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How to Create a Relaxing Outdoor Space

Posted on May 23 2019

After a long Winter, we all feel that itch to get outside, whether it’s to prep a fresh meal, sip our afternoon coffee in the sun, or entertain the kiddos with outdoor activities and free play. The good weather likes to sneak up on us, though, and with so many home projects indoors, it can be easy to neglect our outdoor space. We thought we’d take a deep dive into what it really takes to maintain the kind of outdoor area you’ll be eager to enjoy with family and friends, and lay out some tips for creating a space that will encourage you to relax under the open sky any day of the week.

Decks vs. Patios

If you’re starting from scratch building an outdoor space, the first order of business is to determine where to place it and exactly what kind you’d like to design -- a deck or a patio.

Patios are, by definition, an open space that can be situated directly on the ground. They are often built with the intention of keeping the surrounding landscape in mind. Due to being on the ground level, they do not require safety railings. They are typically built on a concrete slab foundation and can use a variety of materials to fit your desired aesthetic, including stone, brick, pebbles, and tile.

Decks are typically constructed from wood or vinyl, and they can be multi-level. Multi-level decks often require railing. Their dynamic design provide a great way to take advantage of any good views that come with your property. Though patios do require some maintenance, they typically require far less than a deck. Yearly maintenance, such as scrubbing, sanding, repainting or refinishing is required to keep your deck looking its best.

There are many beautiful options in deck design -- detached or island decks, attached decks, wrap-around decks, and more. And don’t feel like you need to confine your deck to the first floor of your home. If you have the possibility for a second-level, garage, or rooftop deck -- and your property offers some worthwhile views -- the results can be stunning.

Before you jump right in to building your dream outdoor space, be sure to check with your local zoning laws. This may determine whether you go with a deck or patio, as well as where you place it on your property.

Furniture + Color Schemes

Of course, it’s the homey touches that really make all the difference in how your outdoor space feels, and you’ll want to curate just the right pieces that make it feel like an oasis that speaks to you and your style.

When selecting your main pieces, think about what you intend to use the furniture for. Are you hoping for a full dining set for summer meals under the stars? Relaxing sofas for wine night with your mom tribe? Adjustable sun chairs that will help you get your summer glow on? Or maybe a set of solid adirondack chairs for nights on the front porch, taking in the evening activity in your neighborhood?

When selecting furniture, don’t forget to test how comfortable it is. We know -- sounds so obvious, but nothing will kill your summer relaxation vibe quite like a painfully hard chair!

Now that you’ve selected your furniture out of practicality, have fun with the colors and patterns that you introduce into your outdoor space. A great opportunity to do this is with pillows, especially if you go with neutral cushions. Bright pillows will pop against earthy or natural tone cushions, and they allow you the versatility to inexpensively freshen up or change your color scheme over the years.

Another color scheme strategy is to focus on only two colors for all of your decor. This allows you to make bold color choices inspired by the summer weather while still unifying the decor of the entire space.

Safety that Doesn’t Detract + Helps You Relax

As a mom to either human babies, dog babies, or both, you probably know all too well how elusive relaxation can feel when you constantly have to chase your toddler away from the deck stairs or run after a pup that just made a break for the great beyond of the backyard.

For a deck with railings, The Stair Barrier is the perfect companion to help you enjoy time outside without worrying about little ones toddling toward the deck stairs or dogs getting loose.

The fabric construction of our indoor/outdoor gate won’t detract from the decor you just painstakingly curated, and it’s waterproof and mildew resistant so it won’t deteriorate under the elements. Plus, when it’s adults only night, you can easily roll it to the side to keep it out of your guests’ way.

We love how this customer utilizes her Stair Barrier on the front porch to keep her pup safely by her side.

“Thanks to The Stair Barrier we are finally able to enjoy sitting on our front porch without worrying about our sweet pup running off!” Jennifer writes.

outdoor stair gate

On the flip side, Beth uses it to keep her dog off the deck while they’re trying to enjoy a family meal on the back deck.

“While our main reason for buying a Stair Barrier was to keep our little Tarzan from wandering in the yard while we enjoyed our back deck, we’ve also discovered that it works perfectly as a pet gate as well. When the Stair Barrier is installed we are able to enjoy dinner outside while our sweet pup (who is a horrible food thief) runs off some energy in the yard.”

outdoor gate for decks

Beth’s son earned the nickname Tarzan when he started walking at just 9 months old and quickly became nearly unstoppable.

“He was mobile and into everything,” Beth writes. “As the weather started to get nicer we wanted to utilize the back deck for dinners outside and morning coffee, but Tarzan’s need to explore the backyard (and eat dirt) was putting a damper on that. Enter The Stair Barrier.”

In addition to enjoying the peace of mind on her own back deck, Beth loves to roll it up and take it with them when they are visiting grandparents, giving her the chance to relax even when she and Tarzan aren’t hanging out in their own home.

Last Touches: Plant Life + Zen Decor

So, now you’ve got the basics down in your outdoor space -- furniture that fits your needs and feels as comfortable as it looks, a color scheme that simmers with the essence of summer, and an attractive stair gate that allows you to relax with babies and pets in tow. Now, it’s time to pepper in some plant life and consider some additional features to round out your decor and make it the ultimate outdoor escape.

Plants can be used to add privacy, especially if you’ve added a lattice to your deck design. Climbing plants like roses, clematis, and wisteria will make their way up the lattice over the years, resulting in a stunning, natural wall of blooms that offers both privacy and a burst of color and fragrance. Large potted plants and container gardens allow you to mix colors and textures with different plants and flowers, adding life and movement to your outdoor space.

Consider a few special additions, like a water feature or hanging lights, to really amp up the atmosphere. The meditative sound of a water feature will remind you to take a deep breath, even in the midst of your busiest days, while hanging lights create the perfect, romantic ambience for entertaining beneath the summer stars.

Maintain + Protect During the Off-Season

Be prepared to do the work necessary to maintain your outdoor space throughout the year so it’s ready for you when the warm weather returns. This is especially true for wooden decks, which can become a hotspot for mildew and mold if they aren’t maintained properly.

In general, the milder temperatures that come with Fall make it an ideal time to clean and apply a preventative seal to your deck to protect it during the coming months. Be sure to bring in any fabric decor pieces, like pillows and rugs, as Winter rolls around, and consider storing outdoor furniture in the garage or basement. If you don’t have the storage space, covering your outdoor furniture is the next best option.

When Spring rolls around, it’s time to clean and seal again. You’ll want to remove any debris that has accumulated between the wooden planks, sweep the deck, and clean it with the proper solution. Finally, seal it again to protect it from summer’s intense sun and rainstorms.

During the summer, it’s best to use this time to check your deck for signs of rot. Pay special attention to joints, posts, and the ledger (the framing piece that attaches the deck to the house), as well as any portions that happen to be in close proximity to water sources or damp areas of your yard. If you have a patio, mid-summer is a good time to inspect for loose or missing grout between tiles and stonework.

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