When you practically live in your backyard most of the year, it always feels like summer. In the winter, we have heaters galore. In the summer, we thrive in the sun. The family loves all the recreational options I have set up in and by the pool and on the large patio. There are the usual rafts and water animals and also some games when pool time is over. The kids, and my husband, can chose from the outdoor bicycle and trampoline, or a game of miniature golf or lawn bowling. We have piped in music and night lights for after hours. It is a great place to entertain, eat, and play. There is always food at the ready. The outdoor fridge does its job of housing a variety of kid-friendly beverages. Everyone in the neighborhood wants to come to my house. You can also be the focal point of fun in your area.

I like to blog about ideas for the yard and patio: how to decorate them for many purposes. Today, however since it is summertime, I have a few words for the ladies about pedicures and manicures to keep looking good in your swimsuit. Top it off with a spray or bottle-created tan, and you will look divine. Don’t forget the UV protection so you don’t burn. You can also find some great bronzers that last for a day or two. It is all about updating your summer look in this blog. Check out last year’s suit and see if it still fits. Buy a new cover up that will take you to the ice cream store or supermarket. I like to wear fancy jeweled flip flops to complete the attire. A floppy straw hat will cover any sun-damaged hair.

My favorite pastime, however, is a mani pedi at my local salon. I love the pampering and attention. It is a fun and relaxing experience that you can justify more often in the summer when your feet are usually bare. Who doesn’t enjoy a long soak in lemon-scented water followed by a good buffing and polishing? (Most women need a good callus remover like these for the feet. You can also do it at home with those small battery-operated devices.) In my salon, the hands get rose water which smells great. I usually go for hot pink for everything as it cheers me up and the kids like it. I then let them paint my toes with tiny flowers at home.

A good mani pedi means an expert and intense massage with fragrant lotion. If I have time, I get my shoulders done at the same time. Mom likes to relax! Combine this detail work with a hair blow dry and you are ready for a night out on the town—of course in sandals. I have a few flower print summer dresses that I rotate for a few months. If it starts to get chilly toward fall, I toss on a cotton cardigan.

I don’t go camping with my husband and the kids because I detest bugs, especially the nasty flying things during the summer. Of course, I also hate mosquitos and spiders but there are worse kinds. When I was a child, my father wanted to teach me how to pin butterflies to a board after catching them in a jar. It was the epitome of cruelty I somehow thought in my childish way. I never took to any hobby related to insect collecting. I never wanted to see them even in a museum. Imagine my chagrin when I found bugs eating away at my lovely patio wooden trellis. After a quick check of a web site called pestHow, I called the exterminator who came over in a flash, only to report that I probably had termites and needed a specialist to treat them. It might not be too late, he said, as he surveyed the condition of the lathwork. I was lucky this time. He said that he had witnessed considerable damage from this wood-eating monsters over the years. He told me to have the specialist look inside the house to be sure.

I could barely look at the swarming insects but I knew they were there enjoying a wonderful snack. I pictured the trellis falling down and thought in horror of the expense I would incur rebuilding it. Since I was in an imaginative mode, I also had an image of a huge green or yellow tent over the entire house and patio. You have to remove you pets and move the entire family to another location for four days. Did I mention the cost? I believe I did and it is over a thousand dollars, not to mention the motel fee.

The termite service was a little more reassuring than I expected and promised me that they could salvage the remaining wood. Plus, they have a treatment with orange oil that is safe to apply while the family remains at home. No tent and no embarrassment with the neighbors. They applied a significant quantity of the miracle citrus fluid to all parts of the affected trellis and said to avoid the patio for a few days while the nasty critters die. I would be able to rent or borrow an outdoor vacuum to scoop up the carcasses after which I could power hose the tile flooring down. The treatment would last for years, maybe five or more, while it was guaranteed for three. If I spotted one single stray termite, I could call for a reapplication.

The results were satisfactory, and in fact they were amazing. The termites were gone and I have yet to see another. I was so pleased to have dealt with the issue so expediently. The family could continue to use the outdoor kitchen and refrigerator on the patio and enjoy swimming in the pool. While I watched for floating bodies, none ever appeared. Plus, there was no infestation in the fence around the yard or anywhere in the house. Rah!

I am lucky enough to have a nice backyard and it has become a wonderful escape all year round. I have adapted it to the seasons so I can luxuriate in peace in a lounge chair with a glass of iced sweet tea and read a book or listen to music. It is my time alone. It has become the most popular “room” in the house for my husband and the kids as well. Everyone finds something fun to do. It is great to be outdoors and break the boredom of indoor days when you feel so confined. This is particularly on weekends when we don’t have a special project or a place or person to visit. If I hadn’t set up an alternative place, everyone would be glued to their tablets or cell phones. They used to be zombies before I discovered what you can do with a yard. Do you want to know?

Any size space will do whether you have a barbecue, a pool or shed. Everything can be converted to an enchanted wonderland with night lights, easy chairs, lawn bowling or miniature golf. Find out what the kids light and the adults will follow suit. It is all about family recreation and bonding time together. Use a covered patio (or install one) for ultra-sunny, hot days. Read books or indulge in puzzles and board games as you like. Then go for a dip in the pool (in ground or inflated of any size). If you like to have guests, you can get prefab cabanas for people to change in. Keep plenty of towels and sunscreen handy. I also have an outdoor fridge that houses tons of ice, sodas, beer, and white wine. Adult parties are not the norm, but they can happen. I am always ready.

Another pool luxury I have included is a deluxe outdoor shower head for A Great Shower with adjustable sprays. It is so much fun that it doesn’t even matter if someone wants to rinse the chlorine or suntan oil off. Kids love to go under together and continue their pool pranks in another manner. It has been worth its weight in gold. On a hot day, we go for cold or tepid water, and on a cold winter one a nice hot dousing works wonders for tired and aching muscles. If you love the home gym idea, you can of course install one in the den or rec room, but in keeping with my theme today, why not put some equipment outdoors. It can be kept in a shed off season or covered with tarp.

I am sure there are tons of other ideas you can think of for your yard so let me know. Parents need a little help when it comes to converting their space to a virtual playground. Automated patio and pool covers are a new norm as are outdoor bicycles and trampolines. I love that each member of my family can do something different and there is no fighting over one or two items.

If you aren’t planning on selling your home in the foreseeable future, then you can do whatever you like to your house and yard and not worry about the resale value. But for others of us, who have jobs that might transfer us or for those who just don’t like to settle down too much, we have to be much smarter about the types of improvements we make on our house and in our yard.

Whatever you decide to put on your property is something that the next homeowner is also going to have to live with, or deal with. So a yard with something big in it, like a pool, can make or break a sale. Maybe you love to swim so you want 90% of your yard to be a pool. But maybe the next people will have small children and they are envisioning having Easter egg hunts and cookouts in their backyard. Regardless of whether the rest of the house is perfect for them, they’re going to pass because of the yard.

I prefer to make the yard multi-use and flexible. I like nice, open patios or decks that can be configured in lots of ways – you could put a grill and a table out there, or maybe some outdoor couches and a fire pit. A nice flat surface that maybe the nice family I was just talking about could envision their daughter drawing with chalk on, or their teenage son playing basketball.

So, if you’re thinking of renovating your backyard to turn it into an outdoor living space, and you aren’t sure how long you’re going to be there to enjoy it, what should you consider?

First, I say invest in quality. If you’re going to put in a deck or patio, use very durable materials. The nicer it looks and the lower maintenance it is, the better off you are. There are all kinds of long lasting wood and stains for decks nowadays, and some plastic that looks like wood. Even concrete can be painted to look nicer than ever.

Second, keep landscaping appealing but minimal. A few flowers or shrubs are fine, but if you’re spending a lot of time on the upkeep, you’re doing it wrong. If you really like lots of plants, I recommend using planters. Your yard will be easier to maintain and it won’t scream, “I take lots of work to look this good!” to potential buyers.

Finally, be thoughtful with the features you make permanent. Think about the functionality of any pool you put on the property before putting one in—make sure the pump, heater, and filter are easily accessible and that you meet or exceed all regulations regarding it. If you’re in a drought-prone area and you really want a fire pit, maybe having one built into your patio design isn’t the best idea, especially when they have portable ones you can put out when it is safe to have a fire. If you’re adding a sunroom, make sure that the windows are easy to use and that you install blinds and the like so that it is easy to cool the room down or make it private when necessary.

Again, if you’re planning on making it your forever home, then by all means, go crazy and have the yard be everything that you want. Don’t worry about pleasing others! But for those of us who aren’t sure, thoughtful spending and quality improvements can increase your odds of selling your house and get you a return on the money you invested in your improvements.

In my household, life revolves around the patio and garden. A lot of attention is paid to their care and upkeep. The kids have elected to do outdoor chores instead of those I usually require inside like dish washing and drying. They of course have to clean up their rooms, but they hate detailing the car with dad. I do the vacuuming and floor waxing—any of the heavy stuff. Rather, they would like to weed the backyard plants with mom. When finished, they get rewarded with lunch on the patio. I have everything needed to prepare the most elaborate meal. We have always had a large user-friendly barbecue and grill, but I have installed a kitchen to rival the one in the house. I love that I can prepare food and clean up afterward without having to cart everything, stacked in my unsteady hands, indoors. It is a time saver and also fun for the kids who like to participate in any activity that takes place outside. During the warm weather, I can’t get them to go inside even for video games and TV.

I have a tile countertop that is easy to clean that houses a nice stainless sink and the Finest Faucets. I can get hot and cold water with one touch as well as filtered water for drinking. If someone wants a cold drink, there is a sizable under-counter fridge. Dad puts in his favorite wine and mom stores her lemonade. Soda for the kids fills any remaining space. A cupboard to the side contains snacks like chips and cookies. If someone drops by, we are ready to entertain them. The barbecue and grill do most of the cooking but I also have one burner just in case. It is all compact and convenient and so easy to work with. I have a blender to make smoothies under the sink and faucet that can be dragged out in seconds for kids’ snack time. I let them make their own out of fruit I set out in a large bowl. There are apples, raspberries, kiwis, strawberries, lemons and oranges. They grab yogurt or milk as the binder from inside the fridge.

It is a real luxury to have an outdoor kitchen complete with state-of-the-art faucet to supplement the grill. I can make barbecued ribs or chicken while heating potatoes in the oven. The dog loves to sit at my heels and watch the entire process. I keep a glass jar with treats if he is obedient. Next to it is a jar of jelly beans for the kids. I love all the colors and nibble at them from time to time when I am alone working in the yard. I love to lounge by the pool with earphones for music. If the kids are in the pool, I am super vigilant and enjoy getting my summer tan. Life is wonderful if you have a backyard you can convert into a personal oasis for family and friends.

I talk about myself a lot in my blogs and my love for living outside most of the year in the backyard. We are lucky to have a pool, barbecue, a cabana, and outdoor kitchen. It is paradise in one small compact space. I have thought of everything. I can sit out there for hours, do a bit of gardening, take a dip, or prepare a meal for myself or the kids. I have shared their favorite pastimes such as lawn bowling, swimming and pool polo, and miniature golf. They never get bored with so much to do alon4e or with friends. For a small investment, you can entertain guests and family with ease. No wonder the neighbors pop in often. They are told to reach into the fridge and grab any beverage of their choice. There are towels in the cabana in neat stacks. The outdoor shower with deluxe faucet is a real bonus. People like it cold in summer and super-hot in the winter as a spa treatment. You can switch the intensity of the spray with a quick sliding of a lever.

Not surprisingly, as a versatile mom and wife, I have my indoor luxuries. Not it is time to laud my handy husband who has recently installed a bidet system incorporated in the toilet. This is new technology so you don’t have to install a separate unit if you don’t have the space. A few Japanese and American companies offer them for people who want to live with a European flair. A new lifestyle has come to us, one that has existed virtually for a century abroad. It is time we indulged.

My husband had read about the bidet feature on line from a site called Rate My Toilet. There are some you can install with a modern toilet and some hybrids you buy new. He made his selection according to our master bathroom dimensions and boned up on his plumbing skills for the job. It was perfect. We probably have the only system in the neighborhood, but this time I am not going to show it off like I do my outdoor kitchen with all its accoutrements. It is just for my eyes. The kids don’t know what it is and hardly notice the difference in the new toilet. It just has a few extra buttons and knobs for controlling water temperature and amount of spray. The Japanese have been innovators in the new bidet combinations and I thank them for their particular habits. Now, Americans are obsessed with cleanliness as well as the softness of their toilet paper. It is indeed a brave new world of bathroom experiences. As in the commercials on TV, various rubber and plastic toys and fixtures can watch all the goings on. These are among the most hilarious commercials I have seen. Remember the frog paper holder and the alligator toy boat with passenger. “This is no place to raise a child,” the father gator says. Ha!

I have always loved DIY projects and home crafts like painting and sewing. When I got married and eventually had kids, there was no time at all for such endeavors. I missed my old pastimes and replaced them with reading in a lounge chair by the pool. As my blog readers know, I am super into my revamped patio and backyard. I created a personal oasis and a fantasyland for the kids. They have their choice of swimming in the heated pool (we have a solar generator), playing miniature golf, lawn bowling, or croquet – a new addition. They never need to leave the house on weekends although I don’t mind if they go with friends to the movies or get ice cream. As much as I love watching them frolic, I know they need other types of socialization beyond what they get in school.

Since we spend so much time out there, I also designed a compact patio kitchen next to the barbecue and grill. It comes with a large sink and versatile rotating faucet, an under counter refrigerator, and lots of storage for paper goods. Dinner on the patio is a highlight of summer. We invite guests who change into swimsuits in our twin cabanas—one for men/boys and women/girls. Each is equipped with huge terry towels and other accoutrements. Everyone gets to clean up outside in our beautiful tiled facility under a special deluxe showerhead. It feels cool and refreshing in summer and toasty warm to unthaw the bones in winter. It is a spa treat for sure and one of my better ideas.

I have a new one now that so much has been accomplished. I found some colorful waterproof outdoor fabric and have decided to recover the lounge and matching chairs on the patio. They have served us well and the time has come for replacement to keep up with the quality and newness of everything else. My sewing machine which has a computer inside, can handle thick material and will do quite nicely for whipping up the covers and matching pillows. They will have piping and double seams. I can’t wait to resume this old hobby from so many years ago.

It only took a few minutes for the modern Singer to warm up to its task. I threaded the needle with ease with a hearty kind suitable for upholstering. I never was much of a fashion designer but I can make seat covers and pillows for sure. You measure your chairs and add a few inches for the seams. You make the items inside out leaving a space to sew them up by hand after they are in place. You do piping by inserting it between the seams. You get great results; all it needs is a steady hand. I added cushioning material using plenty of extra to make the cushions comfortable. It is equivalent to down but actually synthetic. It looks and feels very nice. I am proud of my effort and hope the family notices that mom has a different talent.

Over the years, I have spiffing up my patio and converted the yard to a combination play and green space the family loves. It is a residential custom paradise. There are beds of flowers and a small vegetable garden I enjoy tending with the kids. Who doesn’t love fresh vegetables? Even the kids eat more of them these days. There is something good always in season. Meanwhile they spend weekend time, and much of the weekday afternoons romping with friends and playing lawn bowling or miniature golf. They love to swim and dive and in the summer; the pool is never empty. Come winter, it is another story. Thus, a new addition to the area was called for: a solar generator. If I keep the pool toasty warm, the entire family will swim and soak all year round. I know that I will be in it more often, perhaps listening to my favorite music while floating on a comfy raft. Did I mention that my yard and patio are my private sanctuaries? I can be alone reading on a lounge chair or watching the kids at play. I enjoy all of it: I designed it myself.

The generator will be economical as compared to installing a standard pool heater. These can be quite expensive although they do a good job. The solar version works as well while “generating” a lower monthly utility bill. I know you are thinking that they are prohibitive and what I am I saying here. If you factor in the tax credits and the savings on your income tax, the system pays for itself in no time. Believe me, I looked into it thoroughly before going this route. It had to be money saving to be worth the investment. Plus, it won’t likely need the same amount of repair as a pool heater and will last much longer. In my area, the climate is sunny enough to provide the adequate amount of energy; plus, solar will store any excess. I was thrilled when it was installed, just as I am when I get my electricity bill from the power company. I solved a major problem for my family. They relish a swim most every day, even in winter, if the water is at least tepid. They can turn up the temperature in the small adjacent Jacuzzi and warm up if the air is chilly. I get smiles of appreciation.

I can’t do enough to promote the patio and yard for family recreation. We eat outside all year round since we have a wonderful mini kitchen and ceiling heaters. There is never a bad time to be outside. You have all the comforts of home. The kitchen is perfectly equipped with a self-cleaning oven, a state-of-the-art hot and cold faucet, a water filter, and an under-counter fridge. The combination grill and barbecue is just to the side. If you haven’t worked on your own yard and need help, let me give you some tips. Today it is all about a solar generator. Go for it.

I have not exactly embraced the high-tech world although I am conversant with a computer and a smart phone. There is not much else that I get excited about unless my husband and/or kids are into it. It took me forever to operate a TV video game console. Leave it to the little ones to figure it out first. I know that modern man (or woman) can’t live without a hair dryer, electric razor, coffee maker, or toaster oven. Everyone needs stereo speakers, a flat-screen TV and a digital watch. I need a sewing machine that syncs with my computer and a bathroom scale that does the same thing. I guess I am more into electronics than I thought. Even my alarm clock is state of the art.

I have done major work on my patio and yard and to this date, other than a pool heater, I haven’t had to deal with advanced technology. The watering system has a little timer and we have solar panels for electricity. Beyond that, my only adventure into this realm is installing a patio ceiling fan for those balmy nights when you want to manufacture a little breeze. Our outdoor eating area is covered with beautiful lattice work and it was easy to add this electronic marvel to the mix, which consists of a complete kitchen with refrigerator, sink, and top-tier faucet, as well as a new barbecue grill combination. We have what we need to make a fast summer meal. Our lives revolve around handy items which now includes a remote-controlled ceiling fan. We found one in weatherproofed wood in a stain color that perfectly matches the latticework. I pride myself on coordinating everything as a labor of love. I even made new cushions and covers for the patio chairs and lounge. Hence, the mention of the computerized sewing machine.

So what is next that will broach the tech world and make our lives up to date. A garden hose is just a hose. A pool cleaning system is the same as it has always been. They have long had timers. Our miniature golf area are purely manual as is the lawn bowling and croquet sets. Is there anything that I have been missing? The ceiling fan may well be my last venture and it has been well worth it, cooling off the patio nicely at night after the heat buildup of a summer day. The kids know how to turn it on, of course, and adjust the speed of the fans. They can operate the light that comes with it and resides blatantly in the center. It has a dimmer which for them is a no brainer.

Life goes on for the family as we find ways to use the patio and yard in new ways. The kids play water polo and an ad hoc game of volleyball. I love that they enjoy all types of active recreation. Mom has her earphones and music playlist. What more could I want?

I live a very suburban life which means a lot of time outdoors. The weather year round is fairly nice except for one or two months. Before we put in a lovely string of lights around the patio trellis, overhead on the rafters, we always had to grab a flashlight when we went outside. There was a small fixture on the wall when we first bought the house and well before our remodeling of the area at which time we added the new lights and a full kitchen – complete with stove, refrigerator, countertops, and a cabinet for storage. We went all the way. We always knew that the old one wasn’t adequate and we had an orange bulb to keep insects away while we dined alfresco. It hardly created the needed ambience. I guess we were waiting for the right moment and would do all the renovations at once.

We had done such a nice job and it was obvious that a final touch was missing. After the new lights glowed in the dark, we stored the tactical flashlights for an emergency. There was no need to get rid of them. We can take them on walks with the dog at night or in the car to look for something lost or forgotten. They no longer have a special use to light our recreation by the pool. The pool itself has a wonderful light at the bottom and some accent lights on poles in strategic spots. They aren’t too bright like those on a football field, just enough to illuminate the area nicely. We can stay out as long as we like, which is around ten during the summer, an hour or so after full darkness. When it gets really dark in late November, we don’t really feel in the mood. We enjoy the yard earlier in the day or evening.

Our lighting system was a custom job put in by a licensed electrician who we found online. He showed us different models with various sizes of ornamental lights. We opted for something medium size—not to large or too small. You can change the bulbs, he said, at holiday time or if you are having a party. They add a lot to a special event. I could have predicted that fact. There is no need to use a dimmer, he added, and it is easy to turn them off and on. I can give you a remote for use by the pool. The kids always enjoy them. I know, he said, as I am a father. My children are about your age. By the way, you have a lovely yard. You did a great job placing the croquet area, the lawn bowling equipment, and the miniature golf hole. I have to give it to you. This is the nicest yard I have seen in the neighborhood. I hope you don’t mind but I am going to steal some of your ideas. Unless you want a freelance job, that is. I laughed.

I hear so much about Man Caves. These dark, dreary places with big screens and dark furniture. Sports memorabilia everywhere. Ugh. Who wants to hang out in a cave, anyway?

I much prefer light, airy spaces. Don’t you?

That’s why I converted a section of my backyard into a Lady’s Retreat. It has comfortable, colorful furniture. There is a beautiful side table that I can use to place my drink, my phone, or the latest book I want to read. It has a few scattered lanterns for when I want soft light at night, and a brighter lamp if I want to read outside after dark. I love it.

The idea, though, is that it is a retreat. I am lucky in that I can run power to the area since it is a covered space, but there isn’t a tv in sight! I wanted something quiet and peaceful, somewhere that the kids wouldn’t be interested in going to watch their cartoons and start littering my space with toys and such.

If you’ve got the room to do something like this, I highly recommend it. Even if it is just a little corner of the yard under your favorite tree, it is worth it to carve out a small place to call your own. Everyone needs a place to simply be, to reflect on their day or think about their dreams. An outdoor space can be especially perfect for this purpose, because being outside can free you from the stress of your day or the chores you feel obligated to do when you’re inside the house.

You need two main things: lighting and seating. There are lots of different options for lighting: from solar powered to wired to battery powered, you can find something that you like. Make sure it is rated for outdoor use and you shouldn’t have any problems. Some of the solar powered stuff is really cute now, and it’s great because you don’t need to do anything to it. As for seating, be thoughtful with your purchase. Plastic may be cheap, but it will feel that way. Metal or wood are good choices, too, and will likely last longer. Find good cushions in a pattern or design that you like that is in an outdoor fabric. It will resist fading and mold.

Adding little touches like outdoor figurines, a bird feeder, some flowers, or an outdoor rug, will really make your retreat feel special and welcoming. I try not to make my space too cluttered – if I find something new and cute, I donate or pack away something that’s already in the space so that I always have the same amount of items. Then when I feel the need for a change, I can take out something old and rotate it back in. But you do what works for you. If lush foliage is your thing, go for it. If you want butterflies to visit you, go crazy planting wildflowers. This is a space for you to enjoy, treat it that way!

Wintertime is made for snuggling under blankets and curling up on the couch, reading a book and sipping a hot chocolate. Summertime, however, is meant to be enjoyed outside in the fresh air. That freedom and joy that you had for summer as a kid can still be had as an adult! The perfect outdoor living space helps you do all the outdoor activities you and your family want – the swimming, the sports, the entertaining – and here’s the best part: it is all so much easier when you have a designated place for them that’s not inside your house when the weather is nice.

For example, my kids love ice cream. They often get distracted, though, which makes it not the neatest of experiences. I would avoid letting them have it because I couldn’t stand the sticky table and floor afterward. However, now they certainly can eat ice cream outside and I simply hose down the table afterward! The same goes for my husband: he likes to cook but isn’t always conscious of the drippings and crumbs that are flying everywhere as he preps. Rather than having to disinfect the kitchen and run the self-cleaning feature on my oven every time he cooks, I send him outside where he can grill to his heart’s content. And he does a great job cleaning the grill so I never have to worry about it. It’s a win for everyone: I’m not cringing at every drip and splatter, and they’re free to be themselves.

Another great thing about having a nice patio area in the summer is when the kids go swimming. If you have a pool, you know what it’s like having a trail of wet footprints and puddles to places like the bathroom and the refrigerator. We put a small fridge outside and keep it stocked with water and other drinks that the kids like as well as a few snacks, and that has cut down on the water trails significantly. The kids love that they can help themselves and then sit at the outdoor area so they can quickly get back to playing in the pool. Now they only have to come inside when nature calls and the house is no longer a slip and slide.

For the grown-ups, how nice is it to sit out in front of a fire pit at night with a glass of wine or, on a really hot night, a frozen margarita? Summer parties are so much nicer at night. You put on a little music, light a few lanterns, and the yard has a happy, joyous feel that would take hours of prep to do inside. And clean up is always so easy – we often use paper plates (I love the biodegradable kind) and plastic cups so everything can be composted, trashed, or thrown in the dishwasher. I never feel obligated to break out the crystal wine glasses or the good china when we’re dining outside! Everything is so much more fun and casual when you have it in an outdoor setting.

Before you start buying furniture, hiring landscapers, or put up a single board, think about what you want your outdoor space to be. Ask yourself some honest questions. Here are a couple to get you started: do you want to be able to sit outside at night but hate bugs? Want to use the space in the summer but live somewhere very hot? Do you want to be able to watch TV outside, or are you fine with being without power? Is outdoor cooking something you love to do?

Having the answers to questions like these will really give you an idea of what to look for when you’re buying materials (if you are a DIY kind of person) or what to tell your contractor. If you know you want to be outside year round but the weather where you live doesn’t necessarily cooperate – maybe it is too hot sometimes or it gets very cold – then you know you want an enclosed space. Same thing if you want to be able to enjoy being outside without getting bothered by bugs. Even then, you have some options. You can have a screened-in patio or a four seasons room.

And if you love to host cookouts, consider an outdoor kitchen instead of just a grill. Think about how functional you want the space to be. You’d be surprised at how much easier life is when you’ve got a sink, counter space, or even a small fridge out there with you when you’re preparing food to throw on the grill. You also are going to want a table and some seating options that will work for the amount of people you typically cook for.

If it is a relaxing space you’re looking for, there are wonderful outdoor sofas, rugs, and other furniture available that look more and more like regular indoor furniture but are surprisingly durable. It can be a second family room, or a space for the grownups to unwind after a long day at work. Permanent or portable metal fire pits are a great way to round out the space and make an excellent focal point to any outdoor living area.

The lighting is something else to consider. If you want to entertain outdoors, soft solar lighting is a good choice – there is little to no work involved, and there are some really fantastic options. Especially if you’ve got a fire pit, you can get away with a less-is-more mentality. But if you’re hoping to read a book outdoors on a balmy summer night, you’re going to have to invest in some quality lighting. If you’re able to run power out there, you have lots of options as far as lighting goes. Just make sure that whatever you choose is rated for outdoor use!

Whatever you decide to do in your yard, be sure to have a good view of some lovely pieces of nature. Whether it is some beautiful flowers, some potted herbs, or a shady tree, let nature be part of your outdoor living!

I love patio gardening. It helps take a space that looks like part of the house and showcases the best parts of being an outdoor space. It doesn’t matter if I plant flowers, vegetables, or herbs, a patio garden looks beautiful. I’m going to give you some more information as to why I love it so much and we’ll see if I haven’t convinced you by the end as well!

First, we’ll go with the most obvious. Let’s face it: containers are prettier than dirt. You can get very creative with them in different arrangements or stack them in all kinds of ways, and some containers are very beautiful just on their own. There are all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors for you to choose from, too, making it easier for you to find something that will match the rest of your decor. Flowers in the ground lining a path look beautiful, but when you put beautiful flowers in a beautiful container, you have double the opportunity to make things super pretty. Sure, you can get colored mulch, but it’s still mulch. How is that prettier than a decorative container?

Second, containers travel. That’s good if you only live somewhere part time (say a summer home) or if you are a renter (then your plants can simply come with you the next time you move). If you live somewhere that gets too cold for certain plants over the course of the year, you can easily bring them indoors when there are frost warnings. It also helps if whatever you want to plant likes a certain amount of sun or shade, but your yard isn’t set up that way. You can easily move a container in and out of the sun as needed to keep your plants healthy.

Third, you’re not dependent on your soil. It’s much easier for me to put a hydrangea plant in a pot than it is for me to grow it in my yard. The nutrients in my yard’s soil can actually turn the blossoms to a different color! But when I use potter’s soil, I can get the right soil for each plant that I want to use around my yard without having to worry about what nature has already bestowed on me.

And then there’s probably my favorite part: patio gardening allows me to have plants in places where there is no natural soil: on a deck, on stone or even cement. By adding a container with some greenery, you can add a little pop of color – and nature – to your patio or other outdoor living space, regardless of whether it is enclosed or not.

So what do you think? Did I persuade you to get a container or two for your patio to bring some more of the ‘outdoors’ into your outdoor living space? Or are you the type that would just as soon pave over their whole lawn? Let me know in the comments!