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Living Outdoors without Roughing It

Creative outdoor living spaces let you expand your home’s usefulness without building on. Here are several great ways to enhance your home’s outdoor living spaces.

While nothing beats a great shade tree, if you don’t have them in your back yard, you can create shelter easily using umbrellas, shelters, and awnings. Stand-alone umbrellas can be moved around to where they’re needed, while big table umbrellas let you enjoy outdoor meals without being blinded by sunlight. Most table umbrellas are tiltable so you can adjust them optimally for the time of day. Awnings, which have long been popular in Europe, can actually help keep your home’s indoors cooler in the summer, if they are placed so they project from southern-facing windows. You can even get retractable awnings, so that they won’t block the warming sun from south-facing windows once winter arrives. Today you can get outdoor shelters that are very easy to set up and only cost a couple of hundred dollars. Many of them come with side netting to keep mosquitos out, so you can enjoy dinner outdoors without worrying about mosquitoes visiting.

A high quality hammock, conveniently placed, is a welcome addition to any backyard. Lying in a hammock on a warm day feels like being rocked in a grown-up sized cradle and is extremely soothing. If you don’t have trees, you can get hammocks that have frames and put them anywhere. For cool evenings, you may want to have a fire pit. These can extend your outdoor living season significantly. Placed judiciously and used according to directions, an outdoor fire pit can be the perfect place to socialize on cool autumn evenings as you roast hotdogs and make s’mores.

Outdoor lighting is available in some amazing designs these days, and many modern designs are highly energy efficient. Porch lighting, standalone lighting, and solar lighting can combine to add a sense of sparkle and magic to your backyard at night. Strings of outdoor fairy lights mimic the look of stars, and make outdoor parties and cookouts glow invitingly. With LED technology being used in more outdoor lighting fixtures, today’s outdoor lighting is low maintenance and doesn’t use a lot of electricity. And in the case of solar lights, it doesn’t use electricity at all.

Gardening can turn your back yard into an oasis that you’ll want to spend as much time in as possible. Not only can carefully chosen plants lend their glorious fragrance to your yard, some of them actually repel pesky insects. Lilacs smell heavenly, as do many rose varieties and peonies. Citronella grass is lemon-scented and chases away mosquitoes, and basil plants repel flies. If your yard has enough sun, growing a few vegetables gives you yet another reason to linger outside. Few foods are as tasty or nutritious as vegetables grown right in your yard and harvested immediately before eating.

To add privacy to your outdoor “room” you can install a privacy fence, or screen off your yard with carefully placed hedges and evergreens. Most of us don’t fully realize the potential of our outdoor spaces, but they can be designed to add greatly to the enjoyment of our homes.


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