Creating Beautiful Outdoor Living Spaces

cottagereardeck patioseating pooldeck seating areas

I’m certainly no deck builder, but I have designed a number of decks over the years. There are a number of questions that you need to address in the initial stages of deck design in order to ensure a beautiful space that accommodates all the ways you plan to use it!  Who will be using the space and what will you do there? BBQ, dining area, sitting area, sun tanning, play area for children? Take everything into account, then draw out your space to make sure you have enough room.

At our cottage, we have a beautiful sunroom facing the water. We get a beautiful breeze with the windows open and best part – NO mosquitos! However, we do not have an area where we can sit outside and really enjoy the sun. One of our plans this year is to extend the small deck beyond the sunroom to the opposite side of the house. This would give us a sunroom that is 240 square feet with an added outdoor deck that is approximately 500 square feet. This would be if we do nothing more than build out to the far opposing corner. 

My plans for using the space are simple. We need a nice outdoor BBQ area and a nice dining area on the deck. I would also like to have a nice seating area where we can sit and relax with our children, family and friends. So we need to have no less than seating for 8 and maybe 10+. So I’ll plan out and create a sitting/ lounging area, a BBQ area and a dining area. I’m considering adding a pergola over the far area, not so much for shade, although my husband will want shade, but as an added decorative feature. Once I draw out the space, we may even have some room for some built in seating along the perimeter…..All that’s left now is some planters for flowers, which anyone who knows me, knows is a must! I love my summer flowers! We still have an alternate dining area in the sunroom if weather or mosquitos require we move, but we can now enjoy the outdoors and with our short summers, we try to make the most of the nice days!

We also plan to build a smaller porch/deck at our main entry. This would only be about 6’ feet wide and about 20 ‘long and would provide a small seating area. This is more to dress up the entry to our cottage. The stairs were old and needed replacing when we bought it last year. Rather than just replace the existing stairs and landing, I wanted to create something that would add to the character of the home, and create a more welcoming feel. What’s more inviting on a country home than a nice covered porch with some outdoor seating off to the side? I have designed a beautiful deck/porch that will give our cottage tremendous appeal and a beautiful sitting area. 

It’s important to consider how you intend to use a deck before you build. If you want a shady area make sure you do not build in an area that has full sun all day. Pay attention to how the sun travels along that side of the house. Do you have neighboring buildings or trees that block the sun? Will this change how you use it – or maybe change where you plan on locating it! Maybe instead of building it to the right of the patio door, after watching the sun you find the left side of the patio door has both sun and shade which allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds! One word of caution, if you are in an open area that can receive a lot of wind, patio umbrellas are not always going to work as a means of providing shade. You may wish to plan a small shade feature if your deck is in a full sun location. Our pool deck is in full sun, and we can only use the patio umbrella on days with little wind, otherwise I’m chasing the umbrella across the yard! A sight I’m sure my neighbors have giggled at more than once!

Don’t forget to plan for winter storage. I plan our decks with cedar fence skirting which allows me to use the area below the deck (and sunroom) for storage! It’s the perfect place to hide the Christmas yard ornaments in summer and yard furniture and planter pots for the winter. For security sake, remember to always have a locking mechanism to protect your belongings when you are away.

The options for yard furniture seem almost limitless and can fit pretty much any style and budget. So have fun, enjoy decorating your new space. Make it uniquely yours! There are no rules on decorating outdoors spaces except to make them fun and functional! Enjoy! One word of caution, if you are in an area with trees that lose seeds, you may want to consider furniture covers to protect your furniture from stains from seed pods dropping from overhead trees. As an alternative, take your cushions in when not in use to protect them.

The transition between your yard and your deck should be appealing as well. Even if you are not a gardener, a small area with landscape fabric to prevent weeds from sprouting, and a few small shrubs with an appealing mulch will make the transition look fabulous! It’s low maintenance and creates that visual distinction between yard and deck! If you’re like me and look for any reason to plant more flowers, then get out your perennial books and start planning your next flower garden! Besides, it is so much easier to cut grass around a garden than to have to trim around the deck! 

Our living spaces are an extension of ourselves and our families. Creating beautiful outdoor living spaces need the same time, planning and attention to detail that our indoor spaces receive! So dream it, plan it, build it, and enjoy!