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!
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:
- The surrounding environment. Position a sitting area to enjoy sunrises or sunsets and use hedges and screens to block eyesores.
- Orientation. If your outdoor space gets a lot of afternoon or early-evening sun, you'll want to invest in an umbrella, pergola, or other structure to provide some shade.
- Prevailing wind direction. For example, if your outdoor living space has a regular evening breeze, place your firepit accordingly.
- Budget. Can you revamp your outdoor living space in one fell swoop, or should you tackle it in stages?
- Maintaining your outdoor areas. If you don't have the time or desire to maintain gardens, choose easy-to-care-for blooms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Large containers won't dry out as quickly as small pots.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The RoomSketcher App can be used as an outdoor space design app that you can use on your computer or tablet. It features a site planner that allows you to create landscape designs, garden plans, and backyard designs in 2D and 3D.
The RoomSketcher Product Library includes hundreds of exterior finishes, furnishings, planting materials, and water features — such as a pool or jacuzzi — so you can visualize exactly what your design will look like before beginning your project.
There are numerous ways to DIY outdoor areas and stretch your dollar when designing:
- Design your outdoor living space for free using the RoomSketcher App. You'll know exactly what your outdoor areas will look like before getting started, eliminating potentially costly mistakes in terms of both time and money.
- Tackle your project in stages.
- Choose budget-friendly materials. Pressure-treated wood is cheaper than cedar or composite materials, for instance, though the latter typically offers a better return on investment. Create pathways using stones instead of pavers.
- Repurpose items. With a little elbow grease, you can transform wooden pallets into a sectional, chairs, and tables. Turn a galvanized stock tank into a pool by adding a filter, pump, and chlorine.
A few simple ways to make your outdoor space cozy include:
- Hang billowing curtains around the periphery of a gazebo or pergola and along your front porch to provide protection from the sun and bugs while creating a sense of intimacy.
- Outdoor lighting, such as string lights, and water features, such as a tabletop water fountain, create a soothing ambiance, while a firepit creates both ambiance and warmth — and a great excuse to enjoy s'mores!
- Accessorize with textural pillows, poufs, blankets, and indoor-outdoor rugs that complement your home's interior. Add decor elements like those you'd find indoors, such as mirrors and artwork.
- Create privacy with fences, screens, greenery, and fabrics. Planting trees strategically will offer both privacy and shade.
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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Design, Create and Visualize Outdoor Areas with RoomSketcher
Learn how to design, create and visualize outdoor spaces in 3D with the RoomSketcher App - an easy-to-use online floor plan and home design tool.