How to Expand Your Living Space into the Great Outdoors

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Outdoor entertaining
Outdoor living spaces can be designed to serve any purpose. Relaxation or recreation. Casual dining or casual conversation. With the right setup, you can create an outdoor escape that complements your home and provides a connection to Mother Nature.

4 must-haves for any outdoor entertainment area

Patios and decks were designed to draw you out of the house to appreciate the outdoors. No matter how you prefer to unwind with family and friends, there are a few key features that make outdoor rooms enjoyable for all — and easy on the entertainer.

Outdoor kitchen

Built in outdoor kitchen

They say your kitchen is the heart of your home. That thinking applies to your outdoor living space as well. Indoors, family and friends may gather in the living room while you’re left alone preparing a meal and missing the party. An outdoor kitchen lets you cook for everyone and still be a part of the conversation.

Custom, built-in cooking stations provide all the kitchen essentials: countertops for food prep, a grill for cooking, and cupboards or shelving for storing all your tools. Slide a mini fridge underneath to grab beverages without giving your hand an ice bath whenever someone needs a drink. Or keep it simple with a charcoal or gas grill off to the side and a small bar for entertaining and storage.

Easy access doors

Multi slide patio doors open up the wall
You can’t recreate your entire interior floor plan outdoors. At a minimum, your family and guests will still need to venture inside. And you’ll need to go in and out to grab more food and refreshments.

A stylish patio door can make your outdoor living area feel like a natural extension of your home. If you often find yourself moving back and forth with your hands full, you’ll want a door you can effortlessly operate with elbows, hips, and feet. Hinged French patio doors can be a great option for these high-traffic entrances. Bifold patio doors can easily fold up and be stored out of the way to create an open, inviting walkway.

Weather protection

Outdoor awning or overhang

Awnings, gazebos, canopies, and screened porches give you more opportunities to enjoy your outdoor space and keep the party going when the weather threatens to ruin your plans. They also offer shade and protection from the sun.

A large patio umbrella may offer the same protection at a lower cost. Many umbrellas move and tilt so you can block the sun as it travels across the sky. Privacy screens won’t protect you from the weather but will block the sun and views from neighbors.

Fire feature

Outdoor fire feature

A fireplace is a gathering place. It creates a focal point for your living area, inside or out. When the sun goes down and takes the temps with it, cozy up by the fire to keep the party going until the last ember burns. In milder climates, a fireplace can allow you to enjoy your outdoor living area year-round.

Install a wood-burning or gas outdoor fireplace to anchor your outdoor room design. If space is limited, pull out a portable fire pit that you can keep out of the way when it’s not in use. Some patio and deck tables include gas fire features built in. Check your local ordinances and building codes for guidance on the type and location of your fire feature.

PROJECT: Custom Windows Provide Great Views of Pool Patio

How to decorate your outdoor room

Decorating around the core elements of your outdoor room can be challenging. You need to maintain the function and style without cluttering up the space or clogging natural traffic areas. Outdoor living is more casual and comfortable. Design your space with the furniture and decor that bring out those qualities.

Select the right seating for the space.

Outdoor seating

Pick out furniture to match the entertaining you do most — a table and chairs for outdoor dining, benches and bar stools for drinks with friends, or comfy couches and chairs for that family room feel. Use a variety of options and different arrangements to create natural separation and gathering spots. But only if you have the space. Stick to the number of seats to accommodate your average group size. You can always squeeze in temporary furniture for large get-togethers.

Outdoor patio furniture is designed to withstand the elements. But climates vary and not every piece is built to meet the demands of your environment. Depending on your climate and the weather protection of your outdoor room, you may need water-resistant, rust-proof, wind-resistant, waterproof, or fade-resistant furniture at varying degrees.

Mount a ceiling fan for added comfort.

Outdoor ceiling fan

Some days are so hot that even the shade makes you sweat, making it unbearable to hang out in your outdoor room. If you have a covered outdoor living space, a ceiling fan can create the refreshing cool of a summer breeze when Mother Nature forgets. Choose an outdoor fan with long, skinny blades. They cool better than the shorter, wider blades you see indoors by drawing more air in to push it down.

Look to nature for your outdoor decor ideas.

When designing the interior, homeowners can feel boxed in by the architecture or style of their home. Outdoor entertainment areas open up new options. When you’re decorating your outdoor space, nature is your color palette. Start with earth tones to connect your living space to its environment. Match furniture, cushions, pillows, and accessories to your surrounding landscaping or stonework. Take inspiration from your flowers and shrubbery to create a mix of colors, floral prints, and patterns to give your outdoor oasis a unique style.

You can save up for an extended getaway at a luxurious resort. Or you can bring the resort to your backyard and enjoy it for years to come. Build a relaxing retreat just out your back door for the perfect spot to entertain and unwind with family and friends.

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