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How to Design the Perfect Outdoor Sitting Area

Demand for comfortable, functional outdoor living space is higher than ever, and it’s no wonder why. Beyond the proven health benefits of spending time outside, who wouldn’t want a tranquil retreat situated steps from your own backdoor? If you’re looking to enhance your yard, deck, patio, or balcony, don’t be afraid to make your outdoor sitting area as unique as you are. 

But whether your taste runs to picnic tables and hammocks or bistro tables and adirondacks, there are a few things everyone should consider before they start planning their private outdoor paradise. 

Here are six important outdoor design ideas to keep in mind as you create your ideal outdoor oasis for spring and summer: 

1.) Embrace Flexibility

When you picture your dream outdoor getaway, what do you see? Unlike many spaces in the home, your al fresco living space can serve whatever function is most important to you. Whether it’s a reading nook, a secluded and intimate hideaway, or an outdoor kitchen perfect for hosting summer barbecues, your imagination is the only limit on the purpose served by your slice of the great outdoors.To start finding inspiration, check out outdoor living and design resources online — including our posts on making the most of your outdoor spaces and creating your dream outdoor retreat.

2.) Location, Location, Location

This might seem obvious. After all, where else should you plan your outdoor living space besides…outdoors? But before you plop a couple of yard chairs on the lawn, take the time to really look at and consider your outdoor space. How can you make the most of the outdoor area you already have, and what might you want to redesign for maximum impact? 

For example, you might consider using existing architecture, like a retaining wall or the exterior walls of your home to help define your space and give your al fresco design some structure. Similarly, everyone — even those working with limited space on a patio or balcony — should pay attention to how the angle of the sun strikes your outdoor retreat at different times of day. This might impact everything from the types of plants you can grow, to the ideal time for heading outdoors. 

3.) Structure and Definition

Whether or not you can use existing architecture to define your outdoor living space, you may want to consider adding some new architectural elements to help segment and set up your space. For instance, adding a roof or trellis can provide shade and gardening real estate, while simultaneously creating an entertaining space that feels separate from the rest of your yard. 

You could also consider using planters or rugs to create multiple sitting areas for different purposes. If you’re looking for a bolder choice, lightweight weatherproof curtains can provide a touch of softness, not to mention privacy. Thoughtfully defining your space now means it will be easier to enjoy the serenity later.

4.) Getting the Atmosphere Right

Once you have a good idea of how you’ll use your open air oasis, it’s time to start putting the pieces together. Let your style shine and choose furniture that reflects your personality and your intended use for the space — whether that means lounge chairs, a dining table to share a meal, or just a sturdy chair to rest in while you enjoy a sunset. 

The best furniture and fabrics for your outdoor sitting area will be sturdy and waterproof. On a budget? Choose a centerpiece item to splurge on, and flex your thrifting and DIY muscles to fill in the rest. No matter how much you plan to spend, protect your investment by treating your furniture to wood protectant, weatherproof paints and stains.

And if you plan to stay outside well after the sun finally sets, consider installing atmospheric lighting to keep the relaxing vibes going. String lights are an inexpensive option that can add a touch of glamor and whimsy to your space in no time.

5.) Extend the Seasons

You might not be able to stop time to enjoy your outdoor living space, but you can maximize its usability throughout seasonal weather changes with some smart temperature control methods. If your space gets a lot of sun, consider decorating with light colors to help stave off the hottest of the summer rays. Umbrellas, awnings, or permanent structures like a roof can also provide shade to cool down during the hot summer months, while a fire pit or heat lamps can keep you cozy and warm outside well after the official beginning of winter. 

6.) Back to Nature

Your new outdoor lounge has one more advantage over other design projects — it can double as a garden! Even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to harmonize your design with nature. 

Don’t feel obligated to become a botanist overnight. Instead, work with a simple plant palette to start, focusing on perennials which will come back every year and plants suited to how much direct sunlight your space gets each day. And if all else fails, go with what smells the best. That way, your perfect outdoor sitting area can engage all of your senses as you kick back, relax, and find your peace in the great outdoors. A little crunched for space? Consider hanging baskets or wall-mounted planters that can help you think and design vertically.

Making the Most of Your Living Space

Whether you dream of relaxing poolside or picnicking on the lawn, our homes — and our outdoor spaces — have never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855

Looking for new ideas to make the most of your yard, deck, or patio in 2021? Ready to start the search for a new place to call home? Whatever your real estate goals may be, we get you — and we’re here to help make things easier, at every step of the way.