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What to Know Before Designing Your Own Outdoor Living Space

Most of us are not landscape designers. Still, all of us want an outdoor living space that looks like it was done by a professional. So how can a proud DIY’er achieve a professional finish in their own outdoor living space? What should you know before designing your own outdoor living space? Simple tips and tricks can make a huge difference.

We put together some of the simplest and most important advice for homeowners who are exploring the option of designing their own space. Everyone has different levels of experience when it comes to design, but everybody can benefit from getting back in touch with the basics.

Here are a few key things to consider before you start your own landscape design project on your property.

Consider the Size and Shape of Your Space

None of us want to try and relax in a cramped and uncomfortable backyard living space. This is why being realistic about the amount of square foot you have to work with is critical. The size and shape of your outdoor space must inform the design. Designing for smaller spaces can be more difficult. Trying to do too much in a small space can be disastrous.

Simultaneously, a design with too small of a footprint can get lost in a large backyard. With room to spread out, you can afford to be more generous with the scale of your design features. A large rectangular backyard has plenty of space for a large pool. A small lot may only have space for a spa. 

Before beginning the design process, take careful, accurate measurements of your backyard. These are the numbers that will guide the size and shape all design layouts and features.

Lifestyle–How will you use the space?

No two families are safe, and lifestyles look different for many different people. Maybe your main goal for your outdoor living space is to have room to entertain a larger group of adult guests. Perhaps you have three kids and a dog, and your priority is giving them room to spread out. Maybe you want a backyard that can accommodate a highly active lifestyle, or you are looking to do more of your living, dining, and relaxing outside.

No matter what your life looks like, your outdoor design needs to be a direct and honest reflection of that. There is no sense in spending a hundred thousand dollars on a brand new pool that will be used once or twice a year. On the same note, it’s worth spending money for features or spaces that you know will be a mainstay of outdoor living for your family.

Great designers know that spaces have to do more than look good. They need to be practical, functional, and tailored to the people who use them. Assess your goals and lifestyle to determine what the must-haves on your design wishlist truly are.

High Maintenance vs Low Maintenance

Not all spaces are created equal when it comes to the time and energy it takes to maintain them. From kitchen countertops to planting plans, you need to design realistically. If you know that you don’t have the time or resources to keep up with trimming shrubbery, or the energy to clean a pool, then don’t incorporate those elements into your design.

You know yourself best. Being honest about the amount you are willing to do to upkeep your space is directly linked to your enjoyment of the final outcome. Your energy levels and motivation to clean and maintain are unlikely to change once the project is complete. Avoid regret and tailor the materials and design to fit you.

Climate and Location

When designing your own outdoor living space, you need to consider where you are. Climate and geographical location are directly linked to design. Certain materials better suited for certain climates. Choosing the wrong material for your location can lead to damage, costly repairs, and regret.

If you live in a very mild, sunny climate that stays warm year round, a large pool might be a no brainer. Those in colder climates may not want to invest in features that they can only use for a limited time of the year. Furthermore, different materials hold up better in some weather over others. Wood and wrought iron can be damaged by moisture and may not respond well to a very wet climate.

Even more dependent on climate is plants and landscape choices. It’s important to select plants that are suited for your climate. Checking your growing zone and selecting plants that are native to your area will set you up for success.

Prioritize Privacy

Imagine this: You’ve completed your outdoor living space. It looks beautiful. You and your family sit down to relax and enjoy your new fire pit. Then, you realize that your neighbors are enjoying the new view, too. Part of creating an outdoor living space that you and your family will love is creating a space that feels cozy and private.

To achieve a relaxing backyard that is safe from the prying eyes of the public, try incorporating privacy elements into your initial designs. This can include privacy plantings, screens, or fencing. Choose an option that fits with your design and space limitations. If you can’t afford to install an entire fence or hedge, consider using large planters or other visual impediments to create less visibility for nosy neighbors.

Do Your Design Research

Everyone starts somewhere. If you are interested in designing your own outdoor living space, learning the basic principles of design will help steer you in the right direction. In today’s day and age, there are countless resources for information and learning new skills. Websites like Skillshare, YouTube, and even community spaces like NextDoor can be hugely helpful for beginners. 

Design requires an understanding of elements such as line, form, texture, color, unity, and balance, among others. It can be a lot to digest. If you are having a hard time designing your own space, it’s often well worth it to reach out to a professional or schedule a consultation with a landscape designer.

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