If you haven’t been making the most of your backyard, now is the time to elevate your space so it’s comfortable and functional—in other words, make it an outdoor living room that your family and friends love hanging out in. We spoke to local design experts for great ideas so you can really enjoy this summer.
Decks and patios have come a long way from being simple concrete slabs or plain-treated boards. New materials allow for easy integration of bold designs and styles. This can be done with decorative paver stones, as well as wood-alternative materials. Kimberley Williams, senior vice president at Williams Lumber in Rhinebeck, recommends Trex composite deck boards, Unilock interlocking paving stones, or Cambridge ArmorTec stones—they’re more of an investment than treated wood, but the products will last for years and require minimal maintenance.
Armenia-based designer Ariella Duker encourages clients to stray from big matching sets; she likes to mix up styles and materials and then create a cohesive look with a color scheme. This not only personalizes your space but is ideal for maximizing your budget. By decorating a la carte, “you can splurge on larger pieces like a dining table, and spend less on other items, like a side table,” she says. If you own a large matching set, don’t be afraid to break it up! Duker suggests creating multiple entertaining areas under the same porch roof or placing them in unconventional spots—a bench under a far off tree, or a café table and chairs by the pool.
When designing your backyard oasis, an outdoor kitchen is an excellent addition. According to Jess Zavaglia, owner of Zavaglia Associates landscape design in Larchmont, outdoor kitchens have always been a popular wish list item but they have become a must-have during the course of the pandemic. “We all have a deeper appreciation for spending time with family and friends. When entertaining indoors, the kitchen is always the natural gathering spot, so extending that tendency to your outdoor space makes perfect sense,” she says. In addition to grills, Zavaglia recommends installing a cooktop, ample counterspace, undercounter storage, and a fridge with an ice maker.
“Outdoor spaces always make people feel happier and healthier,” says Williams. So set yours up to be the place where everyone wants to hang out. If you love hosting movie nights, or just want some space to enjoy your favorite Netflix shows, find a spot for a big screen TV. If your family is into games, set up a card table or clear a space for lawn games. Prefer to just hang out under the stars? Duker recommends a few lounge chairs around a masonry firepit. This option is fairly easy to create, and more authentic than a propane-fueled pit. “There’s no better way to turn debris from summer storm cleanup into an evening soiree,” Duker says. If you have more time and a larger budget, an outdoor fireplace can be great for your space.