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14 Tips to Create Your Perfect Outdoor Living Space

It’s that time of year. The leaves are green, flowers are blooming, and we want to soak up as much sun and fresh air as possible after being cooped up indoors all winter.

Last week, we spent a day in Chicagoland and the first stop on our itinerary was Abt in Glenview. They have everything from earbuds to refrigerators to home theater systems (it was really hard to leave the theater they had displayed in their showroom – complete with twinkling stars in the ceiling) to kitchen gadgets to sofas and mattresses. It’s a one-stop shop for everything you need for your home under one roof – and that roof is large. We know, they took us to the top!

When you walk in, their current displays are grills, patio heaters, and weatherproof electronics, and that got us thinking about what we’d want in our own outdoor spaces and some ideas we could share with you to help you create a space that is as inviting as the living room in which you’ve spent the last five months or so huddled under blankets.

When you begin planning, think about your outdoor space as you would an interior space. Designate specific areas for the “living room,” the “kitchen,” the “dining room,” the “playroom,” etc. Then consider your travel paths. Take into account how you and your guests will get from one area to another. How accessible is the outdoor kitchen from your indoor kitchen? All the things that make your indoor rooms “work” should be contemplated when planning your ideal outdoor space.

To help make planning a little easier, Cory put together a list of things to consider and to keep in mind while planning.

14 Tips for Creating Your Outdoor Living Space:

  • Use potted plants to help define specific areas to create a feeling of intimacy as well as privacy. Large groupings of potted plants can also create a focal point.

  • Location. Location. Location. Be strategic with setting up your outdoor spaces by thinking about what view you will have while relaxing…or your neighbors’ view of you! This goes for sound as well. Conversations near your air-conditioning unit can be a little tough when that compressor is running.

  • Landscaping. Depending on how you plan to use your outdoor space, good and thoughtful landscaping design can greatly impact its functionality. Defining your outdoor living area with natural plants and rocks has a very different feel than that PVC fence you put up with your father-in-law.

  • Comfortable both day and night. Capture the full potential of an outdoor space by making sure you have things that can make extended time in the elements enjoyable. Umbrellas, shade sails, misters, and fans are all things to consider when planning your perfect outdoor living space usage during the day. Infrared heaters, firepits, outdoor fireplaces, etc. are all things to consider for those chilly evenings.

  • Power. While you can get a battery-powered version of almost anything these days, having outdoor receptacles in the right locations can make all the difference. I mean, unless you like seeing that 100-foot bright orange extension cord running across your deck or landscaping.

  • Take advantage of structures that already exist such as a back or front porch and screen it in. Having a space that is somewhat protected from the elements and the bugs can really help create an atmosphere where you’re relaxed enough to actually enjoy being outside.

  • Define a space that can accommodate a good old-fashioned tree swing or hammock.

  • Don’t forget about the front porch or even the front yard. Sometimes a glass of wine and a comfortable chair situated for watching the neighborhood can be a great way to spend your evening!

  • Invest in quality outdoor furniture. It MUST be comfortable or you’re not going to use it as often. The same goes if you’re always worried about whether that chair is going to fall apart when you try to recline to catch some rays.

  • Build a treehouse and use it as a unique place to enjoy the evening. Just being in the trees can give you a new perspective of your yard or even a better view of that glorious sunset! Bonus experience if you build it with your kids. What a great way to spend quality time together and experience the outdoors.

  • Look for ways to incorporate different types of lighting into your spaces. String lights, landscape lighting, torches, candles, etc. all provide different types of ambiance to your outdoor living areas. Just as lighting indoors can set the mood of a room, the same is true for the outdoors.

  • Music. Invest in some good outdoor speakers. While the great outdoors has an amazing musical score of its own, sometimes you just need a little Jimmy Buffet.

  • Outdoor games and group activities. If you have the room, designate enough space for playing cornhole or your game of choice. As with other outdoor spaces, make sure people playing games aren’t going to interfere with cooking that perfect steak. A larger area like this could also be an excellent place to spread out lawn blankets and set up an outdoor movie night.

  • Installing bird feeders and birdhouses around your property is a great way to bring in local wildlife. Depending on what type of wildlife you’re hoping to see, do some research and make sure to locate bird feeders and houses in places where your new friends will feel comfortable.

Cory is our in-house outdoor-living-loving expert. He’s created some beautiful and serene outdoor spaces over the years, but nothing tops his own outdoor oasis. He built his own pirate ship several years ago (not a little ship either!) and added a pool to the scene in 2021. Who else has a pirate ship and a pool in their backyard in the middle of cornfield country?

author avatar
Cory Interior Designer
Building his first treehouse at the age of eight, Cory has been interested in homes ever since. Many tents and treehouses later, Cory entered into the professional world of design working as a scenic designer in theater and a senior exhibit designer/art director in the museum and themed entertainment industry. Joining the SDG team has allowed Cory to channel his creative spirits back "home" for which he is thankful.

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