Solo Build It! Case Studies

Do it Yourself Outdoor Living Space – Plan Ahead

by Melissa Cameron

Now that winter is quickly approaching, you may be wondering why I am talking about outdoor living areas. Most people are thinking about staying inside where it’s warm, with a nice cup of hot cocoa in front of the fireplace.

However, I don’t think there is a better time to be thinking about it, especially if you plan on doing most, or all of the work yourself. A well laid out plan will help you reach your goals quicker, better, and cheaper.

I am about to share with you some ideas on how to turn your backyard into a getaway oasis, and save time and money at the same time.

No Longer Just a Place to Grow Grass

The backyard is quickly being accepted as a second home, or at least an extension of your existing home. With the busy lives people are living, finding a place to get away when you don’t have time to go away is increasing in popularity.

Gazebos, pools, hot tubs, fire pits, and outdoor kitchens are just some of the items being added to the backyard to turn it into a warm and inviting place to enjoy, as well as entertain.

Draw up the Plans Now

By coming up with a plan now, it will save you time and money. If you wait until spring or summer to come up with your plans, you are cutting into your ideal time for labor. Make the plans now in the winter, when you can’t do the labor.

Also, planning now will allow you to save money, because many items you will need could be on clearance, or at least on sale. I have found that by shopping in the off season for particular items, it can save significant amounts of money.

Items such as a grill, outdoor furniture, or a nice an Oxford Garden bench can most likely be found in the off season at substantial savings.

Location, Location, Location

I dabbled in Real Estate for a short time, and the one thing I remember most is that location is the most important factor when purchasing a home. The same theory applies to your outdoor living space.

The best area is closest to your back door as possible. It will appear as an extension of the home, creating the feeling of more space, if you ever decide to sell.

Also, it’s convenient to be that close for when you entertain. Bringing out foods and beverages will be much easier, if you just have to take a couple steps.

Practical Planning

So many things can sound appealing ahead of time, such as a pool, or hot tub. However, if you are not an avid swimmer, and you’re not sure if you will use it much, I wouldn’t waste your time, money, or space in putting it in.

If you entertain a lot, a fire pit, cooking area, and a nice place to eat would be ideal. Some people have gone all out and put in a full outdoor kitchen. This would just come down to your entertaining style, and or course… budget.

Comfort is Key

When I think of sitting outdoors, I think of relaxation. So, the last thing I want in my outdoor living area is uncomfortable seating. Look for larger pieces, such as table, chairs, and loungers that will be a comfortable place to sit for long periods of time. Small tables and hard chairs will dampen any party.

If the area is not comfortable, it will most likely be used less often than you intended, and your efforts and money will be wasted. Investing a little extra for quality pieces of furniture will be well worth it in the end.

To save money on these items, look now for deals on the Internet and in home improvement stores.

Creating a Warm and Inviting Space

No matter how much time and effort you put into the outdoor space, it won’t feel like a second home, or a retreat without some accessorizing. Adding color, warmth, and lighting will make your space feel cozier.

Here are a few ideas to consider adding:

  • Colorful pillows

  • Plants

  • Flowers

  • Candles

  • Colorful urns

Another great way to add some ambiance is to install some soft lighting. You can save both time and money by installing solar lighting. It’s an easy installation, since there isn’t any wiring.

To store the accessories during the winter, invest in a couple nice outside storage benches. These can also double as extra seating, especially with nice, colorful padding.

A Shady Situation

Make sure to offer at least one decent shaded spot for the hot and sunny days. Gazebos and pergolas are a nice option, but can be expensive.

Another, less expensive, option is a nice umbrella, or a couple extra chairs off to the side.

In Closing

Planning now for your outdoor living area can save you time and money. By spending the time now to do the actual planning and shopping, it will free up your time in the spring to get started on the labor. It will also save money, as you can find great deals with off season merchandise.

The sooner you can get started with the labor, the sooner you can sit down and enjoy the fruits of it.


Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer, who through her articles, provides valuable tips and advice for her readers, often on how to save money, or ways to make our lives easier. Melissa is in her early 30’s, married with 2 young children, living in Austin Texas. She loves to search the internet for new ideas and deals, and just recently discovered Twitter.

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Dec 01, 2011
Thank You Melissa
by: Sally

Thank you Melissa for this excellent article. Your tips are very helpful and well thought out.

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