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Outdoor Living

Ya’ll (hey, I am a proud Southerner, after all!)… we have been blessed with some incredible weather this summer.  Usually, we all reverse-hibernate through the hideously humid months of July and August, but this year, Mother Nature has smiled on us.  We’ve only hit 100 degrees a few times, have had plenty of rain to keep things pretty and green and don’t feel like we’re living in a tropical rain forest.  It’s been nothing but awesome and it has inspired a lot of homeowners to spend a lot more time outdoors.  Speaking of the great outdoors… outdoor living spaces are high on buyers’ wish lists and there are a myriad of ways to create great and affordable al fresco spaces on your property.

Before you get started, give some thought to your property and any challenges it presents in creating livable, outdoor space.  If your backyard is a steep downgrade to a raging river, it’s probably not the best place to create a gourmet, outdoor kitchen.  If, on the other hand, your level backyard lot abuts to your neighbor’s level lot, you might want to consider creating some privacy barriers before you install that hot tub.  Once you’ve determined the proper location for an outdoor living space, you can get down to the nitty-gritty and the FUN part of deciding just what kind of space you’re going to create.
Outdoor kitchens are all the rage and if you have unlimited space and funds, the sky is truly the limit on these open-air kitchens.  Even if you’re working within a budget, you can still create a really cool and functional space that will help your home show itself in its best possible light.  The key ingredients for an outdoor kitchen are dining furniture and facilities.  The most basic outdoor kitchens feature upscale grills as the main cooking center.  Even if you want to use a portable grill, it is really nice to build a “niche” for the grill… a specific space, created out of brick or stone that will house the grill and its accoutrements.   If your outdoor kitchen is not located close to your actual kitchen, consider installing a small refrigerator in the cooking area… it will save you tons of time and energy in the future.  Also make sure you purchase a grill with separate cooking surfaces.  When it’s time to purchase dining furniture, think big!  The open, airy space in your backyard can accommodate oversized furnishing and you’ll often be using this space as an entertainment area, so buy a table that can seat 10, even if your family only boasts four or five members.  Do think about weather protection, too.  If you aren’t creating this outdoor kitchen in an established deck or covered patio space, consider purchasing an outdoor gazebo or oversized umbrella to ensure your afternoon garden party isn’t ruined with blazing sunlight or light sprinkles.

If, instead of a kitchen, you decide to build an outdoor living room, you still want to make sure the area is somewhat protected from the elements.  If a deck or sunroom is outside your budget, then outdoor gazebos might be just what you’re looking for.  They create instant-outdoor rooms, provide protection from hot sun and light rain, often have screen walls to keep the creepy-crawlies away and are large enough to accommodate an outdoor couch, chairs, and a coffee table or planters.  When approaching an outdoor living room, look for the same elements that you appreciate in your real family room… cozy rugs, warm fireplaces and comfy furniture. Now apply those principles to the outdoor area by selecting crisp, weather-resistant outdoor rugs and wrought-iron furniture with coordinating cushions.  Consider buying a portable or installing a permanent fire-pit to make your outdoor living space accessible in all seasons.  Last, but not least… think about lighting! Many homeowners enjoy their outdoor living areas even more after the sun’s gone down, but you’ll need something to light your way.  If the room allows (and many gazebos are pre-wired for this) install a lighted ceiling fan.  Pretty strings of lights that wind around the perimeter of an outdoor space create a fairy-tale like setting and provide tons of ambiance.

Easy, right?   With a little pre-planning you can take your outdoor space from zero to hero in a weekend.  And then the only thing left to do is plan a fabulous backyard barbecue with all your nearest and dearest friends… and your favorite Realtor, of course!

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