Summer beckons families outdoors with longer days lingering into warm, starlit evenings. If your backyard consists of a cracked patio and a rickety picnic table, it’s time to rethink your outdoor entertaining spaces. Families who love spending time outside are investing in new outdoor entertainment spaces that incorporate clever strategies to maximize space for the perfect blend of entertainment, play and functional space in the backyard.
Starting Your Backyard Transformation: Ideas, Goals and Budget
As with any project, the first step is to consider your ideas, goals and budget. Ask yourself these questions to guide your backyard transformation project:
- How much space do you have? Write down the measurements of your yard.
- How do you currently use the space?
- If you have children, do they need space for a swing set, play house or play area?
- What about pets? Do you need a dog run or fenced area for your pets to roam?
- Do you have a permanent structure in the yard such as a shed or swimming pool that must be considered in your new plan?
- Do you currently have a fence?
- Is there any challenging terrain in the yard, such as a hill or steep slope?
- Do you have any specimen trees or special plants you absolutely must keep?
- What kind of entertaining do you love – formal or informal? Big crowds or small, intimate groups?
- What is your budget for the project?
Your landscape design firm will also take measurements and walk through the property to better understand the boundaries of the project. But knowing the answers to these questions will help you begin your conversation with them.
Local Laws and Ordinances
Before proceeding with any backyard landscaping design ideas, it’s imperative that you know and follow local laws and ordinances. Your homeowner’s association or town may have laws prohibiting water features; some drought-prone areas require native plants or specific drought-tolerant plants. You may also need permits to build patios, decks and swimming pools, as well as safety inspections once such structures are completed. Check with your homeowner’s association, zoning board or other local agencies before proceeding with new landscape design installations.
Dream Big Dreams
One of the best ways to generate creative ideas for your backyard landscaping plans in Ohio is to start a clip file. A clip file can be an actual file of clippings from magazines, newspapers and catalogs of backyard ideas that you save for inspiration, or you can create a virtual file using websites such as Pinterest. Find pictures that appeal to you and include items such as:
- Patios and decks
- Furniture, including tables and chairs, lounge chairs, etc.
- Fire pits or barbecue areas
- Water features such as fountains, ponds or pools
- Trees, shrubs and garden ideas
- Pergolas and arbors
- Play areas
The sky’s the limit when you’re in the planning phase, so dream big dreams. You can narrow down your choices later.
Backyard Entertainment Design Ideas
Now that you’ve created your wish list, considered your family’s needs and debated the budget, it’s time to look at the individual elements that together create an outdoor room or entertainment area. Most outdoor spaces include dining and entertaining areas, play areas and gardens for vegetables or flowers. Pathways connect outdoor areas for easy access. Areas may also include lighting for aesthetic purposes and so the outdoor space can be used after dark. Depending on the architecture of your home and the area itself, you may want to add a pergola, awning or other structure to provide shade. Lastly, for families with small children, play areas are essential to enjoying the great outdoors.
The first element to consider when looking at backyard landscaping design ideas is a patio or deck. Depending on the architecture of your home and the lay of the land, you may want a patio at ground-level or a deck that sits off the ground.
Features of a great patio or deck for entertaining include:
- Space: The area must be large enough for all of the elements you want to include. Nothing is worse than a patio too small for your needs. Plan for as a large of a patio as you can afford.
- Comfortable seating areas: You can add stand-alone furniture or possibly even a built-in seating area, which can add luxury and enjoyment to a patio.
- Beautiful, functional flooring: You have many options for patio floors. Wood decks and patios are a traditional flooring medium, but newer PVC decks and composite flooring mimic the beauty of natural wood but withstand snow, ice and rain better. Stone patios are luxurious and traditional; you can use slate, paving stones, granite or other decorative stones. Railings or stairs: Will your patio need steps or stairs leading into the garden or from your home? If so, consider hiring Shearer to add such features. Safety is paramount when adding stairs and railings.
- Barbecue areas and fire pits: If you plan to entertain frequently in your new outdoor space, a built-in barbecue or fire pit is a luxury that can’t be beat. If built-in isn’t an option, make sure you include plenty of space away from buildings, structures and flammable objects for your fire pit or barbecue area.
Arbors and Pergolas
An arbor or pergola added to your patio creates an elegant, beautiful space that shades the area from the heat of late afternoon sun. If you plan to enjoy dinner al fresco or entertain in the evenings on a hot summer night and your patio faces south or west, creating a shady oasis is a must.
What’s the difference between an arbor and a pergola? Arbors have supports on both sides and a roof to create a tunnel-like effect. Climbing plants or vines trained to grow over the arbor add shade. A pergola typically features open sides and a roof overhead that provides shade. Posts supporting the roof create an airy, open structure, while the roof offers some shade from the elements. Both arbors and pergolas can be practical structures to add shady spots in the garden or decorative focal points to draw the eye to a special feature in the garden.
When planning your new entertaining space, don’t forget lighting. A porch light may not be enough to enjoy your new outdoor entertaining space. Accent lighting along paths or the edge of a deck or patio not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your new outdoor room but offers safety elements for night-time entertaining.
Consider adding outdoor lighting in the following areas:
- Around the edges of the patio
- Along stairs or steps
- At the edges of walkways
- To illuminate unique features such as specimen plants, water features or outdoor artwork
In addition to outdoor lighting, think about adding extra outdoor electrical outletsAdding outlets makes it easier for you to plug in extras during parties such as strings of lights, radios, and other elements that add to the festivities.
As you plan your dream space, don’t forget to include some lawn areas. Lawns offer restful green spaces in the overall landscape design. They also offer great play spaces for family games such as croquet, volleyball and softball.
Lawns need plenty of water, however. Consider adding an in-ground sprinkler system to keep your lawn well watered. Talk to your landscape designer about water-wise lawns that incorporate a blend of grass varieties for lush, green lawns spring through fall.
Depending on your family’s hobbies, interests and needs, you may wish to incorporate planting or garden areas into your dream landscape. You can do this in several ways:
- Dedicated garden beds incorporated into your new backyard design
- Raised bed gardens edged with decorative stone, brick or other panels that pick up elements of your patio and home design
- Planters or containers added along the patio
Garden areas for flowers can include shrubs, annuals and perennials in a color scheme that blends well with your home design and overall landscape. Be sure to consider how much time and effort you want to put into gardening, and be realistic. If you know you have a black thumb, ask your landscape designer for easy-care perennials and shrubs that don’t require a lot of fuss.
Families with children and pets should also consider special play areas in their dream backyards. Although not necessarily for entertaining, such areas are a necessity. Consider adding fences around play areas, especially play areas for pets, and adding screening plants for shade and privacy.
The old saying, “good fences make good neighbors” is certainly true. Fences indicate property lines, establish boundaries, and add privacy. A fence around a swimming pool is a necessity to prevent accidents and unauthorized access. Fences can also keep wildlife, like deer, out of your yard.
Fences can be beautiful as well as functional. Gone are the days when families relied on chain link or stockade fencing for privacy.
Walkways and paths connect your beautiful outdoor entertainment area to other destinations in the garden. Pathways must be safe as well as beautiful. A smooth, even surface that’s easy to keep free of weeds is a must. Stone, gravel, or a combination of materials can create a lovely pathway that flawlessly blends into your existing architecture and your outdoor entertaining area.
Pathways can be used to connect as well as to frame and accent areas in the garden. Curving lines denote informal spaces, while straight paths outlining rectangular or square garden areas are typical of modern architecture. It’s important to consider the shape and composition of paths when you design your dream space for entertaining.
Your new outdoor entertaining area includes a patio for relaxation and enjoyment, lighting to illuminate the garden and pathways, flowers to delight the sense of smell, and a barbecue area to create mouth-watering meals. What about adding a water feature to add sound to the garden?
Water features can include:
- Wall fountains, mounted on your home, which circulate water into a basin below
- Stand-alone fountains, either custom-made or purchased and installed
- Ponds and water gardens
- Bubbler, waterfalls and cascades
Water walls, ponds and spillways can be added to your custom outdoor entertainment area, depending on the size of the area and the architecture at hand.
Ready to Create Your New Outdoor Room?
All of these ideas, when added together, create a dream landscape for casual or formal entertaining. Many other considerations must be taken into account before transforming your current yard into an exotic outdoor room. While some of these ideas are easy for the average homeowner to incorporate into their existing design, it’s a wise move to consult a professional before engaging in a major home renovation project.
As the cares of the day mount, having a personal space to unwind, relax and connect to nature is paramount. An oasis, a backyard entertainment area that soothes the mind and spirit while offering your family a chance to bond and play is essential for the modern homeowner. These backyard entertainment design ideas can spark your own transformation from blah to beautiful. Shearer Patio & Landscape Service offers professional, custom outdoor landscape design services to help with creating backyard transformations. Talk to us today about designing your dream entertaining area. We’ll work with you to create a beautiful plan that accomplishes your goals within your budget.