Wait, excuse me, what?! Did you say… outdoor entertaining? I’m still looking for the next Netflix series to get me through the rest of the winter! Is that what you’re thinking? If so, you are not alone. We are all just trying to make it through.
Yet, as savvy homeowners during the pandemic, we will want to get our eyes off of the tv screen and get our athleisurewear-draped bodies out from under our weighted blankets… it’s time to start planning for Spring. Definitely, something to look forward to!
Planning is essential and supplies run out quickly these days. Take it from me… I’m still waiting for my Peloton to arrive three months after ordering it. Remember those home gym weights we were looking for in June that were nowhere to be found? Once spring hits, some supplies may be diminished. Don’t be late to your own “outdoor” party… start planning and purchasing now.
As we move into our second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, we find ourselves searching for ways to entertain ourselves, and hopefully some guests. The best way to do that, for the time being, is going to be outside.
Tips for Creating an Outdoor Entertaining Space
After decades in the design and outdoor environment construction industry, I’ve always been a proponent of the benefits of outdoor entertaining. Now, I’m even more enthused about taking our lifestyles outdoors. Here are some recent outdoor entertaining trends and what I think are some great tips for getting the most enjoyment and function out of your outdoor spaces.
1. Create a Year-Round Space
Here in Atlanta, we have a lovely change of seasons that while it’s not too extreme, provides a bit of seasonally appropriately inclement weather that allows us to enjoy each season. Whether you hire a contractor to create a backyard transformation or you create a cozy space from scratch yourself, here are some accessory items you may need in order to maximize the comfort of your time outside:
Winter: Heavy blankets, a fire pit, heat lamps
Spring: Pollen-proof furniture covers and light blankets for when the sun goes down
Summer: Fans, large deck umbrellas, mosquito control, and a swimming pool
Fall: a blower to remove leaves and outdoor, covered TVs to watch what else… football (preferably near an outdoor kitchen and bar)!
Year-round: Outdoor lighting! Path lighting, string lighting, wall lighting, candles, lanterns, and spot, and deck lighting will create a safer and more striking space to entertain.
2. Create an Indoor/Outdoor Transition
In landscape architecture, there is a term called “biophilic design”. According to Architect Magazine, biophilic design is a concept used to increase the physiological and psychological health, performance, and well-being of people occupying indoor spaces. Reportedly, people are spending up to 90% of their time indoors these days. Bill Browning, in his work with Biophilic Cities Project, cites that design that incorporates nature is linked to decreased stress, enhanced creativity, and accelerated recovery from illness.
To invite more nature inside and to create an inviting transition to your yard, and thus increase your healthy living space, try the following things:
- Use outdoor fabric on the upholstered items in the adjoining room to your outdoor space. Along with protecting against food stains and children’s hands, most of these fabrics now come in a softer hand (or feel) that is not stiff.
- Create attractive gardens within viewing distance of a large window in a well-traveled space of your home.
- Use statuary or garden art to adorn your outdoor space. This creates interest and conversation starters for guests… just as it does in your indoor living areas.
- Make sure that you have adequate lighting for nighttime. Especially along any walkways.
- Take out a wall of windows in a main living area and install rolling doors that open and let you create a flexible, larger unwalled indoor-outdoor space.
- Frequently place flowers from a cutting garden on your tables and countertops.
- If you have a pool or an outdoor entertaining area, consider a more natural European/no decking look or, use a living patio that incorporates grasses or turf in between stepping stones for a softer more natural feel.
- Place container gardens on your patios and decks to increase your green space and provide a living transition to your yard.
3. Make an Outdoor Office
Back in the day, I used to save myself the hour-long commute to the showroom and retail store of the swimming pool construction business I co-owned. I would spread my paperwork out on the large dining table of the covered back porch overlooking my private pool. The waterfall noises, the soft background music I had playing, the fresh-air breeze, the natural view of the woods beyond, and the solitude made it almost enjoyable for this creative person to do all of that number crunching.
Here’s a few modern-day tips for breaking up the mundane by bringing your office outdoors:
- Place an Adirondack chair near your favorite flower bed and have the background for your Zoom calls be whatever is currently blooming. Then, enjoy the comments before the meeting starts about your prized hydrangea or people’s favorite rose variety, etc…
- walk around your yard or gardens while you are on a conference call.
- Use the table near your pool or or back pat
- Pick up some fun paperweights to keep close by as a table decoration. Use them to hold any papers down on a breezy day. I enjoyed using some fun rock paperweights that had words like Peace, Calm and Serenity engraved in them.io as your writing desk for the day. Shade is better so there is not glare on your laptop.
- Light a candle or your firepit and grab a cup of coffee to start your day looking at your planner outside. A little bit of grounding at the start of your day will make you feel more centered.
- Cut some flowers and put them on your outdoor workspace… bring them to your inside space for the remainder of the week.
- Bring your headphones and play nature sounds or music with no lyrics when you aren’t on Zoom or conference calls.
Rocking chair shed photo courtesy Wind River Tiny Homes.
4. Add an Outdoor Building that Complements Your Home and Family Activities.
So many people are feeling cramped these days. With college kids home, elderly relatives coming to stay and everyone in the same space indefinitely, an addition to the home can be achieved easily with a She-shed, Granny Pod, chicken coop or garden shed. Instead of a remodel or addition to your existing home consider adding a separate small building in your back yard.
The Family Handyman says that a Granny-pod, also known as an accessory dwelling unit, is a tiny home built, or placed, on the same property as the people who will take care of the occupant. Granny pods can run from $40,000 to $150,000 and typically offer a full bathroom and mini-kitchen that offer a bit of independence and privacy for the occupant.
Chicken coops have become all the rage in our suburban Atlanta area. You’ll want to check the code of your local municipality before building one. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they have become even more popular as a way to engage the family and get outside… not to mention the fresh eggs!
Last but not least, the garden shed is a great option for our “Covid garden” care. While these sheds are normally used to tuck away your landscaping and gardening tools, you can add a pavilion to your garden shed to have a party-ready outdoor space.
5. Create Outdoor Walls for Privacy
Use evergreen hedges, bamboo, and vertical garden walls to create privacy in a small yard or section of your yard into a room-sized intimate space. A bonus of the vertical garden is that you can have all of the herbs you might ever need at your fingertips for cooking.
6. Martini, Plunge, Lap, and Dipping Pools to Full-Sized Luxury Pools
Ever popular, swimming pools have become an even more welcoming addition to our outdoor living areas during Covid times. The size of your pool will depend on the area that you have available to dedicate and how simple or multifunctional you’d like your backyard oasis to be. Some larger projects include lounge or tanning ledges where you can place furniture on a shallow water-covered ledge along with an umbrella. Other large projects include covered dining and expansive outdoor kitchen areas adjoining the pool, complete with overhead heat lamps for year-round enjoyment.
For smaller spaces, you might incorporate a simple plunge or “martini” pool that offers a private space with a small garden, fire pit, and quaint lighting with natural materials for pool decking that softens the smaller space.
Photos courtesy of Custom Pools of Atlanta
According to Mike Scheck of Custom Pools of Atlanta, the following trends are the newest trends in swimming pool and backyard design. Here is what he says is hot:
- Artificial turf is coming on very strong. The colors and the quality of the materials have come light years to make it a very fresh and clean look.
- Natural gas-burning fire pits have been popular. It seems as though they are a part of every pool project these days.
- The materials for the outdoor living space have been leaving behind the classic looks of Tennessee stacked stone and are being replaced with split-faced Travertine and painted brick.
- Modern and Modern Farmhouse design is piping hot city-wide, bringing in lighter and brighter colors than in years past.
7. Artificial Turf
A local artificial turf expert from Alpha Turf Pros furthers the sentiment that turf has come a long way aesthetically. And adds that it looks good year-round. Furthermore, he states some additional benefits of this material choice
- If sunlight is an issue… it is a good choice for shady yards. In other words, if there is not enough energy reaching the grass to keep grass alive, turf is an optimal choice.
- Pet urine does not discolor or kill turf. And it is easy to clean and hose off.
- Environmentally, it is said to be better because of the reduced use of fertilizer, pesticides, and those chemicals running into our water supply.
- Cost-wise and time-wise, it is a single installation rather than continual maintenance.
As we make the best of the winter season and also look forward to spring and summer and the outdoor entertaining opportunities that warmer weather brings. I hope that these “hot” Outdoor Entertaining Trends have piqued your interest and have spurred you on to make plans toward a lifetime of enjoyment with friends and family in your new outdoor oasis.
Leave a comment below or you can find me on social media. Drop me a message sometime with a photo of your new outdoor space… and most of all, Enjoy!