Extend Your Living Space Outdoors Into Your Backyard

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The backyard is more than just a lawn to mow or a place for the pooch to run around. Many homeowners are turning their backyards into an extension of their homes, bringing the indoors outside for additional living space.

Upgrading or building a deck is the first way to incorporate an outdoor living space into the backyard. Some homeowners build an outdoor cooking space with their grill in mind, while others prefer a relaxing, living-room environment with comfortable seating and potted plants.

"Your backyard should be your sanctuary," says Janette Ewan, a Los Angeles-based interior decor stylist. "I'm all about multiple outdoor spaces. It's really about looking at your outdoor space as an extension of your home."

Here are some tips to building your outdoor living space in your backyard:

  • An outdoor cooking area: If your family typically gathers in the kitchen, it would make sense to create another cooking area on your deck space, perfect for connecting with the family and for entertaining. Installing a grill is a good start, but also consider incorporating counters/tables for food prep, a mini fridge, a sink and even a bar into your set-up, allowing you to prepare everything while outdoors.
  • A gathering space: Patios and decks are perfect for sitting around and enjoying visits from friends, especially if the spaces are decorated for the occasion. A few key pieces of furniture and well-positioned accessories are all that is needed. For example, a flat surface, like a patio, would look great with a Moroccan-style rug, combined with a small sectional. However, decks made out of natural material like Western Red Cedar are best left uncovered, to showcase the warm, distinctive look. Whether the cedar wood is left natural and turns silver gray, or stained to complement the coloring of your house, the wood will bring a beautiful look to your outdoor living space. Add a Mexican chiminea or a metal fire bowl to round out the "room."
  • Accent elements: "Adding elements like pergolas or arbors are a great way of creating impact without a huge commitment of time," says home improvement expert Mark Clement, co-host of "My Fix It Up Life."

These structures support climbing plants and vines, and help to separate your outdoor space from the surrounding area. This also creates a sense of enclosure, while still being open and letting in plenty of sunlight and fresh air. Western Red Cedar is a good material choice for an arbor or pergola compared to composite materials, because it is easy to work with, rot-resistant, and has natural oils that emit a wonderful aroma.

Whether you're extending your home onto your deck or creating a new area on the lawn, the bottom line is to trust your eye and think about separating each space with a structure and grouping of elements. You'll get years of enjoyment from your new favorite outdoor living space.