7 Tips for Making Your Backyard as Livable as Your Living Room

7 Tips for Making Your Backyard as Livable as Your Living Room

Amy Jones, Ensemble Contributor 

Like a magnet, the approach of spring and summer draws our thoughts outdoors. Whether you’re looking to maximize outdoor living or enhance the appeal of your home to prospective buyers, there’s no reason for comfort and style to stop at your sliding glass doors.


Adding a deck or patio is one of the quickest ways to improve the look, value – and enjoyment – of your home. The best first step is to consult a contractor to ensure your add-on works with the design of your home and factor in important positioning considerations like view, runoff, exposure, and size.


To state the Pacific Northwest obvious, you’ll get the most use of your outdoor space if at least part of it is sheltered from both sun and rain. If you’re planning a small deck, this can often be done by building part of it under your roofline or other existing overhang, which also creates a cohesive, intentional look.


If the design of your house (or your budget) doesn’t permit adding a full deck, a patio is a great option, and the ever-increasing sophistication of outdoor furniture makes it easy to extend your interior style outside. In fact, one of the most current trends in home design is the creation of outdoor “rooms” or living areas using seating, weatherproof rugs, strategically placed planters, fire pits, and low walls to keep pets in (or out).


Choose your deck and patio surfaces carefully. Our region is tough on wood. Strong, solid, stable surfaces such as flagstone, compacted gravel, stamped concrete, pavers, and composite decking stand up to the elements and provide the best support for outdoor appliances and furniture – and require much less maintenance than wood.  If your home design (or heart) demands wood, consider stronger woods such as ipe or other exotics; they’re more expensive but you’ll ultimately save on maintenance and repairs.


Add some heat and light. One pandemic positive is the current variety, safety, and lowered cost of outdoor heating. Newer residential options include infrared and electric products that eliminate the need for propane, and many have easy overhead mounts. Outdoor lighting (in the form of under-roof, step, rail, or landscape fixtures) are key to setting a mood and providing safety during our early-sunset falls and winters. Note: If you’re building a new deck or patio, include an electrician in the process early on; it’s usually much easier to install wiring first.


If you love outdoor entertaining, including space and budget for outdoor appliances in your deck or patio plans is well worth it. Sophisticated grills, ovens, refrigerators, and ice makers offer abundant ways to showcase your culinary chops.


Add color, framing and variety with plants. If you don’t want to re-pot every season, try plants with bright, long-lasting flowers such as Golden Spring (Corylopsis spicata). If you’re more focused on form, try dwarf conifers. Going for texture? The cut-leaf vine maple has sweet yellow blooms in autumn and does well in shade, as do ferns (Japanese and soft shield ferns are two great PNW-friendly choices). In sunnier areas, it’s hard to get more handsome than a multi-colored ‘Variegata’ boxwood. The pots and containers you choose are just as crucial to adding visual borders, interest, and style. More on that here.


Ready to get started? Ensemble is happy to be an expert and trusted source of experienced and reliable local contractors for your next outdoor (or indoor) home improvements.



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