Something’s happening around homes across America. It’s not just something you hear or read about. It’s something you see. And it’s happening right in the backyard. For years, people focused on wonderful indoor living. But now, more and more are discovering just how many creative projects they can build in their backyards. What they’re doing is bringing the indoors… outdoors.
Whether you’re cooking, entertaining guests or just enjoying the moment, life is more relaxed outdoors. Custom outdoor living spaces are more than a trend. They’re an entire movement. Backyard landscaping ideas have moved on from simple lawns and gardens. Now, professional landscapers can barely keep up with the demand for custom projects that capitalize on extending interior living designs. They’re recreating or complementing indoor designs in the outdoors.
The idea is to merge your indoor and outdoor living spaces seamlessly. Custom backyard landscaping can be so much more than plain patios and decks with a straight path to the rear gate. Today, backyard landscaping ideas are highly creative. The most sought-after extensions for outdoor custom living spaces are backyard or patio kitchens.
But don’t overlook many other outdoor additions that allow you to host more guests and enjoy the luxury of living outside. You can virtually double your living area by being creative with larger decks to hold your outdoor kitchen, or building stone surfaces to place custom furniture designed to withstand the elements. Water features are incredibly soothing. So are custom outdoor fireplaces and fire pits.
Don’t overlook what a custom-designed and -built pergola can add to your enjoyment and property value. The same goes with a freestanding wood gazebo, or even a custom-built storage shed that matches your home’s architectural style. And then there’s lighting. Nothing has a better psychological effect inside your home than proper lighting. You can do the same thing outdoors.
Endless Ideas for Custom Outdoor Living Spaces
Ideas for outdoor custom living spaces are limited only by your imagination. You begin with a plan and, of course, a budget. You also start with a team to help bring your creative ideas into a charming reality. Think of the possibilities lying outside your back door. Imagine a complete flow extending your indoor lifestyle out under the sun and the stars.
Think of the sounds: people chatting, children laughing, birds singing, dogs barking and your wind chimes clanging. Think of the smells: a roast sizzling on your backyard kitchen rotisserie’s spit, or a whiff of clouds escaping from your enclosed smoker. And think of the looks you’ll get from guests when they first see the amazing job you’ve done joining your indoor and outdoor spaces.
Whether your theme is cooperative or contrasting, the result of blending your lifestyle into a mixture of ease, luxury and relaxation is the most important thing. You can get it all when you dream and plan. That includes accenting your existing softscapes and hardscapes by adding beautiful landscape solutions that give you the best of both worlds — indoors and outdoors.
To bring your dreams into the real world where you can entertain, or just sit and contemplate, let’s take a deeper look at some of the best custom outdoor living space ideas. The sky’s the limit when dreaming. With the right help, your dream world will be real. You’ll be relaxing on a lounger or hammock surrounded by a custom outdoor living space.
Outdoor or Backyard Kitchens
Without a doubt, the most popular custom outdoor additions are backyard kitchens. They’re also called patio kitchens or just simply outdoor cooking areas. Kitchens have always been the heart of homes. Now they’re being built outside in every neighborhood and price scale. Why? Because they simply make sense.
So many people started their outdoor cooking with a charcoal grill or a gas barbecue. Then, they added a side table for food prep, and maybe a picnic table for serving and eating. Soon, they moved up to adding an outdoor appliance or two. The next logical step was bringing in utilities like running water, electricity and natural gas to give a continuous fuel supply. They remembered the time when their propane tank went dry with the steaks half cooked.
Before long, and without knowing it, they had a complete backyard kitchen set up. If that sounds like you, you’ll be pleased to know many other outdoor kitchens evolved the same way. Now, people are moving up to having entire outdoor entertainment areas designed and built professionally. These fabulous outdoor kitchens equal or exceed many custom-designed interior kitchens. They include specialized appliances and allow cooking methods that can’t be achieved inside.
Dry wood and water smokers are popular. There’s nothing like sausage and even spaghetti done in a smoker. But it’s not just smokers being built into outdoor kitchens. Think about a pizza oven. Not just an ordinary, electric pizza oven — a wood-fired, brick-enclosed pizza oven that gets a perfect, cracker-thin crust with golden-brown, bubbly cheese.
The list of appliances you can build into your outdoor kitchen is the same as you’d expect from a well-appointed indoor kitchen. Outdoor refrigerators with built-in ice makers are a must. So are microwaves and convection ovens. You wouldn’t have your indoor kitchen without these, right? How about beer and wine coolers, warming drawers, trash compactors, garburators, and dishwashers? Hooded ventilators are also handy, even if it’s the great outdoors.
Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen
Designing your outdoor kitchen takes knowledge, just as professionals laid out and built your indoor one. The first thing an outdoor kitchen builder considers is the best location for your new addition. To start off, consider your view corridor. You don’t want it interfering with a landscape or water view. You also don’t want your new backyard kitchen taking away from other existing landscape features, like your outdoor fireplace or a feature wall.
Many designers recommend building your outdoor kitchen as close to your indoor kitchen as possible. It needs to work with traffic flow between inside and out. Your outdoor cook site has to be close enough to avoid excessive travel but separated to prevent conflicting with your existing structure and creating a hazard.
Speaking of hazards, you need to consider a few safety issues when working out your best outdoor kitchen location. Hot surfaces should be out of harm’s way for running kids and flying Frisbees. They also have to avoid pool sides, where splattered grease could cause a slip and fall. Deciding on the right location is where a professional landscape and outdoor kitchen designer’s experience pays off.
A custom outdoor kitchen designer works with your layout. As with indoor kitchens, outside layouts follow tried-and-true designs. Those include the straight or galley style, the common L-shaped layout, and the popular U-shape. Then, your designer considers work zones and how a proper outdoor kitchen should function.
There are four distinct kitchen work zones — prepping, cooking, plate & serve and the entertaining or eating zone. Inside the first three zones are mini areas. Think of them as a cold area for refrigeration, a hot area for cooking, a wet area for cleaning and a dry area for prepping.
Outdoor Kitchen Materials
Now that you’ve got your location and layout worked out, your next step is deciding on what materials you’ll use to build it. This decision-making process takes in a combination of factors like cabinets, counters, floor surface and what appliances you intend to use. You also need to allow for utility connections.
Outdoor cabinets are distinctly different from indoor cabinetry. Indoor kitchens are never exposed to cold, rain, ice, snow, wind and every other thing nature throws at a backyard kitchen. Good cabinets are mandatory for storing your outdoor plates, cutlery, and small appliances, as well as housing towels and other soft goods. It goes without saying that outdoor cabinets have to be waterproof and leak-free.
Weather-resistant wood is a good building material for decks, pergolas, arbors, gazebos, and custom outdoor furniture. However, many designers avoid wood as a primary cabinet material choice. If you prefer wood for your outdoor kitchen, make sure you’re using marine-grade plywood or at least a water-resistant wood like cedar or cypress.
Polymers or PVC cabinets stand up well outside. They’re made to be water-impermeable, and some are specifically designed for outdoor applications. High-density polyethylene is totally weatherproof, but some people simply don’t like a plastic look to an outside kitchen design.
Stainless steel presents an ideal option that is by far the leading choice for outdoor cabinets. Stainless steel won’t rust or break down under any weather condition. That’s why so many outdoor appliances are also made with stainless frames and accent panels. Besides, matching stainless steel cabinets with similar appliances gives a cool, durable look to your outdoor kitchen.
Outdoor Kitchen Countertops
No kitchen, indoors or out, can work without decent counters. Countertops do three things. First, they give a strong and useable work surface. Second, counters need to be safe, sanitary and easy to clean. And third, your countertops need to look good. They make a special statement about the care and consideration you’ve put into designing a great outdoor space.
Tile is sometimes used for outdoor kitchen countertops. Tile is the least expensive counter option but has its problems. Indoor ceramic tiles will crack and work loose when set outdoors. Porcelain tiles are more weather-durable but need a proper base and bonding. A real problem comes with tile grout. It has to be properly sealed to avoid taking on water and stains. Otherwise, trapped moisture will freeze, expand and break.
Concrete is a popular choice for outdoor kitchen countertops. It can be poured and molded into any shape, including an integral sink. You can stain concrete tops into any color, and they’re tough. A drawback is weight, which you can address by using lightweight concrete. And then there’s the issue of sealing. Concrete is porous and has to be regularly sealed to keep out moisture and bacteria.
That leaves you with solid stone for your counters. Yes, stone is expensive, but it’s definitely worth the price. Granite is the first choice for most outdoor kitchen countertops, as it’s virtually bulletproof. Granite takes on a polish and keeps it no matter what weather conditions it’s left in. You don’t need to seal or maintain granite tops, and you can set a boiling pot right down without harm.
Hardscapes Surrounding Outdoor Kitchens
Your dream is coming together. You’ve got your outdoor kitchen designed and identified your perfect location and layout. You’ve nailed down all your appliances and chosen your cabinets and counters.
You’ve also done your diligence and checked with authorities about permits and inspections. You’ve even reviewed your home insurance policy to see that your valuable additions are covered. You’ve allowed for safe delivery of utilities like natural gas and the right amperage of electricity. And you’ve covered how to handle hot and cold running water, as well as dealing with waste drainage.
Now, it’s time to tie all these together. The best way to accomplish that is with veneers and accents. These are the materials that surround your new outdoor kitchen and extend its welcoming presence into the rest of your backyard landscaping. It’s also called hardscaping. These materials blend the rigid look of hardness into the softer foliage of plantings, vines, lawn, and trees.
Hardscape material choices are staggering. Wood is a favorite for custom structural works like pergolas, arbors, and gazebos. It’s often the right decision for custom outdoor furniture that can be removed in the off-season and stored in your custom wood storage shed. Wood accents also make nice planters, decks, and benches.
Don’t dismiss brick as an outdoor accent. You can have brick veneer laid against the sides of your kitchen cabinets, enclosing them in a rustic and timeless effect. Natural stone is another beautiful material. There’s nothing like outdoor fireplaces and wood-burning fire pits made from stone. And for water features like ponds and fountains, think of the look and sound of water trickling down natural stone.
Just as you do with the interior of your home, you can use any combination of brick, stone, and wood as veneers and accents for your outdoor living space. Now, you’re simply extending your indoor comfort that’s surrounded by natural materials to make your backyard experience just as enjoyable.
Think beyond your beautiful new outdoor kitchen’s look and appeal. Consider your entire outside lifestyle the same way you incorporate many inside accents. That includes heat, sound, and visual entertainment. It also includes accent lighting.
Other Outdoor Accents
We can’t overstate how important lighting is in making your outdoor living space come alive. Lighting is one of the best accent investments you can make. Work with your professional landscaper to create lighting effects that wow your guests and calmly soothe your quiet evening relaxation.
You can use backyard lighting to create focal points such as a specimen tree, a water feature or a special outdoor sculpture. Hidden lights make quiet suggestions with shadowy overtones. Path lighting lets visitors explore the yard in safety, and deck lights illuminate a large crowd.
There are all sorts of devices you can incorporate with outdoor lighting. Dimmers and timers are mainstays. Spot lamps add extra security layers, whereas mood lighting sets a tone for quiet conversations and peaceful rests. Environmentally friendly lights are not just popular — they save money. Consider using combinations of halogen, LED and solar-powered accent lights.
Sound and entertainment systems are great accents around your outdoor kitchen and other custom-built backyard structures. Weather-tolerant speakers provide favorite music, and outdoor televisions broadcast exciting sports events and live-stream videos. Don’t forget to account for Wi-Fi reach. Otherwise, certain guests will duck back inside — you know the ones.
Everyone appreciates deck heaters. Propane and natural gas space heaters don’t have to be bulky, stand-alone cylinders. Get creative with your landscape team and build a radiant heat system into your pergola or gazebo. It can also shine down on you as you cook.
Use Color Blocking in Your Backyard
It’s time to talk about color. You’ve taken great care to create you indoor lifestyle with exactly the right colors in each room. Do the same outside. Think of backyard design with color blocking. Don’t be shy about using large blocks of bright colors outdoors. Nature already does that with tree backdrops and rainbows of flowering plants.
Take care in selecting colors for your outside anchor pieces. You might like naturally stained wood for your deck surface or custom outdoor furniture. Or, you may prefer your custom cedar pergola or arbor to go naturally gray with seasons in the sun. Paint is another option, even on wood.
Get your colors down first on expensive outdoor pieces like your kitchen countertops and hardscapes. Then, add color accents. Make them work with your outdoor appliances the same way you’ve done inside. Appliances don’t have to be raw stainless steel. Today’s appliance manufacturers offer a multitude of outdoor finishes. Forget boring white. Why not chose a brick-red or jet-black barbecue and other outdoor kitchen features?
There’s color in every part of your backyard panorama. You can find sensational color effects in natural stone. Make stone color work to your advantage in a massive custom-designed and -built outdoor fireplace. You can achieve a similar effect on a smaller scale with a custom-built fire pit. Patios and walkways come to colorful life with paving stones. And retaining walls built with designer blocks don’t have to be concrete-gray. You can choose among a range of colors — from rust to charcoal — to get the exact color-block effect.
Large Outdoor Living Structures
We’ve mentioned pergolas, gazebos, and arbors a few times. Some people aren’t quite sure of the difference. All three are large outdoor structures that are wonderful additions to every backyard, but each has their purpose and history.
Pergolas originated in the warm Mediterranean countries. Their principal purpose was allowing shade, yet an ample amount of light, into an outdoor living area. Pergolas are freestanding structures that have a weave of rafters or slats overhead. They’re open on all four sides and let guests freely flow without obstruction.
Gazebos are more complex. They’re semi-enclosed with a solid roof to protect occupants who can sit outdoors and stay dry during showers. Folks can also stay cool and out of the blazing sun in a custom gazebo.
Arbors are inviting garden structures. They introduce guests from one area to another through a passageway. Normally, arbors are designed to give a tunnel effect and are often crowned by lush vines. Some arbors are small and portable, while others have large frameworks made to support heavy foliage.
Work With a Professional Landscape Designer and Builder
You’re prepared to make a substantial and permanent investment in your backyard landscaping. That might be an entire custom-designed and -built outdoor kitchen. It might be a new deck or an addition to an existing one. You might have hardscapes like water features or outdoor fireplaces in mind, or maybe you’re dreaming of a custom wood pergola, gazebo, arbor or even a special storage shed in your yard.
No matter what your dreams and plans are for backyard landscaping, you can trust the professionals at Shearer Patio & Landscaping Services to deliver outstanding projects. We have almost 20 years in custom designing and building landscape features like patios and decks, pergolas, gazebos and arbors. We can build you an amazing outdoor kitchen that extends your indoor living outside.
For dependable service and durable results, trust our combined experience that stretches more than 75 years. Whether you’re dreaming of a roaring outdoor fireplace or a blazing fire pit, if it’s destined for your backyard, we can build it. For innovative designs and superb craftsmanship in the Columbus, Ohio, area, choose Shearer Patio & Landscape Services. We’ll be happy to discuss your dreams and provide a free estimate for your custom outdoor landscaping needs.