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Tips to Planning an Outdoor Living Space

Introduction

With summer just around the corner, I’m sure you’re as anxious as I am to be spending more time outdoors, especially if you live in a cold climate. Winter seems to drag on forever sometimes.

Read on to find out how to make your space work for you, no matter the size.

It doesn’t have to be all work.

When we think of the outdoors we often relate it to work, such as gardening, mowing the lawn, or working on projects. Truth be told, we often don’t take the time to enjoy the space we have.

In this article I’m going to give you 5 tips to make your outdoor space one you want to spend time in; no matter what day of the week it is.


Tip 1. Decide on your usable area.

The first thing you need to do is figure out how much space you actually have. If you live in a townhouse your area is going to be considerably smaller than if you have a single detached home, or live in a rural setting.

It’s time to get out the measuring tape and graph paper, and mark the dimensions and square footage down for future reference. Be sure to include existing structures, such as house, garage, parking spaces, and so forth.


Tip 2. What is your main goal for the chosen space?

Is your space going to be kid-oriented, or as a place for entertaining? Or perhaps it’s going to be your personal space where you can curl up with a good book.

Now is a good time to refer back to that graph paper to see if the space you have will work for what you want. Is there enough room for the kids’ playhouse, or a fire pit with seating?

Do you have enough room for a patio table, or will it only fit a bistro table? Perhaps an outdoor bar is on your list?

When I built my deck (pictured below) I wanted plenty of room for my swing, table and chairs, and an assortment of planters. And yes, the dogs need to have space too.

Living in a rural area allowed me to build big (upper level is 8' X 20' and the lower level is 16' X 24') so I have a lot of room for company. (My hopes are Summer 2022 is more wasp-free than Summer 2021. My new deck couldn't even be enjoyed to its fullest because of the heat and wasps.)


My Happy Place

My favourite spot is the swing.

My favourite spot is the swing.

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Tip 3. Choosing the furniture and surface medium.

If your space is going to be used daily, trying to maintain a patch of lawn in that space will be difficult. Laying down sidewalk blocks or pea gravel might be a better option. Utilizing decking material will be easier on bare feet and doesn't retain water so you can enjoy your space even shortly after a rain.

When deciding on the furniture for your space you can buy at your local department store, or build your own. With building your own you can make it exactly how you want it by utilizing plans aimed at the beginning woodworker.

I purchased a set of woodworking plans two years ago that have come in handy in deciding just what I want my ideal space to be like. My first major project was my deck, which I built using tips and ideas in the plans as well as DIY books I have in my home library.

I have to say, the plans I purchased are simple enough for the novice woodworker to follow, yet the results look like a professional woodworker made them.


Tip 4. Living fences, walls, or low defining borders?

Keeping prying eyes away from your space will most likely be at the top of your list if you live in an urban or municipal setting. For those that live in a rural setting, it may not be as important.

Keep in mind walls and fences also provide shade and protection from the wind and/or rain (covered space). Lattice walls with vines, pergolas with climbing roses, and even a hedge will provide privacy and protection.

An example of a low defining border could be small shrubs, or perennial beds along the outer edges of your selected space. Something I have always wanted is a labyrinth, which can be made of a combination of stone pathways and shrubs or flowers. The center could house a comfortable bench, a swing, or a table for two.

Once you have decided on your end use goal, you will find it easier to figure out which mediums you want to use to define the space.

Tip 5. Add a special feature.

If you live in an urban area with a lot of traffic noise, you may want to add a fountain or an outdoor speaker. An outdoor fountain is nice because it provides a natural sound. With the solar options available it doesn’t even have to be placed near an electrical outlet.

Outdoor speakers have also come a long way and can be set up to work with a home stereo system or via Bluetooth. The latter eliminates the need for stringing speaker wire across your yard or deck. You can then choose music or nature sounds while you relax and unwind in your spot (if that’s the intended use).


Conclusion

No matter the size of your space, the above tips can help you make it into an outdoor oasis. Take the time to reflect on your day, read a book, listen to some quiet music, or sit in your comfortable spot with your sketchbook. It is your space and it should be enjoyed.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Diane Ziomek

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