Whether you're creating an outdoor living space for the first time, or renovating tired walkways and old concrete patios, planning is the key to achieving a perfect living environment. Start the process by going online and looking at photos of installations that pique your interest. When you have an idea of what you like, you can begin to determine the purpose of your outdoor space. Will you use the space for entertaining and dining, or for seclusion and privacy? Is a pool part of the big picture?
Once you have determined the purpose, the size of your yard determines what you can include. One of the worst things you can do is squeeze too much into a small space. Consider working with a landscape architect to define the practical area for your project, and include elements that will fit your vision as well as your landscape elevation.
Integrating your outdoor living environment with your space parameters is the next step. Consider where foot traffic will originate and travel. Do you need a gate and fence to encircle a pool? What doors from your home get the most usage? Planning for foot traffic is an absolute must.
Next, determine where your power supply will be, and if applicable, the water supply. Many different elements require a viable source of electricity, such as lighting, retractable awnings, outdoor kitchens, water features and pools. Make sure your electrician is involved in the planning.
Make similar considerations for the water supply. Remember, not only do pools need water, so do outdoor kitchens. After all, you don't want to be tapping water from a spigot near the house, when the barbie is in the middle of the yard. Another consideration is privacy. Fences are great for keeping prying eyes out, but consider building decorative walls if local laws allow this feature, or plant trees and shrubbery in crucial locations.
Once you have taken care of the basics, it's time to plan the hardscape big ticket items that should last fifteen to twenty years with proper maintenance. Hardscape items should complement the architecture of your home. If you have an older residence, a traditional porch may be part of the equation, while new constructions may benefit more from a modern deck. Both can become immediate extensions of your inside entertaining space, if they abut your home. Dining areas and outdoor kitchens should be located close to one another to facilitate serving. Make sure you have enough seating for your needs.
Also, don't forget about shelter from the elements. Include overhangs, retractable awnings or some sort of roofing to shade your guests from the sun, or protect them from sudden rain. Consider a firepit or fireplace to keep everyone warm on chilly nights. Finally, don't forget sufficient lighting - not only for patios and decks, but also on pathways to keep guests safe at night.
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