a fire and some warm blankets can make an outside movie night fun for the whole family. A good quality telescope is also a fun addition that allows you to gaze at the stars in the winter sky, spotting constellations that might not be visible in the summer.
Winter doesn’t mean you can’t cook outdoors anymore. Your outdoor kitchen can function all season, and you might be surprised by what you can actually prepare on the grill, over a fire, or in an outdoor brick over. Try grilling homemade pizza, for example, or roasting a chicken over a low flame. As long as the temperatures aren’t too cold, you can still enjoy your meals outdoors too, thanks to the extra heaters and lighting.
Even with extra warmth from the fire or heaters, you might still feel the chill in the air. Invest in some nice warm blankets to use outside, some weatherproof toss pillows for the furniture, and settle in by the fire. If your pets like to hang out with you outside, a cozy pet bed is another must to keep them warm and toasty, too.
There may be times when the weather is too frightful to enjoy your outdoor space even with the extra warmth and light. But for the rest of the time, don’t hibernate indoors. Cozy up the patio, light a fire, and enjoy the fresh air all year round.