Spring has sprung and it’s almost that glorious time of year when we can move our parties, lunch appointments, and coffee dates outdoors! Though the weather is still a bit chilly, now is the time to start planning your ideal outdoor living space. Due to the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in home improvement over the last year. This is excellent news for the real estate industry, but it’s been difficult on individual homeowners because it has increased the wait time and prices for materials. If you want to create the perfect outdoor living space this year, you need to start planning now so you have time to gage pricing, get materials ordered, and calculate for that lengthy wait time.
The first step is to consider how you want to use your outdoor space. Are you a griller? Do you often host dinner parties or BBQ’s? How many guests do you usually entertain? Are you looking for a relaxing space? Do you want an auditory element, such as speakers, a water feature, or wind chimes? Does your space need to be kid or pet friendly? These are all important aspects to consider, as they will guide you moving forward and make the decision making process less stressful. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start to plan!
The next step is to begin envisioning the layout. This should be no different than if you were designing the floor plan of a new house. Each area on your plan should have a logical, functional connection to the inside of the house. For instance, you should locate the outdoor dining area near the kitchen, making an easy transition for guests and yourself to transport food. If you are adding on a fire pit or outdoor seating area, make sure there is space or an easy flow between the door and the seating. Don’t place a chair or other piece of furniture blocking the entrance to the house.
Take note of the views your property offers. Do you like to watch the sun rise? Then arrange your sitting area so you can enjoy a cup of coffee while you view it. Are you near a lake or body of water? Position your seating so guests have a view of the water. Likewise, are there any eye sores you do not want guests to see? You can use hedges or screens to block out anything unsightly. Make sure you play to the strengths of your property.
The direction your outdoor space faces can define the functionality of your space. For instance, if you live on a mountain or high elevation, the north and east facing spaces may be unusable in winter and too chilly to be comfortable in summer. For those of us who live in the flat expanse of the midwest, one consideration is whether you live on the water. Will there be any negative effects from this location such as flooding? Another consideration could be, what types of plants or trees are currently in your space? If they produce high amounts of pollen, your outdoor space could be uncomfortable for you or your guests at certain times of the year. You need to consider what elements your outdoor space will be exposed to and what could positively or negatively affect the people or things you put in your design.
This is not something everyone considers. You should make note of prevailing wind direction and time of day. Some areas may be calm in the early hours but have a regular evening breeze. You do not want to build a fire pit area and have the seating be down wind, or design an amazing outdoor dining area which turns into a wind tunnel. To do this, hang some wind chimes and be sure to listen for this regularly. You will be able to see which direction the wind blows, and note the time of day.
Once you’ve considered the purpose, layout, and geographical location of your space, you can move on to planning and pricing what items and materials you will need to purchase to start building. Be sure to check out my next blog! We will be discussing hardscape, furniture, and plant selection, as well as mentioning some of the best places to purchase these items in East Central Indiana.