Outdoor living spaces can significantly improve your quality of life: They free up space in your home and allow to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. If you're interested in building an outdoor retreat, read this guide to learn about the many uses of outdoor spaces and the many ways you can build them.
Ideas for Using an Outdoor Space
Outdoor living areas aren't just for lounging around — they can provide space for a variety of activities. All of us have heard of outdoor living rooms and kitchens, but there are many other ways to use an outdoor area.
• An office: A office is essential to every home, so if you don't have space for one inside, consider creating one outdoors. It'll make your work much more enjoyable, and will also help separate your work life from your home life.
• An art studio: Unless you're a professional artist, it may be hard to justify dedicating an entire room in your house to your art. By creating one outside, not only will you save on space — you may even find the surrounding nature inspires you.
• A reading nook: Reading requires quiet, which sometimes can be challenging to find indoors. An outdoor reading space is a great way to escape the household noise. You don't even have to create a separate room — you could just use a corner of an existing outdoor living area.
• A gym: Although important for our health, a gym is another one of those rooms many of us don't have the square footage to accommodate. If you have workout equipment in your garage or living room, you will probably benefit from creating an outdoor gym. That will declutter your house and encourage you to spend more time in your backyard.
• A yoga studio: Yoga studios allow more flexibility because — unlike most gyms — they don't require electricity. While lighting might be a nice touch, you can usually make do without it. Outdoor yoga studios don't require a solid enclosure, either. In fact, you'll probably enjoy it more in the fresh air where you can feel a breeze. If you do prefer an enclosed space, it may be a good idea to add French doors to let in daylight and fresh air.
• A meditation room: A yoga studio can easily double as a meditation room — these two practices even use a few of the same tools.
• A sewing or crafting room: Whether it's your profession or a hobby, sewing and crafting need dedicated space. Although you could keep your materials in a closet and pull them out when you need them, this is inconvenient and eats up storage space in your home. Moving your craft room outside will free up space in your house.
• A playroom: An enclosed, outdoor playroom will allow your kids to play in the backyard, even when it's raining. It also provides space for their toys — a major source of clutter in your house. To prevent the kids from tracking in mud, you can create a stone walkway to the playroom.
• A writer's retreat: If you're hoping to write the next great novel, you will need a quiet, inspiring place to do so. Leaving the noisy house for a tranquil backyard retreat will help you clear your head and collect your thoughts.
• A storage room: We could all do with more storage space, and adding some in your backyard will help clear room for other things inside your house. You can make a dedicated storage shed or designate part of another outdoor space, such as summer house or screened patio, for that purpose.
• A music studio: Moving your music studio outside may free up a room inside for guests or allow your kids to practice loud instruments without disturbing others in the house. Consider soundproofing this room — your neighbors will appreciate it.
• A game room: Having a game room outdoors is a great idea, as many other outdoor spaces are also for entertaining. Party guests can shoot pool while you cook on your outdoor grill, or kids can play a board game while the adults socialize in the outdoor living room.
• A spa: Spas are relaxing and therapeutic, but driving to and from the spa is not. With an at-home spa, professionals can come to you so you can enjoy massages and facials in the comfort of your home.
What Kind of Structures Can I Build?
Outdoor spaces can come in many forms, and some are better suited for certain activities. Here are a few options for structures you can build in your backyard.
• Deck: Adding a gorgeous deck to your backyard will provide a space for you to spend time with friends and family.
• Converted shed: You can convert a shed into a sewing room, game room, yoga studio and much more. That is an excellent option if you happen to have a shed out back and not a huge budget.
• Yurt: This sturdy, round tent has many uses, but works particularly well as a guest room or meditation space.
• Summerhouse: These comfy spaces, which sometimes look like converted sheds, feature a large door or a wall that can open to let in sunshine and fresh air. These spaces are particularly popular in Europe, but they are also gaining popularity in the United States among people who want to expand a living room outdoors.
• Vintage trailer: This outbuilding works well as an alternative to a guest house, or you could also convert it into an office.
• Office pod: Prefabricated office pods are easy to install and can serve as an office space, playroom or art studio.
• Screened-in porch: If you happen to have a stone or brick patio, consider converting some or all of it into a screened porch. Although a simple structure, it can become a game room, art studio and much more.
• Sunroom: This structure, also called a solarium, can be part of the design of your house or a later addition. Sturdier and more protective than a screened porch, a sunroom can serve as a workout room, office, game room or other space where you might need electricity, but want to protect valuable equipment from bad weather.
Enhancing Your Outdoor Space
Here are some tips on how to make your outdoor space more inviting.
• Use bright colors. Earth tones may look nice inside your living room, but when outside, these colors just blend in with their surroundings. And while black might be an elegant choice indoors, black furniture can get very hot under the sun. The outdoors have an abundance of greens and browns, which go best with bright, bold colors. Although bright red, blue and yellow Adirondack chairs might be a bit overwhelming inside, outdoors they'll add an appropriate touch of playfulness.
• Use atmospheric lighting. Buying tasteful, dramatic lighting for your outdoor space is a worthwhile investment. Not only will it make your space safer to walk around in the dark, but it will also transform it into an inviting spot you'll want to enjoy after the sun goes down. Generally speaking, upward-pointing lighting surrounding a house accents its architectural features, whereas lighting pointed downward produces a soft, inviting glow.
• Add fire. Fire can transform an otherwise dull space into one that is inviting and captivating. It can also help keep you warm on cooler summer nights — and if you live in a milder climate, it may be useful during the winter as well.
An outdoor fire can be something as simple as a hole in the ground or as fancy as a marble gas-fueled fireplace. Other options include a portable fire pit, which you can enjoy in various places, and a chiminea, which is an outdoor fireplace with a short chimney. Whatever type you choose, make sure to check local fire codes to see if open fires are legal where you live.
• Add water. Whereas fire brings warmth to your outdoor space, water brings a feeling of tranquility. There are water features to suit all budgets, from small, store-bought fountains to koi ponds, which feature colorful carp and have recently gained popularity in yards for their exotic, Eastern look.
• Use weatherproof products. Your outdoor products will be exposed to water, wind, sun, dirt and various other destructive elements. If you want your outdoor products to last, buy ones that are designed to withstand the conditions. If you want to furnish your patio, for instance, look for furniture that can withstand water and wind and won't fade or rot.
If you want to watch TV outside, look for an excellent outdoor model that provides good contrast and minimizes glare.
• Winterize your products. Although you may be able to bring some of your things inside for the winter months, chances are heavier things — and things bolted to the foundation — will probably stay outside in the cold. But as some of these structures are vulnerable, you should still take care of them.
Wooden structures are particularly vulnerable to the elements. In cold weather, they can easily rot, warp and crack. Try to regularly wipe off any wet spots from wooden benches and decks, as they can cause mold, mildew and stains when the weather is cold. Routinely removing leaves and dirt is also a good idea so your space will be ready to enjoy when spring comes.
• Create a focal point. Although the main purpose of an outdoor living space is to spend more time outside, most people also intend to use them for social gatherings. If you arrange all your deck chairs to face the backyard, your guests might have a beautiful view, but it doesn't make it easy for them to socialize. For this reason, have a focal point to draw all eyes.
Use the Right Materials
Even if you have the perfect outdoor space, if your materials are not weatherproof, you won't be able to enjoy it for long. Here are some examples of beautiful, durable and low-maintenance products Wolf offers for your outdoor living space needs.
• Wolf Serenity™ Decking: This decking material is a weatherproof alternative to wood that is designed to withstand the elements. Although a synthetic product, it still has the natural look of real wood. It's also available in a variety of colors, including Cypress, Amberwood and Harbor Gray. This material features ColorWatch100(TM) Technology — an innovative finish that provides long-term protection against UV rays, so your purchase will retain its original color for many years.
• Wolf Perspective™ Decking. This synthetic product is strong and durable and features a rich wood-grain textured finish. It is made from up to 94% recycled materials and resists moisture, mold and mildew.
• Wolf Serenity™ Porch. This product shares the same benefits as Wolf Serenity Decking, but the boards are narrower, as is the convention with porches.
• Wolf Distinction Railing. This product has the refined look of wood railings, but requires significantly less upkeep. It features OptiBracket™ technology, which makes installation easier and hides hardware from view. It also integrates perfectly with Wolf Outdoor Lighting, which comes in a simple white finish that goes well with any home.
• Wolf Railing. A versatile, value-priced option, this product features a large selection of components for both homes and business. Check out our wide variety of styles at the Wolf Railing page.
• Westbury Aluminum Railing. Made of powder-coated aluminum, the product is lightweight, extremely durable and practically maintenance-free. This railing is available in several styles and colors, including the two-rail designs of the Riviera Series and Tuscany Series.
• Wolf Endurance. Wolf Endurance cabinets are aluminum and cost significantly less than stainless steel. Protected with an all-weather finish, these cabinets are extremely durable, making them perfect for outdoor areas such as decks and patios. They're also easy to handle and install.
• Wolf Outdoor Lighting. Wolf's lighting products will allow you to enjoy your outdoor space at night while creating a cozy atmosphere. It's easy to install, and is compatible with all three Wolf railing products mentioned above. These lights are also highly energy-efficient and feature LEDs rated to last 50,000 hours.
We hope our guide on outdoor living areas has provided you with some inspiration and direction. If you need help choosing products for your outdoor space, speak to a Wolf dealer near you.