Life on the Outside

What you need to make your outdoor area feel like a living room

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors this summer, you don’t need to travel beyond your own backyard. Simply bring all the comforts of the indoors to your patio, deck or another outdoor area via furniture, appliances and other amenities designed for alfresco enjoyment. Then, kick back and enjoy the sunshine or moonlight in style.

Especially after the harsh winter, we’ve just experienced, spending time outside is something we’re all looking forward to and an important aspect of our lives. And it’s becoming a priority for many families to have a nice outdoor living space to enjoy the weather whenever possible. Having an outdoor living area is a great way to make your home feel larger without having to do major construction, and it can significantly add to your home’s curb appeal and resale value.

Most will agree, enjoying your time outside has many health and mood-enhancing benefits stemming from increased relaxation, activity, fresh air, sunshine and quality time spent with family and friends, notes Michael Josephson, Landscape Architect and owner of Fresh Start Design/Build Group based in Central NJ.

This outdoor living trend may become more popular due to the rebound in the economic and housing markets. It can also be attributed to advancements in the selection, durability, and style of outdoor-rated materials and exposure from social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest.

The logical, ideal spot to stage an outdoor living area is just past the back door since food and drink don’t have to travel far from the kitchen and there’s a natural flow from indoor and out for entertaining.

There are no hard and fast rules however; sometimes a getaway destination, pavilion or enclosure hideaway positioned further from the house for privacy can provide a welcome retreat. This concept is well-suited for relaxation areas like a hot tub or hammock area.

Josephson offers his advice for for a welcoming outdoor living area.

“First of all, comfortable seating is key, followed by a good dining area. Consider  shade elements such as pergolas or extra large umbrellas  to shield you from the sun,” he says. “To really take your backyard to the next level, add elements like a grill, fire pit/fireplace, lighting, and outdoor sound system” (see below).

Source: Fresh Start Design/Build Group LLC, Central NJ

Joe Raboine, Atlanta-based design and training specialist with Belgard, says several notable trends are underfoot in outdoor living design. One is creating a well-appointed outdoor kitchen equipped with a grill, side burners, fridge, and bar.

“In addition, wicker, wood and metal-based furniture with deep seating and very thick and sun-resistant fabrics are popular. People are also installing all types of hanging beds and swings and even creating outdoor enclosed showers,” says Raboine.

Source: Central Jersey Pools, Freehold NJ

Outdoor pillows, rugs, and throws are being used to create a living room-like space for entertaining or relaxing. The selection is endless – you can switch from Tiki to Traditional with a simple exchange of accessories.

Wood or natural gas-fueled fire pits remain hot, along with fire tables and fire bowls.

Outdoor lighting has outgrown your grandparent’s spotlights of yesteryear and moved toward decorative string lights, uplighting around landscaping, and hanging lanterns with LED-style flameless lights.

Added touches that can enhance the outdoor experience include an outdoor fan to promote airflow and discourage insects, a water element like a small, recirculating fountain, and an infrared heater for when the weather gets chilly.

“Basic elements can be completed by a savvy do-it-yourselfer but hiring a professional designer to create a plan and maximize the usage of your space and resources can save you time and money in the long run,” adds Fresh Start’s, Michael Josephson.

Don’t Stop the Music – Add a Backyard Sound System

JBL Charge 3

Want to jazz up your outdoor living area and tune into extra comfort and entertainment? Implement an outdoor-rated sound system.

“Music is one of the most overlooked features of outdoor living space,” says Joe Raboine with Belgard. “The simplest way to add music is to use a portable water-resistant Bluetooth speaker.”

The JBL Charge 3, Ultimate Ears Wonderboom, Sony SRS-XB41, Bose SoundLink Color II, and Fugoo Style are all highly rated and relatively affordable devices that fit these criteria. Paired with your smartphone, tablet or laptop, these small but powerful speakers can keep your party, pool bash or private soirée grooving.

But if you’re creating a large outdoor living space, seeking better quality sound and have the budget, consider permanently installed weatherproof speakers that can be placed underneath eaves, on your home’s exterior, into seat walls or in the ground among your landscaping. With this approach, you’ll get better quality and louder music, possibly with separate volume controls for different zones.

Permanently installed speakers are typically powered by a dedicated receiver or amplifier that can be placed near your outdoor living area. You can choose a system where the speakers and receiver/amp are either connected by wires, Bluetooth or via Wi-Fi, as is possible with Sonos’ CONNECT: Amp or Bose’s SoundTouch outdoor wireless system.

Wired speakers generate the best sound but require careful planning and concealment of the wires. Wi-Fi speakers offer better range than Bluetooth speakers but can be costlier.

Sonos Connect