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10 Must Haves for The Perfect Outdoor Living Space

Now that spring is getting closer I am looking forward to the warmer weather and using my outdoor space once again.  Creating a welcoming and functional patio or porch doesn’t have to be expensive,  but there are some basic items you will want to invest in if you want to get the most out of your outdoor space.

If you do happen to have a larger budget, or are willing to DIY a few projects, there are some additional features you could add to create an even more luxurious atmosphere. I’m sharing both budget friendly and more extravagant options in this roundup, since we all can use as much inspiration as we can get!

10 must have items that every outdoor space needs. Transform your porch or patio into an outdoor room with these 10 essentials.10 Must Haves for the Perfect Patio Space

The number one most essential feature of a friendly porch or patio is SEATING.  If you don’t have a place to sit and rest, the chances you will want to stay for any prolonged period of time is zero. Using multiple sofas in a block creates the feel of an entire outdoor room and would be a great place to entertain.
outdoor seating
 From: House Beautiful

 If space is limited, smaller conversation areas with single chairs is another option.
seating area
From: Rob Cardillo

If you want to use your patio more than during daylight hours, you are going to have to install supplemental lighting.  Many people balk at the idea of DIY’ing landscape lighting, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think.   In fact, it can be a simple as running string lights from an exterior outlet using an outdoor extension cord.  And the amount of solar options that don’t require ANY electricity at all are increasing every day.

If you don’t have a pergola or other place to run string lights, you can take this tip from Brooklyn Limestone and use large posts set in concrete .
string lights over firepit
Of course, if you really want to go out all out, low voltage landscape lighting use to uplight trees and walkways, as well as flood lights to really brighten outdoor spaces are great options
accent wall lighting
Via: Stephen Stimson Landscape Architects 

I love these DIY cube lights by The Navage Patch. What a great example of taking inexpensive walkway lighting and making it something that looks way more sophisticated.
DiY Cedar Cube Landscape Lights | DIY solar outdoor lights | How to clean a solar panel | How to make non-working the solar lights work again | Simple woodworking and garden crafts | Garden and backyard decor | Budget garden and backyard ligthing | TheNavagePatch.com

Dining Area:
Few things bring people together the way a good meal does. Dining outside is the wonder way to entertain guests or to spend a later summer afternoon with your family.  Having a dining table on your patio designates a dining area and instantly makes the space more useable.  If your outdoor area is limited, consider a small round or bistro table, there are even tables that can fold down completely if you don’t have space for it to be up all the time.
round outdoor fold up table
To accommodate large groups of people, consider long rectangle tables with bench seating.

bench seating
From: New England Home

If you want to build you own table there are hundreds of plans available on the internet. This DIY herringbone dining table from Cherished Bliss is one of my personal faves.
outdoor dining

In the summer months, even in cooler climates, the direct sun of midday can be overwhelming and unpleasant, therefore patio or porch should have some source of shade.  Creating a shady spot on your patio can be as easy as installing sun umbrellas or even sun shades. (We actually use this sun sail over our patio in the summer and LOVE IT!)
shady sun sail
Of course if you want a more permanent solution, a pergola, awning for roof structure is another idea. Amy has a wonderful post on everything you should consider when building a pergola which lays out all the pros and cons.pergola

In the evenings and in the cooler seasons, you want to make sure your outdoor space  Propane stand heaters have been around for a while and are getting more and more affordable, while the newer style pyramid heaters with exposed flames are becoming more and more popular.
If you want the source of your heat to be more than just functional, consider a fire pit.  Commercial fire pits run in price from under $100 to thousands. They are available with all sorts of different fuel sources and in unlimited styles.
From: GreenMeadows landscaping

Of course fire pits can be a DIY project, and a relatively affordable one too. Jamie has a simple tutorial using wall blocks to create one on a budget.
diy firepit

Cooking/Drink Prep Area:
Being able to prep and cook your meal while actually enjoying the outdoor is big bonus of having an outdoor cooking area.  Being able to grill and serve your guests outside means you get to be present with them the whole time instead of heading back indoors to the kitchen.
outdoor dining and kitchen
Source: currently unknown
Of course, when I say “outdoor kitchen” your mind may immediately jump to an extravagant built in space that costs thousands and requires a lot of room. But when you are talking about a place for meal prep and cooking,  it could be as simple as a portable grill and rolling prep cart.   This one from Jen Woodhouse is a personal fave.  
rolling bar cart

And if your parties focus on the beverages just as much as the food, consider an outdoor bar or even a beverage cart. This bookshelf and cooler makeover by Table and Hearth is a great example of how you can DIY a functional and unique bar space on a budget! 
cooler bar cart

When decorating a patio or other outdoor area, you should embrace the natural elements that are already there.
patio garden
From: Sue Adcock Designs

The addition of vegetation, both planted directly in the ground or in stand alone planters can bring color and life to the space.  I have built a series of different planters for my backyard. They are a great starter DIY project for new woodworkers. This pottery barn knockoff is still one of my most popular builds.

Hedges or vertical gardens can work to define one area from the rest of the yard, and climbing vines such as bougainvillea and wisteria can be trained to form overhead cover, which can offer shade from the sun.

If your home is located in an urban or even suburban area, you may hear a lot of background noise when using your background.  A great way to cancel out the sounds of neighbors and traffic is with a sound feature. Installing outdoor speakers allows you to pipe any sounds or music you want into your back yard.  And the technology today is fantastic. Speakers can be wired or wireless, they can be installed into the ground or mounted on your home, fence or pergola, or they can be completely disguised.
outdoor speakers
From: Outdoor Speaker Depot
This speaker even looks like a garden figurine of a rabbit. You would never know it was a speaker!
rabbit speaker
Of course, speakers don’t have to be the only source of sound in your backyard.  Water features and fountains are another more subtle way of drowning out background noise.  Maire’s gorgeous water wall is an example of DIY version of a water featureWater Wall Patio Water Feature

To keep your outdoor space tidy and uncluttered, you want to consider outdoor storage.  Be it a simple storage cabinet, or a garden bench with hidden storage, you want a place to hide all the clutter that can accumulate.
bench with storage
Building your own storage is another option, and one that is a little more budget friendly and fun.  My x-leg wooden bench allows me to hide the kids toys and my decorating accessories out of sight when they aren’t being used.

I also have devised a secret storage option for my garden hose, with this planter that features a false bottom.

Decorative Accents:
Even though it may not be a true room, your outdoor space should still reflect your home’s style. 
Decorating accessories such as rugs, throw pillows, seat cushions, upholstery fabric as well as serving pieces, lanterns and dinnerware all convey a sense of style.   Choose accents that you love, and your space will automatically become more welcoming.
From: Pottery Barn 
Creating a functional and livable outdoor space is not much different than creating an indoor one. When deciding what you need for your deck or patio, just focus on how you want to use the space, and what it takes to make it comfortable and welcoming.

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