Creating Functional Outdoor Spaces

More and more people think of their outdoor spaces, decks, and patios as extensions of their interior living spaces. What were once places to grill some burgers and catch some sun, have evolved into outdoor rooms where you can entertain family and friends, outdoor kitchens, dining areas, and even quiet places to relax in a hot tub or spa.

If you are building a deck or patio from scratch, you and your designer can incorporate activity areas into the design. But if you are working with the basic deck or patio that is already in place, here are some tips for dividing up the space into activity areas.

Creating Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor Spaces

Furniture Groupings

Create activity areas with smart furniture arrangements. The most obvious is a table and chairs to create an instant dining area. Another option is to arrange seating, love seats, chaise lounges and chairs to encourage conversation.

Wicker or other weatherproof tables can serve the same function as a coffee table inside the house.  Matching furniture sets rather than individual pieces that are different from one another make the grouping appear more cohesive. Reinforce the groupings by placing outdoor rugs under the furniture.

When setting up your furniture, be sure to keep walkways open, and don’t plan on furniture groupings that are too close to stairs or in front of doorways.

Dividers

These can be either portable, such as a rolling cart that you use when entertaining, or more permanent, such as built-in seating or built-in planters. Be aware that planters can be heavy, so if you are planning on a planter for an elevated deck, discuss your plans with a qualified contractor to make sure the deck can support the weight. Wood decks with planters will also need a drainage plan to keep standing water off of the deck.

Shade Structures

Retractable awnings, pergolas and even large umbrellas can help define a space. You can enhance an overhead structure with climbing plants or use it as a place to string outdoor lights.

Fire Pits

An outdoor fire pit has the same draw as an interior fireplace—they become a focal point and a gathering spot. Portable fire pits can be placed anywhere on a masonry patio, but fire pits and most decking materials do not mix. Consult the fire pit manufacturer and the decking manufacturer before placing a fire pit on any deck surface.

Under the Deck

If there is enough head room, you may be able to place some patio pavers on the ground and hang lights from the understructure of the deck to convert this unused space into covered sitting area. You can even use the space for a hot tub or spa, but just remember the spa will be in the shade of the deck most of the time.

Spas

On a patio, a spa or hot tub establishes its own activity area. If you are considering one for an elevated deck, check with a contractor first to determine if the deck can support the additional weight.

New Decks and Patios

There are more possibilities for creating individual activity areas when designing a new deck or patio from scratch. You can use everything mentioned above as well as the following:

  • Deck Level Changes. Even a step or two can create separate areas.
  • Changes in Materials or Patterns. On decks, changes in the orientation of the decking boars signal a change of area. On patios, a change in the color of the paver does the same thing.
  • A curving portion of the deck and deck railing helps give the illusion of a separate space, especially if you arrange furniture to create a seating or dining area within the space.
  • Deck and Patio Combinations. Building both at the same time will automatically provide two separate rooms, even in small areas. They each have advantages that the other does not have. For example, there is no need to worry about the weight of a hot tub on a masonry patio. A raised deck off of a kitchen or family room is also more accessible to the house than a ground-level patio.

 

Thinking of your deck or patio as a few different activity areas will help you get the most use out of you outdoor living area.

Fran Donegan is an home improvement writer for The Home Depot. He shares his knowledge on a  variety of topics, from installing a pergola to creating a cozy outdoor space with wicker furniture. Fran is also the author of the outdoor yard book Pools and Spas.

 

Tagged Under: Lifestyle

Mara Calomino


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