Yard and Garden

Ways to Maximize Your Outdoor Space

Inside is where a lot of people tend to be, but even if your yard is a postage stamp size, there are things that can be done to make it into a pleasant place to spend some time. It is good for people to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, but sometimes people prefer to stay inside, either due to a small yard, or a lack of landscaping, or just because it is something that is not comfortable. All of these things can be changed to make the yard an enjoyable place to be.

Alfresco Areas

It is generally understood that living spaces will be divided into rooms, with the possible exception of studio apartments (although even those usually have a room or two separated from the main area, such as a bathroom). However, the idea of separating the yard into different specific areas is sometimes greeted with surprise or confusion. 

Depending on the size of your space, you may be limited to one nicely appointed ‘room’ outdoors, but if there is enough space to divide it up a little, it can be fun to create, for example, a cooking area and a lounging area. The good thing about separate areas in the yard is the same as separate rooms in a house – components and designs can be used in each that are unique to the area without a chaotic clash between the areas. 

A cooking area can be a nice patio – or a nice bit of lawn – on which a fire pit or a grill is placed. Seating around the outside of the area will allow family or guests to enjoy the fire and roast marshmallows, or to watch the grill master while they visit. Something to cover the area can offer shade as well as keeping rain at bay, allowing for more days outside than an uncovered area. 

Areas can be separated by “walls” such as hedges, screens or fences. Adding screen walls can keep pesky insects out while still allowing fresh air in. While grass or a patio floor may be the most common underfoot, mulch or a low ground cover like clover can be convenient because it does not need to be mowed. Coverings above can be achieved through awnings or umbrellas, arbors or shade trees, canvas canopies, or pergolas. 

When choosing the style for your outdoor rooms, consider the purpose intended for the area. If it is intended to be a cooking and socializing area, a cover and a solid floor may be desirable, but if the area is meant to be a game or play area, leaving it open and grassy is probably the best choice.

When choosing furniture, keep in mind the size of the space in which the furniture will live. Choosing furniture that is too large will make the space more cramped, while furniture that is too small will be uncomfortable for sitting and enjoying each other’s company. Choosing furniture that more closely matches the shape of the space will also help cut down on wasted space. A round lawn area will be best combined with a round table, for instance. 

Visualize Vertical

When the outdoor area is small, thinking vertical can help fit in more of what you want in the area without appreciably affecting the footprint. Lighting can be hung from walls or supports, or overhead if a pergola or overhang is a part of the space. Plants can also be hung from similar hooks or planted in window boxes attached to the wall, if the area is against the house or a fence. 

If you have a raised platform for a deck as a part of your yard space, the area underneath can be enclosed for storage, as well. If it is a high deck, it can be the ceiling for an outdoor lounge area.

Assorted Applicability

Multiuse items are the best way to maximize small spaces. Benches – which can double as separators if your yard has more than one area delineated – can be made or purchased with storage areas inside. These can hold cushions and blankets to convert the benches into comfortable lounge areas or stored away when the benches are used for dining. Planters or light fixtures can be doctored to contain speakers for ambient music. Planters meant to hold decorative plants can be used to grow herbs, adding usefulness as well as beauty to the space. 

Add Accessories

Outdoor carpets can pull a space together and soften the overall look, while protecting surfaces or blocking out dirt and grass. Top it with folding tables and chairs for usable but removable seating and you have a nifty eating area that can easily turn into an open space for other uses. 

Small pots on a narrow shelf or on hooks on a latticework divider can hold herbs or bright flowers to add a punch of color, scent, or both to the area. 

Bright pillows or cushions lend comfort while also popping fun and color onto a bench or lounge.

Mix and match. Using accent colors, different textures, styles, and materials can add interest to what might be an otherwise dull bit of the yard. Be bold and fun!

Retractable awnings or foldable umbrellas can add covering when desired while opening things up when the sun is welcome. Choosing one that is brightly colored or has a pretty pattern will add some extra color whether it is open or closed.

If you want the look of grass without the hassle, fake grass or grass carpet can be an option. While it looks much like grass, it requires little or no maintenance and is generally easier to keep looking nice. 

If there is space between the house and the yard area, consider adding a walkway. A nice path made of wood, concrete, or flat rocks will add interest and also make it possible for people to get there without carrying dirt in on their shoes. Lining the walkway with stake lights will keep people on the path even in the twilight or night hours when it is more difficult to see. 

However you decide to decorate your yard, remember that there are health benefits to be had from spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Making it pleasant to take advantage of these benefits will be good for you and your family.

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