Choosing a design for an outdoor space can be exciting. With some careful planning, your backyard can transition into an area that is inviting for your family and friends and perfectly responsive to a multitude of needs. From dinner parties with friends and Champagne date nights to morning Yoga by your pool, your backyard will be ready to host them all. Below, we discuss some of our favorite ideas about how to design the multipurpose outdoor space of your dreams.
Create Outdoor Zones
Creating zones can be critical to maximizing the potential of your outdoor space, particularly if you want it to be a multipurpose retreat. Areas that receive a lot of sunlight are ideal places for pools, play zones, arbors, and gardens. Spots that enjoy more shade can be lovely for outdoor dining, as well as reading and meditation. Don’t fret if you have more activities and goals in mind than available zones. With curated furnishings and shade options, each zone can wonderfully support a multitude of purposes.
Design an Outdoor Dining Room
If you want to draw family and friends to your outdoor space, design an inviting al fresco dining area that can be a focal point for your yard, garden, or terrace. For smaller outdoor spaces, consider adding multifunctional furnishings and accessories to your primary entertaining area that are light enough to move whenever you want to transition the space. For example, a vintage-inspired bar cart can act as an elegant serving station and refined storage while still being mobile and easily employed (or hidden), depending on your needs.
A long table is ideal if you plan on Champagne brunches or throwing dinner parties as soon as the weather allows. The table can also function as a workspace, crafting table, or buffet for more casual gatherings. Designers at Real Simple love the idea of pairing the table with comfortable dining chairs and a long, cushioned bench. Why? The Magazine explains that in a curated dining nook, “the table can be moved out of the way when not in use, while the bench will provide extra seating and a natural barrier for the patio.”
Are you hoping to create a bistro-like atmosphere in your garden or around a pool? Romantic date nights, cocktail parties, and even casual barbecues are perfectly served by smaller seating and dining spots that encourage conversation. Bistro tables for two, protected by umbrellas or sail shades, are ideal for creating a beautifully versatile space.
Curate Flexible Seating
You are significantly more likely to use your outdoor space if you design it with comfortable seating in mind. From large sectionals crafted in weatherproof fabric to hammocks that can be easily moved, having a place to lounge is critical. What are your needs? Do you want to add classic rocking chairs or Adirondacks to your lakeside patio? Do you want to have one central conversation spot, or would you like multiple seating groups that can be reconfigured for gatherings? Whatever you choose, the ability to easily increase or decrease the amount of seating available could influence your design choices significantly.
Mixing and matching pieces might be the best idea when you design a multipurpose outdoor space. Rosemary Conroy’s solution to transforming her rooftop deck in Baltimore caught the attention of the editors at Southern Living. The Magazine applauds that “[Conroy] mixed together a green wrought iron table and chairs, light-colored Adirondack pieces, canvas lounge chairs, and blue ceramic-top portable tables that fold up for easy off-season storage,” as well as “a generous chest [that] does double duty as a seating spot and storage space for all the gardening tools.” All done in a complementary color scheme, the rooftop feels coherently styled without being overly fussy – it’s inviting and easily reconfigured to meet whatever entertaining needs arise.
Incorporate Green Details
No matter how many functions you would like your outdoor space to incorporate, be sure to design with an assortment of “green” details. Martha Stewart Living suggests: “[Accentuating] your backyard with green details everywhere they can fit — whether you choose to install garden planters, mix an assortment of perennials into your garden beds, or soften concrete walkways with contrasting patches of grass.” For more compact spaces, think of adding hanging plants, window boxes, or running vines along columns or arbors. This allows you to create a breathtaking green retreat while freeing up floor space for seating or dining furniture.
Create a Meditation, Yoga, or Reflection Spot
Don’t underestimate your need for a place to escape from the demands of your day – a place to relax, meditate, reflect, and exercise. With the right design and accessories, even cozy balcony nooks can meet this need to reconnect with yourself and reflect at the start (or end) of your day.
If you have a sizable yard, consider building a covered pergola or draped cabana so that the design of your outdoor space yields a shaded, quiet retreat. If it is placed near a water feature (or you can add one), all the better. You may also want to surround yourself with popular annuals, climbing vines, or hedges to enhance the atmosphere of the space and your privacy.
If you are using a multipurpose space, ensure that the area you choose can be cleared of furniture when exercising. The rest of the design relies on accessories. You can choose a simple Yoga mat and a Bluetooth speaker for soft music or fully furnish your space with natural materials. The Spruce loves the idea of going “all-out for an afternoon of meditating with a space that’s outfitted with dreamy textiles, candles, and vintage pieces.”
Relax by a Fire
Over the last few years, fireplaces and fire pits have been among the most popular additions for people planning to design an outdoor space. There is something inherently inviting about setting up dining and seating around a fire, and fireplaces and fire pits allow you to enjoy your outdoor space even after the temperatures drop, and winter arrives.
Whether you have an open area that you’d love to convert into an outdoor living room or a large deck or patio, a beautifully-crafted fireplace can serve as a stunning focal point. One of Southern Living’s favorite outdoor room designs features a fireplace that serves as an anchor for a wisteria-draped patio. This multipurpose room works as an inviting al fresco dining room, reading nook, and relaxation retreat. All the elements were durable enough to handle weather while reflecting a sense of rustic grace, including the fireplace, which “was constructed from cinder blocks lined with fireproof brick and covered in stucco.”
Are you hoping to upgrade your pool area? Consider adding a private pergola near one end of the pool, complete with a fire pit. You’ll love emerging from the water to rest by the fire. It’s also a terrific spot for date nights or quiet cocktails with friends.
Smaller yards and urban terraces also can benefit from the addition of a fire pit. Many of the most popular models include surrounds that easily act as tables for Tapas and drinks when you are hosting casual summer gatherings or cocktails. Some fire pits also allow you to lower a grill over the flame for barbecues, creating the perfect multipurpose addition to your outdoor space.
Reconsider Your Flooring
It might seem strange to be faced with flooring decisions when talking about a yard, patio, or terrace, but you’ll be surprised at what a big difference flooring can make when you set off to design an outdoor space. Outdoor living rooms feel pulled together when they are centered around an elegant yet durable rug. This is true whether the rug covers gravel, pavers, concrete, or decking. Woven rugs also can bring a sense of calm and a feeling of comfort to meditation spaces that would otherwise have flagstone or crushed, decomposed granite as flooring.
You also may want to ask yourself if grass is the best option for your outdoor space. The Spruce argues: “Maintenance is always a consideration, and you may decide, upon further reflection, that a grassy area you’ve been treading upon for years isn’t worth the upkeep (mowing).” This is particularly true in areas of the West and Southwest that are experiencing continued drought conditions. Reconsider your options now when starting to design an outdoor space, and you could save yourself from having to make time-consuming changes later.
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