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10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Outside Space

November 16, 2021

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If you live in a sunny place like Southern California you’re likely constantly looking for ways to spend more time outside. Those who have some outside space to work with where they live are even luckier.

Do you know how to make the most of that space, or are you still working with a blank canvas in your backyard? Do you have visions of deck seating ideas and a living room outside but aren’t sure how to make it happen?

Check out these ideas for beautiful outdoor rooms that will have you hitting the home improvement store ASAP to create beautiful outdoor areas no matter the size of your existing space.

Look Local With Your Plants

You don’t even need a green thumb to create an outside space that pays homage to the local plant varieties and native plants. If you’re in Southern California, that means cacti and desert plants that add quite a bit of intrigue to a landscape.

Looking to local plant vendors will also help you understand which plants will work where you are. Locals are a wealth of information for DIY landscapers, and will match you up with exactly what you’re looking for, whether that’s a natural privacy fence, potted varieties to dress up some hardscape, or a fruiting tree.

Think about what will grow successfully in your climate, too. If you’ve always wanted a fruit tree or to grow your own herbs, go for it. Just make sure you’re picking varieties that will work across the seasons. Many fruiting plants will only grow seasonally, too.

Outside space with local plant varietiesPhoto Credit: Jan Canty / Unsplash


Get Practical With Weatherproofing

There is a lot of fun outdoor furniture out there, but just because it’s advertised as such doesn’t mean it’ll last in your outside space.

Choose pieces that will stand the test of time (and weather), even if you’re in one of the sunniest places in the country. Sun can do quite a bit of damage to both natural and man-made surfaces, by the way. You’ll want furniture made out of real teak wood, recycled plastic or resin, all-weather wicker, or durable metal or steel.

Protect your furniture further with a coat of a protective finish, like a rust protector if you’re looking at metal pieces or sealants if you’re working with wood. If you’re expecting some inclement weather, don’t forget to bring any cushions inside, too. They’ll last a lot longer—and smell better—if they’re not exposed to rain.


Create a Gathering Space

Many people are looking for some social interaction these days. Create a place for friends and family to gather outdoors with deck seating ideas and outdoor rooms that feature plenty of comfortable seating and ways for visitors to mingle.

Picnic benches, strategically-placed folding chairs, or outdoor couches to create the effect of a living room outside are all easy ways to create places for people to gather.

Think about focal points that will create natural places for people to sit and hang out. That can be a fire pit with adirondack chairs for seating, a backyard outdoor bar surrounded by bar stools, or an outdoor dining space with enough chairs to host al fresco meals.

If you’re working with a smaller space, don’t overwhelm your outdoor area with a giant outdoor couch, by the way. Your parties may be smaller, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Create a central gathering space with a smaller outside table and chairs, or a bench that doubles as a place for those unique plants you got to rest when you’re not having your yard parties.

Outdoor gazebo with curtains and string lightsPhoto Credit: Randy Fath - Unsplash


Take the Cooking Outside

Leaving room for a grill is a classic way to create a room outside that’s made for outdoor gatherings. With more room and budget, you can get even more creative than a grill.

Bring your kitchen area outside, doing most of your cooking in your outdoor area, instead. If you have enough room, bring in a dining table and chairs so you can have some company while you work and make the transition from kitchen to table seamless.


Let Your Personality Shine

You did the work in creating interior spaces that fit your personality. Weave in aspects of your personality in your outdoor spaces, too.

If you’re working with one color palette inside your home, you can bring that outside. Find outside rugs or chair pads in similar hues for a cohesive look.

Renters who want to be more playful than their toned-down interior can do so in an outside space. Create a vibrant, colorful space that feels more like you and make up for the fact that you weren’t able to paint your inside walls.

Think about creative ways to make that outdoor area feel more like you. If you’re a movie buff, you can even go big with an outdoor projection screen. Just make sure you have the go-ahead on movie nights from the neighbors. It may be worth it to look into wireless headphones for those kinds of gatherings if your neighbors are nearby.


Amp Up the Lighting

Lighting can really make a difference in an outdoor space, adding a touch of romance and ambiance while being a practical way for people to gather after the sun goes down.

Twinkle lights, solar-powered bulbs if your outdoor space gets enough natural light, and battery-powered lamps and lanterns are all easy ways to create a more welcoming space no matter the time of day or night.

Lighting can double as a heat source, too. Even in Southern California, those nights can get chilly, and outdoor spaces with heat lamps and torches make things a lot cozier. That fire pit we already mentioned could work for this purpose, too.


Give Some Shade

Many people love hanging out in the sun, but even the biggest sun worshippers want a respite from the sun once in a while. Create ways to get away from the sun’s rays and gathering spots for people who don’t want to roast in the midday heat.

Retractable sun shades, pergolas, and covered gazebos are all ways to create areas that will allow you and your guests to get out of the sun. Those ideas can also add a bit of separation to your space if you want to designate certain areas for different purposes.

Brown wooden pergola in backyard
Photo Credit: zekkotek / Unsplash


Make Your Space Fun

The kids will love this one, but you don’t even need little ones around to create a fun space that isn’t just about hanging out, but having fun while you’re doing so.

Add outside games to your next cookout.

Depending on space, you could pick up a set of bags, horseshoes, or a giant tumbling tower. Pick up some tools for roasting marshmallows around the fire pit. Throw golf fans a bone with a miniature putting green. Set up a card table for a round of poker with the adults, or board games if your guests aren’t into gambling.

Bringing in some music is a great way to funnel in some fun vibes, too, as long as you’re not blasting it for the whole neighborhood to hear. Imagine a soft soundtrack at your next al fresco dinner and you’ll hear what we mean.

Wooden fence near a fire pit in backyard


Prioritize Your Needs

You may not be able to do everything you want to do with an outdoor space. You could be limited by space and your budget. If you’re a renter, you may be limited to changes in the furniture.

Taking all that into account, prioritize what it is that you want from your space. If it’s a place to add some seating because you don’t have much room inside, focus on adding a second dining area or benches where you and any guests can take a load off.

If you have pets, make sure they factor into your plans, too. You may want to use at least some of your outside space as a place for them to hang out, exercise, even relieve themselves. You may not want to go full hardscape in that case unless you want to be on constant cleanup duty.

If you have kids, you may want to prioritize an outdoor play area for them first before ordering the hot tub. You’ll pat yourself on the back when they have a place to take care of some of that energy that isn’t in your living room or home office.

Young boy playing in a backyard


Work With the Space You Have

You don’t need a giant yard or front deck to create an outside space that speaks to you. Work with the space you have, and don’t try forcing your outside area to be something it isn’t.

If you have a smaller outside space, focus on one strategy, whether that’s an area for eating or play or a haven for your gardening. If you only have a strip of artificial grass to work with, think about ways to add some decor and a chair or two for your own personal reading nook. Get creative.

Four colorful chairs in a backyard

The point is to spend some more time outside, and create ways to make it easier to do so. Think about what you want out of the outdoor space you have, and go for it.

Written by Agnes Groonwald for Knockaround.

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