The Secret to Outdoor Living Areas That Are Both Beautiful and Functional

An outdoor living area with a fireplace and grill.

The McMansion trend has finally appeared to die down over the last few years and the average American homeowner is being more purposeful about the space he or she has.

A byproduct of this newfound intentionality is an increased emphasis on outdoor living areas. If you’re interested in designing and building exterior living space at your residence, this article can help you plan it.

Design Your Perfect Outdoor Living Space

There are lots of homes that have outdoor living areas—from decks and screened porches to outdoor kitchens, pools, and patios—but most of them are either beautiful and dysfunctional, or practical but unsightly.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With a little forethought, you can design an outdoor living space that’s both beautiful and functional. Here’s how to make that happen.

A modern outdoor living area with a fire pit perfect for outdoor gatherings.
Outdoor Living Space


Aim for Continuity


“Make an outdoor area feel like an extension of the house by using the same color palette and style of furniture that are featured in the interiors,” designer Matthew Yee advises.

By establishing continuity between your indoor and outdoor living spaces, you can make a comparatively small home seem much larger. It creates the illusion of a bigger home, even though some of the square footage is outside.

Outdoor living areas with a view of the mountains.
Outdoor Living Space


Plan for Versatility

Unless you live in one of the few areas of the country where the weather is warm and pleasant all year around, you’ll probably need to think about versatility. Otherwise, you’ll be able to use your space only for a few months out of the year.

Versatility comes in many shapes and forms. Here are a few ideas:

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Install a retractable awning over a patio in order to provide on-demand shade or protection from rain.

Go with a heated pool so you can use it during the winter months.

An outdoor living area with white furniture.
Outdoor Living Space

Install large fans and mounted heaters on a screened porch to allow for greater temperature control during the heat of the summer and the cold of winter.

For a small investment, you can get many more weeks of enjoyment out of your outdoor living area each year. Plan ahead and be ready for these variables.


Create a Clear Flow


The natural aspect of outdoor living means you are—at least to an extent—limited by the shape, contour, and organic aspects of the land. On the other hand, it’s all too easy for an outdoor living area—backyards in particular—to become choppy, segmented, or disorganized.

An outdoor living area with a pool and patio furniture, perfect for leisure and relaxation in natural surroundings.
Outdoor Living Space

If possible, you want to avoid this. “No matter the size of your yard, your outdoor living spaces will work better together if you establish traffic patterns,” Better Homes & Gardens suggests. “You can do this in a variety of ways, including laying formal walkways, creating shifts in hardscape materials, or planting shrubs or trees to establish corners and borders.”


Ensure Privacy


In crowded cities and busy suburban regions, homeowners will often regard privacy as a major concern whenever they pursue outdoor living. It’s hard to relax when your neighbors are constantly within view (and can see you, too).

If you want to get more use out of your outdoor space, include some privacy features in the design. These come in all shapes and sizes.

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Certain types of solar screens can be pulled down across a porch. Fast-growing evergreen trees may provide natural privacy in a back or side yard.

Even privacy walls might be designed to go with your home’s existing architecture.

A patio with wicker furniture and a fireplace, perfect for outdoor living areas.
Outdoor Living Space


Make it Comfortable and Practical


If you talk to people who have outdoor living areas and don’t use them, you’ll find the issue typically comes down to a lack of comfort. Whether it’s bugs, dirt, or harsh weather, the owners don’t use these spaces because they’re not practical or comfy.

To maximize your outdoor living area, you’ll need to design with maximum comfort in mind. Mimic your indoor living areas by creating practical seating arrangements that focus on entertainment (like a TV) or heat (such as a fireplace or fire pit).

Give people a reason to enjoy the space and you’ll get more use out of it through the year.

An outdoor living area with a fireplace and outdoor furniture.
Keywords: Outdoor living areas, fireplace
Outdoor Living Space

Make it Happen

You can daydream all you like about adding or renovating outdoor living space, but at some point you have to take a step and make it happen. This article should give you some solid ideas to build on.

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