Summertime – and the living is outdoors

Monday, July 13, 2015

While heat and humidity and the occasional thunderstorm may keep some people indoors in the summertime, if you like to make the most of summer’s long days and longer evenings then enhancing your outdoor space should be on your short list of summer tasks. Whether you live in an apartment, condo or townhouse with a balcony or a patio or have the luxury of a big backyard, there are methods both big and small to maximize your enjoyment of the space this summer.

Brainstorm about how to extend your time outdoors

Start by thinking about who uses your outdoor space, how they use it and, most of all, when they use it. If it’s just you and your cat or your dog and a small balcony that you tend to ignore, take a look at the space and decide if you want to add a comfortable seat so you can sip coffee in the morning outside or if you prefer a bistro table to enjoy eating outdoors. If you have a larger yard that appears to be a sea of toys with zero appeal for adults, visualize a new configuration with a kid-friendly section and a grown-up section with some seating and perhaps a table or lounge chairs. If you don’t use your space much, decide what would make it appealing.

  • Does it lack privacy? If so, you can add screening plants or shrubs. • Does it lack shade? Pick a table with space for an umbrella or see if you can add a temporary or permanent awning to the space.
  • Does it have too much shade? If your outdoor space doesn’t get enough sun, you can add an outdoor heater to warm it up on cool evenings and plant shade-friendly flowers to add color. An inexpensive fire pit or an elaborate outdoor fireplace.
  • Do you hear noise from a street or a nearby day care center or swimming pool? Thick shrubs and trees can eventually grow to muffle the sound or you can add a water feature as a distraction. Even a tiny fountain can provide some soothing sounds. Appeal to all five senses If you’re not sure how to enhance your outdoor space, work your way through the five senses to come up with some solutions.
  • Sight. Some of the most visually appealing outdoor spaces have brilliantly planned landscaping, colorful furniture and a pleasant view of a valley, water or distant mountains. While we can’t all have a spectacular view, you can add color to your outdoor space with inexpensive furniture from Target or Wal-Mart or World Market and a few splashy annuals. Potted plants and hanging baskets can be used to get plants at eye level for maximum effect. Don’t forget to consider outdoor lighting – your options run from adding a few solar-powered low-level lights for safety or hiring a professional lighting designer for a dramatic effect.
  • Sound. If an elaborate sound system is in your budget, that’s one way to enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors, but for the rest of us, a simple set of wireless speakers for your iPod or computer will work equally well. If you like the sound of water, a small wall-mounted fountain or one set on the ground can cost as little as $100; a more elaborate waterfall with stones and a pond can cost thousands and transform your backyard into a private grotto.
  • Touch. Your outdoor space offers a chance to play with different textures and sensations that you can’t always experience indoors. If you have a yard, you can opt for grass, a wood deck, a brick or stone patio or some combination of these features. You can layer on an outdoor rug to define your space and add a soft touch underfoot. Don’t forget about your options for different fabrics and cushions on your outdoor furniture – or stick to traditional wicker and wrought iron.
  • Taste. The taste part comes in with your outdoor dining and drinking experiences. A traditional grill can be great for summer dinners, but don’t forget the outdoor, picnic-style breakfasts, lunches and happy hours are equally fun. Experiment with unusual summer fruits and summery drinks this year instead of the tried-and-true lemonade and iced tea.
  • Smell. Whether you plant one simple pot or an array of garden beds, consider the extra joy you’ll get if you plant something that not only looks pretty but also smells sweet. Gardenias and jasmine offer strong floral scents, but you can also plant herbs for cooking that also scent the air. Outdoor candles can be used for fragrance, evening light and to keep those pesky mosquitoes away. Whether you have a small space or an expansive one, a tiny budget or unlimited funds, with a little ingenuity you can turn your outdoors into a personal summer paradise.