Pro Tips for Creating a Dreamy Outdoor Living Space This Spring | Seattle Times

For many of us, the past two years have crystallized the desire for an outdoor getaway at home – whether we want to put our feet up in a hammock, get our hands dirty tending to fresh herbs, or we gather with friends around a fireplace.

If you dream of an improved outdoor space, you are not alone. A A report on trends in outdoor living spaces found that 85% of construction industry experts said consumers were more willing to renovate outdoors than before the pandemic, and 65% said that new builds would provide larger outdoor living spaces. Of new additions to existing outdoor spaces, 61% voted outdoor kitchens as the most popular, with fire pits coming in second at 59%.

Play time and relaxation time

To design your dream outdoor living room, think about how you want to use the space. Think about what time you tend to be out, whether you want to be alone or in a group, and what kind of activities you plan to have. How many people do you need to accommodate? Do you have kids or pets that will need stronger materials?

Local designers interviewed for this story agree that Seattle-area residents customize their outdoor experience to suit their needs and lifestyles, which could mean installing a TV or movie screen, a wall of rock climbing or, in one case, a “hammock board” for a teenage girl and her friends.

Garden designer Sue Goetz of Tacoma sees customers finding new ways to take full advantage of their outdoor space, whether active or meditative.

“You know, there’s been a little uptick in pétanque courts,” she said. “It tells me that they’re looking to expand the lifestyles in their space because maybe they can’t travel. I’ve also seen a lot of people start to find some kind of sanctuary, that they’re acts as a quiet room to sit, bird watch or meditate.

Renton-based garden designer Christina Salwitz, aka The Personal Garden Coach, says she’s also received more requests for outdoor play spaces, including areas for cornhole and croquet.

Edible gardening is another major wishlist item. Mark Gile, co-owner of Bothell’s In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes, incorporates vegetable gardens into most of his designs.

“I always encourage children to have vegetable beds. It’s really fun for them to see where their food comes from,” says Gile. “That’s part of what makes [our design] durable – it’s not only aesthetically pretty, but it’s functional.

Sit down

Think about designing your outdoor room the same way you do your indoor rooms, says Seattle-based landscape designer Lisa Port of Banyon Tree Design Studio. “You need to size appropriately and have room for clearance,” she says.

Depending on your available square footage, you may be able to accommodate both a dining room and a conversation or living room. In a smaller space, you may need to select one or the other.

“If it’s an older retired couple, I might suggest investing in some really nice lounge chairs,” Salwitz says, while an active family might prefer durable Adirondack chairs.

People tend to underestimate how much space they will need to be comfortable. “Nobody ever complained that their patio was too big,” says Goetz. Also, allow enough space to walk around furniture.

If space is a challenge, Goetz prefers single chairs over sofas for mobility and fluidity, and Salwitz recommends sectional sofas for flexibility.

Whether or not to add cushions is up to you. “Soft furniture versus hard furniture is totally a customer preference,” Port says. “Do you eat with your plate on your knees? Do you need to sit up straight or do you want to put your feet up? »

When it comes to style, Port recommends matching the look of your home. “Of course, furniture has a style, just like [your home’s] architectural,” she says. Consider the windows and trim in your home and echo the same style in the details of your outdoor furniture, she says.

Versatile pieces, like a retaining wall with a cornerstone that doubles as a bench or counter, or a bar with storage underneath, save space and expand your options.

Increase comfort

To get the most out of your outdoor space, it pays to plan ways to stay dry and warm in the spring and fall.

As Goetz says, “If I have to invest a lot of change, I want to be able to use it for more than three months.”

This could involve adding overhead coverage in the form of a shed roof over the grill area or a perspex mattress topper over an arbor that houses the dining area. Goetz likes light roofing materials, which maximize the light coming through.

To keep warm, there are plenty of heaters and fireplaces to choose from. Heaters can be recessed into a patio wall or freestanding. Fire pits can be table-top or stand-alone. Conventional fireplaces run on wood, but increasingly frequent combustion bans and proximity to the city make it more logical to choose a gas model.

“People get really creative with fire pit seating to reflect their personality,” says Salwitz. “In one house it might be wooden logs, while in another it might be polished concrete benches.”

Goetz likes to use newer portable fire pits, which often hide the propane tank. Tanks can also be creatively hidden, such as in a wicker storage bench.

The lights also extend the season. Beyond task lighting for paths and doorways, consider adding string lights above seats and accenting trees with downward-facing “moonlights” (soft, filtered lights also known as downlights).

However, not just any type of light. Solar-powered lights are struggling to charge in Seattle, Port says.

“Look for low-voltage outdoor LEDs,” says Goetz, who recommends professional installation if you need to add outdoor outlets.

Accessorize for the ambiance

As with the interior, don’t forget to add the finishing touches that will make your space feel like home. Consider all angles and senses to create a sense of enclosure and intimacy.

“There are side tables and coffee tables, and of course the rugs,” Port explains. “There are large containers, vases, pillows, something to create a ceiling – which can be an umbrella or a tree – and maybe some kind of bubbling water. It simply provides that outdoor vibe that focuses your attention on an intimate setting.

Rugs “warm up the place very quickly,” says Goetz. Recycled plastic and polypropylene versions add a splash of color and can be hosed down when dirty.

Plants add lushness, color and fragrance, softening your landscaping and blending it with the landscape. Since these accessories are alive, think about how much time you want to spend on gardening. Do you want a few low-commitment containers or a time-consuming vertical wall of lettuce?

And remember, it doesn’t all have to happen at once – take your time. Adding an indulgent element or two will bring you to an outdoor oasis worth spending more time in.