Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Revitalizing your Outdoor Living Space

Let’s face it: sometimes our backyards can be a bit overwhelming. Too many times we have stepped out to greet the morning, cup of coffee in hand, only to be met by the shambles of our “outdoor living room.” You know the scene: worn out garden furniture, cracked, weed-sprung patio bricks, and flowers that just won’t bloom. Fortunately, fixing up and remodeling the garden space is a fairly simple and enjoyable process if performed correctly; and, having been the go-to gal for many of my friends, I have a few tips to help get the backyard in pristine condition—optimal for outdoor relaxation.

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The first thing you need to do is be sure you work within your means. I am not merely referring to “means” in a budgetary sense—though this is important—but also in terms of your abilities and workable space. Do not make plans to construct a concrete fire pit or barbeque structure if your outdoor area barely has enough room for patio furniture. If you are incapable of building such a fire pit on your own, it is also a good reason to avoid this task—unless you have the ability to hire this job out—which can prove be a very expensive venture. Know what you can do, and enter this remodel with a firm plan; the last thing you want to do is tear up your patio—making it even more undesirable—only to realize you are not able to finish what you started. The concept of measuring twice and cutting once definitely applies here.

The three key areas I find most addressable, and most often result in a successful remodel, are as follows:


  • Revamp the plant life in the area, making it more presentable, manageable, and pleasing to the eye.



  • Install, replace, or expand a brick patio. Grass has its place in a backyard, and I love it as much as anyone, but for social settings and outdoor living it is nice to have quality footing.



  • A central social setting. This can be a fire pit, ring of chairs or benches, or just a patio table.


  • A great bit to keep in mind: decorative planters are your best friend in the outdoor living room. They are not only aesthetically pleasing and representative of your taste, but they are movable and easy to maintain. You can rotate them in and out based on the season and your arsenal of plant life, allowing you to avoid the issues of vacant or sparse plant beds. They also allow for easy redecorating if you are in need of a change or more space for company. Planters will also save you if your thumb is not as green as you’d like it to be, as planter plants are much easier to maintain than the stuff in the ground.

    A brick patio is not only ideal for supporting patio furniture and planters—as well as giving good footing for your guests—but they also add a lot of visual pleasure to the scene. The added pattern of varying shapes and colors you find in a brick patio will impress friends and family, while giving a unique appearance to your outdoor living space—making it much more a place of your own. As daunting as the task of installing or replacing a brick patio might sound, it is actually a fairly simple enterprise. Step by step instructions are just one Google search away, and aside from the bricks, you will need little more than a few bags of sand, a shovel, and few boards to help smooth out the sand prior to laying brick. Make sure to purchase a variety of brick colors—in the pattern of your choice—and alternate the bricks you lay to create the desired aesthetics. You’ll be surprised at how fast you can knock this out in a single weekend.

    The whole purpose of an enjoyable outdoor living space is to entertain; whether it is friends, family, or just yourself, you want this to be a space you can relax in. I find that implementing a solid social area within your outdoor area gives direction and flow to environment. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and it all depends on what you want the social purpose of the space to be. Are you planning on hosting entire dinner parties, or merely a simple cocktail party? Is this a location of large gathering where folks can move about and mingle, or is a more intimate setting something you are aiming for? Cast-iron bowl style fireplaces are great for that evening retreat for you and your close friends, and like the decorative planters; they can easily be moved about or removed entirely depending on the situation. I also find that larger, more solid furniture that gives an air of permanence not only looks best, but also tends to be more comfortable.

    Once again, I cannot stress the importance of planning ahead. Truly take the time to think about the purpose of your outdoor living room, and how you hope to use it. Shop around, and don’t be afraid to draw ideas from what others have done with their own gardens and yards. Most importantly, remember this is your space first, and that if you are not comfortable in it on your own, you will never enjoy it with the presence of company.

    Mackenzie Kupfer has been a lover of all things green since the age of six when she began gardening with her Nana. She is currently an online publisher for the outdoor garden decor site avantgardendecor.com. In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys attending garden shows, hiking, and collecting porcelain tea sets.

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