Feel like spending more time outside but don’t have the time or energy? Imagine if you didn’t have to leave your home to spend time in nature.
It’s hard for many of us to spend more time outside, even if we really want to. One reason is that it usually requires you to go somewhere. Well, what if you didn’t have to go anywhere to enjoy the great outdoors?
More and more people are showing interest in outdoor living space according to a survey by the American Institute of Architects.
This increased interest is probably because we spend too much time indoors. Most people spend about 93% of their lives indoors.
Not only that, people think they spend more time outside than they actually do.
According to a study from UCLA on southern California family behavior, adults spend less than 15 minutes per week in their yards! This is despite the presence of furniture, pools, and trampolines which, instead of being used, only contributed to their image of themselves as enjoying their backyard more often.
So what’s the big deal if you don’t use your yard?
Besides costing you money to own a yard, you’re likely not spending enough time outside.
The health benefits of spending time outside are ridiculous -- reduced stress, mood swings, risk of type II diabetes, risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease…the list goes on and on.
So if you can’t get out to a park or go for a hike everyday (most people can’t), turning your backyard into a natural place that you will actually use is the next best thing.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you will want to use your backyard rather than just thinking you will (like the people in that study).
1) Proximity to the home
We all like to imagine that we will spend hours reading or relaxing at that secluded corner of our yard with the cute bench or comfy hammock, but the reality is that those areas rarely get used.
The goal here is to design a functional outdoor living space that you will actually use often and the most used places tend to be closest to the house.
That’s why when considering the design for your outdoor living space, proximity to the house is key and the best place is right outside the kitchen. You are way more likely to eat a meal outside if it’s just as easy to take your food outside as it is to take it to the living room.
Plastic lawn chairs simply won’t do.
You might have a gorgeous backyard but if you can’t sit comfortably out there for more than 30 minutes, you’re unlikely to use it very often.
Outdoor furniture may be a bit more expensive than indoor furniture because it has to endure more. It has to stand up to the elements and still look good.
That’s why comfortable outdoor furniture may be one of the most important investments when designing your outdoor living space.
Now this looks like a comfy place to relax:
You’re going to need to think about the size, shape, and material for the floor of the outdoor living space.
Let’s start with size -- how big is your living room? That might give you an idea of how big you want to make your outdoor living space. An outdoor living space will tend to get neglected if people feel cramped.
Shape -- Square is boring. Get creative.
Roger Seely, owner of Seely’s Landscape Nursery, says:
“What I’ve been doing lately is putting a 12- or 13-foot-diameter circle and then, off that, a 7-foot-diameter circle that bleeds into it -- one for dining and one for casual seating.”
Also, if possible, consider multiple levels -- one for dining and one for casual seating. This adds interest and dimension.
Material -- You don’t want your beautiful patio furniture just sitting out there on the dirt. You’re going to need some hard flooring.
Patio pavers are probably the most popular but you can’t go wrong with concrete, wood, or brick:
4) Focal point
It’s important to have a centerpiece or focal point to subconsciously draw people in and give them (and yourself) something to look at. The most common (and obvious) choice is a firepit.
Maybe it goes back to our hunter/gatherer roots but people love sitting around a fire. I always find myself staring at the flames for minutes at a time, almost hypnotized. Also, the warmth and light it provides are very inviting to you and your guests.
The best part about a firepit is that people tend to congegate around it even when there isn’t a fire. It simply provides a comfortable focal point for people to encircle.
The firepit doesn’t have to stand alone, there are also really cool tabletop firepits that may be more functional for your patio:
If firepits aren’t your thing, you could use a water feature or even a television.
There are plenty of companies that make TVs specifically designed for the outdoors that are more durable to stand up to the elements and reduce glare.
I can already hear some of you asking “doesn’t a television ruin the outdoor experience? The whole point is to spend more time in nature”
To this I reply “whatever gets you outside.” It’s better to watch TV outside with the fresh air and sunlight than enclosed in four walls. Remember, the whole purpose here is to design an outdoor living space you will use.
Plants are key to creating the right ambiance. They take your patio from some pavement and chairs to the comfortable oasis you wanted in the first place. So put some thought into what kind of foliage you want and where you want it placed.
Plants can provide functionality by giving you some privacy from your neighbors when placed strategically.
They may also provide shade so you will want to think about what times of the day you are likely to use the patio and where the sun will be at that time. Depending on where you live, you might want to use plants to provide some natural shade for the most used areas of your patio.
Consider using fragrant plants like lilacs, viburnums and summersweet and place them where a breeze will care their scents into the patio, probably along the southern or western side.
Landscapers recommend choosing a diverse assortment of plants to make your patio more interesting and the diversity helps protect them from disease.
Most importantly though, plants will give life to your patio.
Just to get the ideas flowing, here is a great video with 100 incredible outdoor living spaces:
Your outdoor living space can truly be a natural oasis waiting for you to enjoy it each and every day, whenever you feel like it. With a little forethought and planning, any patio can become an amazing place you will want to spend your time and the five points to consider here provide the basis for that planning. Remember to make your space super comfortable and this is a place designed for you on the days when you really need to unwind.
These are mostly common-sense tips but are easily (and often) overlooked by homeowners. It’s important that you make your outdoor living space somewhere you feel very comfortable. With the right outdoor living space, you will be spending more time outside in the fresh air and sunlight which is good for your mental health!
Looking for more ways to sneak in a little more outdoor time throughout the day? Read 7 ways busy people can spend more time outside and be happier doing it