The right design and functionality elements enhance a home's backyard appeal

March 14, 2009|For METRO SOURCE

Outdoor living spaces are a growing home trend, and backyards are becoming a reflection of homeowners' sense of style and personality. No longer relegated to a few folding chairs, homeowners are designing their backyards with the principle that an outdoor living room is just as important as an indoor living room.

"Backyards are becoming true reflections of the home, causing for a revival of gardening and landscaping, and growth of outdoor kitchens and living rooms," said Wendy Loomis, landscape designer at Minnesota-based Buell's Landscape Center. "From serene fountains to stucco fireplaces to awning-covered patios, there are a number of options to create a backyard oasis, allowing homeowners to reconnect with their outdoor spaces in a unique, yet practical way."

Creating a Color Scheme

Similar to how you paint an indoor room with a color scheme in mind, outdoor rooms can make a statement by incorporating colorful plants throughout the area. Bright, large flowers can be used in areas designated for outdoor activities, while soft, subtle greens can create a tranquil reading nook. Loomis also notes that homeowners should choose a landscape style that integrates the recurring outdoor color schemes and complements the home's style.


And the colors can go beyond landscape. Carrying a scheme throughout outdoor pillows, rugs, throws, furniture or awning fabrics and styles ties all of the outdoor elements together.

"When you take advantage of capitalizing on the color, texture and fabric of outdoor elements, the entire outdoor living space truly becomes a room," said Michelle Sahlin, managing director, Professional Awning Manufacturers Association. "Just as you would match a comforter or duvet with the color scheme of a bedroom, matching an awning with other outdoor elements brings the room to life."

Lighting up the Room

Proper lighting allows for more time spent in the outdoor living rooms. Whether you're looking for decorative electric lighting or just simple candles or lanterns, additional lighting makes the space enjoyable at various times of the day. Cozy outdoor fireplaces or fire pits serve as an option to bring both light and warmth in the cool evening hours and to extend the use of the outdoor space into the transitional seasons of spring and fall.

Keeping Safety and Privacy a Priority

While homeowners are eager to spend time in their outdoor spaces, there are a variety of ways to make the outdoor room more private and protected like the inside of a home. Patio and deck awnings create an extension of the home, serving as an outdoor ceiling.

"An awning not only provides protection from the sun and heat, it also keeps your home cooler by shading windows and doors from the harmful rays of the sun," said Sahlin. "And with the ability to choose from a variety of awning styles, sizes and fabrics, you don't have to sacrifice on design elements."

Fences and lattice provide additional privacy, serving as walls to the outdoor living spaces. Some homeowners have successfully grown climbing plants, such as grape vines and Virginia creeper, on open fence for privacy.

Creating a Focal Point

In addition to landscape elements, consider decorative items that enhance the outdoor room. Similar to pictures and wall decor inside a home, wind chimes, fountains and different hangings can add to an overall design theme. And what better way to enjoy the view of your outdoor room than with coordinated deck or patio accessories. Lounge chairs, tables, benches and hammocks all provide a relaxing way to take in the indoor/outdoor transition you've created.

To learn more about outdoor living trends and for more information about awnings, please visit

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