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From Patios to Pools: The Best Outdoor Living Space Ideas

If you spent too much of the winter hibernating, you may be experiencing cabin fever and can't wait to enjoy the great outdoors. RoomSketcher is here to help with free planning tools and the inspiration you need to discover why the outdoors is greater than ever before!

Outdoor space design
Linda White

As the temperatures start to rise and the days become longer, it’s time to design your outdoor living space. Whether you’re starting from scratch or updating tired spaces, RoomSketcher will help you weigh the possibilities and bring your vision to life!

Purpose of the Outdoor Area

Not so long ago, many homeowners were satisfied with a simple backyard with a swing set for the kids and a barbecue for grilling. As we learn more about the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors and with the pandemic forcing many of us to plan 'staycations,' outdoor living spaces have become invaluable.

How you want to use your outdoor living space is key, but you'll also want to consider the following:

Backyard Ideas

Though you don't need a large backyard to create an outdoor living area you'll love, the concept of 'zoning' can help you make the most of it. Start by listing the ways you want to use your space. Examples include a place to garden; lounge; cook, eat and entertain; and play.

You might even want to create a place to work or exercise and add a shed to store gardening and other outdoor items. Separate your designated zones with indoor-outdoor rugs, lighting, pathways, a hedge or raised flowerbed, or a slatted fence panel.

Backyard idea

When choosing furniture, think about the zones within your outdoor living space. Comfort is paramount, but furniture should also be practical for outdoor use. Look for pieces that are fade-resistant and waterproof. Invest in multipurpose items like a deck box that can be used as a table but also storage and stackable stools that double as side tables.

Garden Design

When designing your gardens, there are many options that include drought-tolerant plants, ornamental flowers, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Plant a pollinator garden filled with native plants and help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators tackle the important job of pollinating crops and plants.

The edible garden trend is flourishing and for good reason: you can grow organic veggies and herbs at a fraction of the cost of buying them.

Garden design with well and bench

Raised garden beds allow you to grow more food in less space and bring the garden to the gardener, reducing the need to bend and kneel.

Fantasy Landscape

When planning outdoor spaces, more and more homeowners are taking cues from luxurious hotels and resorts. Pools are the centerpiece of many backyard playgrounds and are complemented by fire features, such as fire bowls.

Outdoor structures can include a long list of amenities, such as TVs, speakers, fireplaces, flush-mounted ceiling heaters, bars, luxurious furniture, and automated screens for bug protection.

If your budget and space allow, add an outdoor shower, an extravagant playhouse, a putting green, and a multi-sport court that can be used for a myriad of sports, including basketball, pickleball, tennis, badminton, volleyball, hockey, and skateboarding.

Outdoor backyard design

Patio Ideas

Transform your patio into a piece of paradise with furniture that offers hidden storage, or that can be used indoors  when the mercury drops. An outdoor heater or a firepit creates an ambiance while extending your time outdoors on cool days and evenings. Layer decorative elements like twinkle lights or candles and add an outdoor area rug for softness underfoot and personality.

Patio design idea with outdoor fireplace

Outdoor Deck

Decks are often attached to a home but can be a destination all their own and can also be much more than a simple wooden structure.

Whether a one-level deck meets your needs and budget or you want a multi-level deck, it can serve a variety of purposes — an al fresco family or dining room, a place to entertain, a place to relax, or a combination of all those uses and more.

Deck design outdoor

Pergola on a Deck- Shaded Area

Add a pergola, outdoor umbrella, or awning, and you'll have it made in the shade this summer and won't need to scurry indoors when it rains.

Pergola on deck

Terrace Design

If you're longing for some outdoor living space but don't have a yard, the flat area on the side of your house or the roof of your building offers untapped potential. Like any other outdoor living space, you'll want to think about how you want to use it and plan accordingly.

Perhaps you want to entertain friends, grow herbs and vegetables, or create a personal park where you can meditate and relax. The sky is literally the limit!

Terrace design with sunken sofa

Courtyard Design Ideas

Because courtyards are completely or partially enclosed on all sides by a wall, fence, or even plants, they offer the ultimate private outdoor oasis. Don't try to squeeze too much into a small space — doing so will make it feel cluttered and difficult to navigate.

Vertical plantings, such as climbing vines and wall shrubs, soften hard landscaping. Outdoor lighting adds interest while allowing you to enjoy your courtyard well beyond dusk. Add a focal point, like a firepit or water feature.

Courtyard design idea

DIY Outdoor Kitchen

The humble barbecue has morphed into an outdoor kitchen that might feature a fridge, grill with burners, smoker, pizza oven, countertop space for preparations, and sink. Options include both built-in and modular systems from home improvement stores that allow you to roll appliances into place.

Conversation dining sets offer comfortable chairs and a full-sized dining table. Clear the table after eating and sit back and relax!

DIY outdoor kitchen with bbq

Outdoor Pool Area

When it comes to pools, bigger is not always better. In fact, small pools trump large pools, even in backyards that can comfortably accommodate a substantial body of water.

Of course, there are less expensive ways to quench your thirst for a water feature, including a tranquil pond, patio fountain, or remote-controlled waterfall — each of which can help buffer neighborhood noise like traffic and lawnmowers. The sound of running water also creates a soothing connection to nature.

Outdoor pool area

Front Porch Decor

A front porch is another way to extend your home's living space. Pair comfortable seating and tables with plants and decor items like area rugs, curtains/shades, toss cushions and blankets, then sit back and enjoy.

Adding decorative tiles will further elevate your space, but select tiles that will withstand the elements.

Because your front porch also creates a first impression, be careful not to overcrowd the space and make sure your decor complements your home's architecture.

Front porch décor

Balcony Garden Ideas

When planned properly, a balcony can dramatically extend your living space. You can strategically create numerous zones by placing rugs and tables if it's large enough. If it's small, think multifunction, such as a sitting area inviting al fresco dining and a place to curl up with a refreshing beverage and book.

Even a small balcony has the potential to be mighty when it comes to gardening, thanks to containers.

Balcony garden idea

Top Tip

Large containers won't dry out as quickly as small pots.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Time to Create an Outdoor Living Space

Whether it’s a blank slate or needs a makeover, RoomSketcher's garden design app allows you to design your outdoor space online for free, helping you revitalize your outdoor area into a sweet escape!

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