When it comes to our homes, most people spend the majority of their time indoors. Because we spend so much time inside, this tends to be where we spend the most money decorating, cleaning, and maintaining our homes. The exterior living space of our homes is often times underutilized, if not completely overlooked. Most homes have some type of outdoor space that can be used for rest, relaxation, or recreation. This space can vary in size from something as small as a balcony in an apartment, to acres of land around a rural home. Whatever the size, exterior living spaces can be a great extension of our homes, especially with proper planning.
When designing an outdoor living space, you must first ask yourself what you want to accomplish with the space. What needs must it fill? What purpose will it serve? If you are designing a deck or patio, for example, the size of the space should be determined based on how you'll use it. Will you be purchasing outdoor furniture such as a weatherproof couch, loveseat, and chairs? Or will it simply be a dining area with a table and chairs? Some families want to have both sitting and eating areas in their outdoor living space, which obviously requires more room.
Once you know how you want to use the area the next thing to consider is how often you'll use the space. If it will only be utilized in the summer, an area out in the open may be fine. If you wish to use it in the spring and fall, you might want to select a location that is sheltered from the sometimes chilly spring and fall winds. For areas with mild winters, a four season room might be a good option. Four season rooms often have windows with removable panels so they become a screened in porch in the summer and an enclosed room in the winter.
You may also want to consider who will be using the space. For example, if you have young children or grandchildren, a swimming pool may not be a good choice, as they can be very dangerous. Or, if you have pets that will be using the outdoor space as well, you may not want to plant a garden full of delicate and exotic plants that the dog or cat might dig up.
Once you've answered these basic questions, you'll be ready to consider things like structure, privacy needs, and furniture. Observing other homes with outdoor living spaces is a great way to get ideas. This can be accomplished by simply taking a walk through your neighborhood or a drive through your town. You might want to take a note pad to jot down ideas as you see them. Many resources are also available through books, magazines, and the internet. There are also many inexpensive computer software programs that can help you design your outdoor living space. Be sure to keep your home's architectural style in mind during this designing phase, to assure a cohesive outcome.
Outdoor structures like pergolas, trellises, and arbors can really add to your space when incorporated into the overall design. A large pergola over a patio can provide much needed shade during the hot summer months. Also, pergolas, trellises, and arbors a great medium for showcasing climbing plants like clematis, morning glory, or Boston ivy.
Whatever your final choices are, be sure that your outdoor living space meets your needs. A well thought out plan beforehand will insure that you'll enjoy your space for many years to come.
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