Now that the winter has given way to balmy summer temperatures, you are probably spending more time outdoors. If your backyard space is just grass and trees, it's time to transform it into a comfortable outdoor living space for your whole family. You can work in the lovely green and flowering foliage while also creating spaces that work for kids, adults and the whole family. So, where do you start?
Like any other home design project, creating a backyard refuge for your family all begins with a plan."The first thing I recommend is make a list. And be wild," says Jill Appenzeller, a garden designer and author.
She suggests first examining how you want to use your space. "How do you use your outdoor space now? What time of day? What works? What doesn't? In an ideal world, how would you use it? How often do you entertain? How many people? Do you need a fireplace, a windscreen, misters to cool things off? Dining area? Cooking? Cocktail patio? Bocce ball? [very hot right now]," says Appenzeller.
For family-centric areas, you need a homey space where everyone can curl up together. "Put more than a table and chairs. Put actual outdoor living furniture like sofas and comfortable seating to draw a more homelike atmosphere into the backyard. I would also create some interesting lighting so that, as it starts becoming dark, people won't move inside. You can put lighting in the trees and throughout the yard. This will create an inviting space that will encourage people to stay outside rather than move inside once it's nighttime," says Donnie Brown, author of Donnie Brown Weddings and celebrity planner on the Style Network.
Your kids need a space in which to play, too. Choose a few pieces of play equipment and create their own special space. A playhouse such as the Step 2 Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage is a great place to start.
Next, section off the area a bit. "Use a screen made from a few sections of lattice fencing attached to posts. Then plant colorful vines to climb the lattice. A row of sunflowers or other bright child-pleasing flowers add some fun," says Dee Dee Bowman, a former landscape gardener and gardening book author (as Daria Price Bowman).
If you don't want your backyard filled with fun, bright plastic play pieces, go a more natural (and reusable!) route. "Most play equipment is hideous -- and not used for long. I hate including it in a design. Think about installing a sandbox that can be converted into a raised vegetable garden," says Appenzeller.
Is Mom going to need a time out? Sometimes it's nice to have a little space just for adults, as well. If you want to create one, make it a little set-apart space. "Make a tiny room in one corner of the garden for the exhausted parent who just wants a quiet corner to sit and wait for the tranquilizers to kick in. Very important," says Appenzeller.
Want more help with creating separate spaces within your yard? "A nifty landscaping trick for creating outdoor rooms within a garden area is to make a kind of figure-eight bed with an open space or entryway where the lines cross. The centers of the figure are grass, and the outside lines are planted beds with tall plants on the outsides going to lower plantings as the beds approach the open areas -- except where the lines cross. A tall, narrow evergreen at each side of the open space between the circles creates a visual doorway," says Bowman.
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