Ways to make your outdoor space functional

Far from being ‘just’ an area with not much thought given to it beyond some grass or maybe a patio, the outdoor area is becoming just as important and functional as the interior spaces in a home. Designating an outdoor area for specific use, and planning accordingly, is becoming more popular.


The ‘outdoor room’

The outside area of a property is becoming more of an extension of the home and not just an area where children and pets may occasionally play. Proper design and planning is now going into the exteriors; for example, if outdoor dining is a key activity then the whole environment, not just putting a table and a few chairs out, is taken into account.

Advances in exterior design have helped; if storage is required – perhaps of expensive equipment such as a boat, RV (Recreational Vehicle) or a classic car – then durable metal storage huts of various shapes and sizes should be considered as opposed to building a garage or outdoor storage area.

Deciding on exterior room usage

The important aspect of creating a functional exterior is determining exactly what it will be used for. It may be one specific thing such as outdoor dining or perhaps several including general entertaining, a relaxing retreat and a children’s play area for example.

The saying ‘form follows function’ is true here; deciding on the role the outdoor area is to perform should be determined before focusing on the details of what furniture and other items to buy.

Priorities in creating the outdoor space

Space and practicality – maximizing space is key especially if your area needs to perform several functions. Furniture that does ‘double duty’ such as benches with storage underneath can be useful and pay attention to general design if your space is small.

Too much clutter may make it look homely but can reduce usable space – better to have a few climbing plants or hanging baskets to soften the look yet retain space.

Screening and sunlight – how much privacy do you require? Work out where you’re being overlooked or visible from roads and so forth and plan accordingly; strategically placed small trees or hedges can act as natural privacy screens.

Work out where sunlight falls and when; a pleasant space isn’t enjoyable if the sun is too fierce at times to enjoy it. Positioning of furniture is important and using a gazebo or large umbrella can provide a pleasant, usable area.

Aesthetics – for many people at least a little greenery is desirable and makes an outdoor area subjectively more pleasant, but it doesn’t have to dominate and maintaining it needn’t become a chore.

Low maintenance shrubs may be worth considering or, if you really don’t fancy spending time gardening or there are sunlight issues, artificial plants can provide a similar visual effect to real ones.

Using soft furnishings such as big cushions or outdoor rugs can soften an outdoor area full of hard landscaping such as walls, decking and paving slabs.

Lighting – using an outdoor space in the evening is becoming more popular; there are various lighting options to make the space usable and appealing at night.

Solar powered lighting can be a boon in outdoor areas as it saves having to run cabling and providing outdoor power sources.

Limited by imagination

The advances in outdoor equipment, landscaping and design techniques mean creating a practical and enjoyable outdoor space is possible for most people with even a small area they’d like to make more of.