Everyone loves the outdoors, and spending time in the fresh air and sunshine is good for our health. Having an outdoor space that is both comfortable and inviting will encourage you to spend more time in the great outdoors of your own backyard. Whether you’re just daydreaming about an outdoor space, or whether you are taking steps to install or upgrade one, we’ve put together some things that will help you in the process.

poly dining set in backyard pool area

Consider your situation

Even the biggest projects have limitations, so no matter what your goals are, it’s a good idea to think about your site and your resources before you start shopping for materials.

1. Space

The amount of space you have will determine the number of features that you can include in your plans. A postage-stamp patio has room for a couple of comfortable chairs, a side table, and even a small water fountain. On the other hand, a sprawling backyard provides more opportunities and requires more decisions.

2. View

Not everyone has a house by a lake or on a mountaintop, but if your property has a view, you’ll want to take advantage of it when laying out your space. Try to situate your design to accentuate the view. And if you’ll be adding plants, think about how big they’ll be ten years from now—you don’t want to invest in plants that will obstruct your view as they grow.

blue high top poly table with chairs

3. Plants

Speaking of plants, do you have existing greenery that will add to the atmosphere of your space? Perhaps you have a large tree that offers afternoon shade. You’ll want to situate your space so that these plants enhance your pleasure, and you’ll want to make sure that you protect them while you are building your space. Think about how the construction process may damage their roots—the last thing you want is to design your space around a mature tree that is injured in the process. Don’t forget to think about the kind of tree you have—does it drop a lot of messy fruit or flowers? If so, it might be better to adjust your planned location.

4. Privacy

If your space is on the small side, and your neighbors are close by, will there be privacy concerns? If so, you may need to budget for a fence or a privacy hedge. 

5. Weather

You can’t control the weather, but you can take it into account when designing your space. Think about the direction the wind usually comes from. You don’t want the smoke from your new fire ring to be always in your face. Also consider the sun.  Where is it during the times of day when you will be using your space? Will you need a patio umbrella or pergola or some other way to provide shade? Will the sun be in your eyes as it’s going down?

6. Budget

Setting a budget for your project is always important. When you consider your finances before you plan and shop, you’ll be able to keep your goals within reach. The last thing you want is to be sitting in your new space worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills you just created.

Adirondack chairs by the pool

Consider your goals

People have different goals for their outdoor spaces. For some it may just be a private retreat for an individual or a family. Others are looking for a charming place to host large gatherings.

1. A private retreat

Even if you are looking for just a quiet place to read or to unwind with your family, you’ll want to think about the elements that will help you reach your goals. You may just need a comfortable, long-lasting chair, or you may want a whole furniture set and a way to watch a movie. It’s often easier to plan right the first time than to make changes later on.

2. A hosting site

If you are looking for a place to entertain your friends or extended family, then you’ll need to expand your planning horizons. Think about how many chairs and tables you’ll need, and how much space they will take up. Make allowances for food preparation and serving as well as the space required for a large group to mingle without bumping into each other.


Planning for your ideas

Now that you’ve thought about your existing space and resources and you’ve thought about what you want to do with your outdoor space, it’s time to think about what you’ll need to make the space just right. Some elements are basic to an outdoor space, while others can be added to enhance its atmosphere.

1. Important Elements

While you could create a basic outdoor space just by carrying a folding chair outside, a true outdoor getaway requires a few basic elements.

I. Furniture

The most important part of an outdoor space is having somewhere to sit. If you plan to eat or host outdoors, you’ll want some tables too. Before you buy your furniture, consider the space it will take, the comfort it will provide, and what its typical lifespan will be. Choosing quality outdoor furniture can be an investment that lasts the better part of a lifetime. Though outdoor furniture has been available for years in wood, metal, and plastic, it’s hard to beat the quality, durability, and lack of headaches that come with today’s poly furniture. 

View Outdoor Furniture

ll. Flooring

When thinking about furniture and accessories, don’t forget about what’s under your feet. Grass and mulch are soft and inviting, but they’re not the best foundations for chairs. If you stay with grass, you’ll need to mow that grass, which will require you to move furniture around. Instead, you’ll probably want a hardscape like cement or pavers. You can always soften those features by adding a durable outdoor carpet.

lll. Lighting

If you plan to enjoy your space after dark, you’ll need exterior lighting. In the past, floodlights gave light for after-dark activities. While they can still do the job, now there are many softer, more pleasant ways to light up the night. Consider LED string lighting or outdoor lamps as an option.

inviting outdoor space with poly furniture and string lights

2. Important Accessories

In addition to the basics of furniture, flooring, and lighting, there are a number of other elements that can turn your outdoor space into a true oasis. 

l. Shade

If you don’t have natural shade, you’ll want to consider ways to shield yourself from the summer sun’s heat and radiation. This can be as simple as a sturdy patio umbrella or as complex as a designer-built pergola or gazebo.

ll. Privacy

If your yard is small, or if you just like the feeling of a cozy, confined space, think about how you’ll create that seclusion. Fencing and latticework give instant results but aren’t always the most pleasant to look at. Shrubbery can create a living screen, but it will take at least several years for new plants to provide the privacy you’re looking for.

lll. Plants

Since you’ll likely have some form of hardscape in your plans (like patio walls and pavers), you’ll want to soften your surroundings with something that’s alive. Plants not only take the hard edges off their surroundings, but they also add a feeling of vibrancy. Choosing plants with beautiful blooms or fragrant smells adds seasonal variety to your space. 

lV. Water Features

Like plants, water features can bring life to your surroundings. This can be something as elaborate as a pond full of fish or as simple as a tabletop fountain. Water not only brings a sense of comfort, but the sound of flowing water can also muffle the sounds of neighbors or nearby traffic.

V. Fire

Fire is another way to bring your space to life. A fire ring or gas heater provides something to gather around for toasting marshmallows in the summer or warming up on a chilly night.

white poly rocking chairs

Consider your layout

Once you have an idea of the elements that you want in your outdoor oasis, you need to draw up some sketches of how they should be arranged. There are online tools that let you do this with precision, but paper and pencil can get you started.

While you’re working on your design, keep in mind how your furniture is arranged and how it will affect the flow of people. Keep the furniture close enough for conversation, but not so close that it’s hard to walk around. 

Wrapping up

Whether you need a table for two, or whether you need an elaborate site for frequent dinner parties, planning ahead can make a big difference in the long-term enjoyment of your outdoor space. Keeping these elements in mind can save you time and frustration and allow you to get the most of life in your own backyard.

View Outdoor Dining Furniture