4 great ideas for your outdoor living area

June 10, 2014

Summer is a busy season. Whether it's increased travel, vacationing, traffic or shopping, it seems like more people are interested in getting things done. Even home buying tends to increase as the temperatures climb.

Speaking of which, many of today's homeowners have decks attached to their residences or plan on building one to use as an outdoor living area. In fact, based on a survey done by Harris Interactive, consumers said they intend to spend more on their outdoor living spaces this year than in 2013.

"Outdoor living spaces have evolved from a grill and a picnic table to lavishly landscaped patios and decks with couches, lounge areas and dining spaces under shaded arches, trellises, and porticos," said Sabeena Hickman, CEO of landscaping trade association Planet. "It is a trend that we expect to continue indefinitely. Americans have had a long love affair with the backyard barbeque, and now, they are taking it to the next level."

But your outdoor living space this summer doesn't have to be confined to the square footage of a deck. There's no limit to how you can set one up - only your imagination. To give you a few ideas, check out some of these suggestions from a landscaping trade group.

1. Bring your kitchen outdoors.  Talk to any landscaping professional, and they'll tell you that full-scale outdoor kitchens are more popular today than ever before. How extensive you want your kitchen to be is up to you, as the more comprehensive ones include tables, countertops and preparation areas made of brick, stone or concrete.

2. Accent with lighting. It's amazing what some strategically placed lighting can do for an outdoor living area, helping to establish a calm and peaceful mood. Landscapers refer to this as "lightscaping." These can be done professionally or there are also solar walkway lights that are ideal for do-it-yourselfers.

3. Set up an herb or flower garden. If you want to set up an outdoor living space for social gatherings, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better conversation starter than with a wildflower or herb garden. You'd be surprised how many people do gardening as a hobby. In fact, after building one, your fellow greenthumbs may offer some suggestions on how to make it even better.

4. Add a fireplace. Cool summer nights are ideal for toasting marshmallows over an open fire. What's also great about them is that they don't have to be stationed in one part of your backyard. Known as chimineas, these fire pits are portable, so you can bring the fire to you rather than the other way around.

The information in these articles is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.