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Pandemic pups, bread baking and TikTok dances are just a few of the ways we entertained ourselves during Covid-19, but if there is one trend that is still going strong, it is the importance of having a functional outdoor living space. While heat lamps were about as hard to find during the pandemic as toilet paper, outdoor living spaces have evolved into multi-functional havens and continue to dominate in the building and home design industries. According to leading real estate website Zillow, a functional outdoor space is the most sought-after amenity among today’s homebuyers. 

Photos Courtesy of Construction Marketing

Creating outdoor living spaces
From simply covering a deck or screening in an existing porch to building an elaborate outdoor dining and entertaining oasis, creating outdoor living spaces can enhance the value of your home up to 20 percent, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects. Such spaces speak to quiet staycations as well as lively parties and family gatherings and can be as varied as the seasons. 

When consulting with clients, the first place Mike Bryant of Construction Marketing starts is function. He and his team ask what clients want to use it for and what activities will happen there. Maybe it is curling up with a book on a cozy sofa, entertaining large parties with an outdoor kitchen and bar or just gathering around a fire pit with friends for quiet conversation.

Existing decks and patios can be transformed into year-round spaces, but Bryant notes that code requirements have changed significantly in the past five years and building new structures to stricter code is the best way to go. This is particularly so with decks. 

Bill Garren of Green Acres landscaping also worries about water. “It’s a terrible thing to have water knock you out of a house you’ve invested in.” Projects that are piecemeal often pose problems, and when designing outdoor living spaces, his company makes sure water hits a correctly sloping roof and falls through proper downspouts and gutters. He believes that a roof can dramatically change a space. 

“It protects from the blistering sun or light drizzle and helps blend the indoor and outdoor to make spaces more inviting,” says Garren. They can be stained or painted. Roofing can be as simple as a canvas rollout and elaborate as a roof that is tiled, covered in beadboard or corrugated metal. 

Keeping it cozy
Heating sources are essential for outdoor living spaces. Bryant likes infrared gas heaters. “They are safe and keep things comfortable above 50°F. They heat the object [floor, furniture, person] and not the air and can add a month or so of use to an outdoor space,” says Bryant. Fire tables add ambience and warmth and can be jazzed up as beautiful vessels with elements such as fire glass or stone, but they must be winterized and covered unless they are under a roof. 

Luxury projects are limitless, but outdoor kitchens and bars need to be winterized. You need a cutoff to water sources and icemaker lines when the weather drops to freezing. It’s important to buy outdoor-rated appliances and weatherproof furniture. Woods with a high oil content such as teak hold up well. Other options include polyethylene wicker and aluminum. Stay away from bare metals and materials such as wrought iron as they will rust. Sunbrella® is an excellent fabric for cushions. Invest in high-quality furniture and grill covers to protect from mold, mildew and rust.

Whatever weather comes this winter, being proactive with your outdoor spaces will allow you to enjoy them longer — possibly even year-round!

Zhuzh it up
Install a high-definition TV for watching the big game with the gang
Set up a telescope for stargazing
Fill up bird feeders and set out binoculars for bird watching
Organize an outdoor fitness area under a shade sail
Purchase a dedicated four-person card table for board games, puzzles or cards
Create a dedicated reading nook with a place for storing books and magazines
Add a daybed for al fresco napping
Provide a stocked coffee bar for early morning reading
Fill a wicker basket with cozy throws and blankets
Set up a Bluetooth® sound system
Add Edison or twinkle lights
Install water features like bubbling fountains or a plunge pool
Hang bamboo wind chimes
Fill up planters with winter themes using holly, pine, berries, pinecones and magnolia leaves in December and hardy blooms in late winter like violas, pansies, primrose and decorative kale.

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