A Guide to Creating Outdoor Rooms and Living Spaces
Outdoor rooms and living spaces for entertaining, dining, or play are in high demand for both homeowners and renters. Increasingly, Americans are placing more importance on access to an inviting outside space, making an outdoor room addition a strong investment. But what’s most important for homeowners considering bringing the indoors out? Find out in this guide to creating a great outdoor room or living space for your home.
Why an Outdoor Room or Living Space
Americans have long loved outdoor living spaces, from backyard gardens to play areas, sundecks and dining patios. But the concept of outdoor rooms is changing, and the importance of outdoor living space is growing.
“The trend used to be toward bringing the outdoors in, but many people today are doing the opposite – bringing traditionally ‘indoor’ comforts out to the deck, porch or patio,” says Paul Lafrance, professional designer and star of HGTV’s Decked Out. Lafrance acknowledges part of the growth in outdoor living has to do with advances in all-weather materials. “You can outfit an outdoor living space in much the same way that you would any room in the home,” he says.
Polls suggest a large majority of Americans value their backyard time. TruGreen’s Live Life Outside Survey found 87 percent believe spending time outdoors is important for health and wellbeing. What’s more, the average American homeowner spends 309 hours in their backyard each year.
Beyond health and wellness benefits, creating an outdoor room or living space can add significant value to a home. The return on investment for a mid-priced, all-wood deck can be as much as 75 percent of the initial costs in added value, according to the latest data from Remodeling Magazine. Even a more costly upscale plan could still offer a return of nearly 60 percent.
What Buyers and Renters Want
There are a number of reasons buyers and renters want outdoor space, but it often comes down to spending time with friends and family. TruGreen reports that three out of five say their yard is their favorite place to hang out, while four out of five say they host outdoor barbecues and cookouts for socializing.
Consequently, what Americans today want in an outdoor space is geared towards these needs. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2016 Residential Architecture Trends Survey has ranked fire pits and fireplaces the most popular design element this season, cited by 75 percent of ASLA members surveyed. About two-thirds of members also expected high demand for seating and dining areas, outdoor furniture, and lighting. Around half expect demand for new pergolas and decking.
At the high end of outdoor improvements and new construction, Market Watch reports rooftop decks are becoming a “must-have” amenity. These luxury outdoor rooms often include covered pergola areas, seating, and cooking areas. Such projects can cost $25,000 to $50,000, but often add $30,000 to $50,000 to the value of a home.
For renters, too, outdoor space is increasingly becoming a must have. Property Management Insider says outdoor amenities can foster a stronger sense of community and result in a better rental experience for tenants. Renters are interested in the same things as homeowners: seating, cooking areas, good lighting, and activity spaces.
How to Create Your Own Outdoor Living Space or Outdoor Room
For those that are ready to dive into creating a new outdoor space or improve an existing one, planning ahead is crucial. Design firm Install-It-Direct argues a solid plan for space usage comes first. Identifying your particular yard’s challenges, considering logistics for gas, plumbing, or electrical hookups, and determining whether you’ll need to hire a professional come next.
Finally, it’s the finishing touches that make a backyard feel like a finished outdoor room. Important finishing touches according to the experts at HGTV include:
Bringing the Indoors Out: As Lafrance noted, new materials advances make it easy to bring indoor living comforts outside. Audio, refrigerators, Wi-Fi, and more are possible.
Choosing Privacy or a View: You may decide you want screens or hedges to make your space a private oasis, but if your yard offers a view, be sure to make the most of it.
Addressing Shade Needs: For most outdoor spaces, intense sunlight or pouring rain could send your family back indoors. Consider incorporating a covered area into your master plan.
Using Weather-Friendly Furnishings: Textiles and furniture built for the outdoors are a must. They resist fading in the summer sun and withstand rain and even snow in the winter.
Using Lighting Accents: Lighting can make a good design great. Options span from the basics, like torches and solar-charged lights, to complex electrical installs.
Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your Outdoor Room
Like any big project, an outdoor room has the potential to cause problems if you aren’t careful. Design firm Oklahoma Landscape notes some common mistakes to avoid:
Foregoing a Master Plan: A solid plan, including space use, style, and plantings, could save you from serious problems and frustration down the line.
Getting the Scale Wrong: A patio that’s too small for the furniture you buy for it is just as bad as a patio that swallows up your whole yard. Consider scale early in your design process.
Neglecting Water Movement: Neglecting drainage, irrigation, and erosion needs can lead to serious issues. Plan ahead to avoid problems.
Going With the Wrong Plants: Decide ahead of time on appropriate plants for your space. Focus on low-maintenance native plants that will work all year long.
Disconnecting the Design: Make sure your outdoor room design is holistic, complementing the style and design of your home and tying in with your front yard’s curb appeal.
An outdoor room or living space can add to the joy you get from owning your home while also boosting its value when it’s time to sell. If you’re designing a new backyard space, make sure you plan your remodel to avoid problems and get the most from your own particular space. When your project is complete, you’ll have a whole new room you can enjoy all summer long.