5 Non-Traditional Ideas for Outdoor Living Spaces

Take your water feature up a notch by adding some koi.
Take your water feature up a notch by adding some koi.
Christi Carter Photography/Garden Picture Library/Getty Images

For many families, the recent economic downturn has meant that their vacation budgets have gone right out the window -- mostly out their back window and into their yards for a staycation. While spending your vacation at your house may not be quite as relaxing as, say, a week at the beach, with the right outside living situation you can still create an atmosphere that will help you relax and unwind. Not only will upping the ante on your outdoor scene increase the value of your home, it will also increase your enjoyment of your time at your home. Here are five non-traditional ideas to spice up your outdoor living space.


Just Add Water

You may not be able to afford a house at the lake, but that doesn't mean you can't bring some sounds of the lake to your back yard. Water features in the form of fountains are popular for outdoor spaces, but why not do one better than that? If you want to add a little wow, consider adding a koi pond, waterfall or stream to your landscape. Large scale plans like this may not fit into your budget, but choosing one on a smaller scale that comes in a kit may allow you to put your DIY skills to the test and create a focal point for your family to enjoy during their leisure time outside. Fish not included.


What's Cooking?

Be the head chef of your backyard with a killer outdoor kitchen.
Be the head chef of your backyard with a killer outdoor kitchen.

OK, we know you cook outside a lot, but technically, a grill can't be considered an outdoor kitchen. But if you take that grill, pair it with a sink with running water and a refrigerator with an icemaker, you have all of the necessary trappings of a kitchen without having to traipse in and out of the house. Add a couple of cabinets for storage and a small counter top for food prep and you're set up for ultimate convenience. While you're at it, you may want to throw in a pizza oven for good measure.


Live It Up

You may already have a lounging area set up in your back yard, but you can kick it up to living room status by adding boundaries and making it really look and feel like a room. If your furniture sits under a pergola, then it's easy to enclose by adding curtains made of outdoor fabric to each side. Pull them back to the corners when you feel like communing with nature or close them for a more intimate gathering. If you're dealing with a wide-open space and no walls, then consider planting some tall hedges and creating an enclosure. Just be sure to leave space for a path to get in and out.


Frame the Fence

You see yard art-a-plenty in the great outdoors, but how often do you see fine art hanging in someone's backyard living space? A framed print hanging above your outdoor sofa will offer an unexpected touch of sophistication and beauty. While an actual painting may not be the best choice for permanent installation due to the harsh elements it will have to endure, you could still bring it out for special occasions. For everyday art that you can leave hanging, look for prints that are specifically made to live outdoors. Even a beautiful carpet with an intricate pattern can bring a colorful and artistic feel into an outdoor space.


Head Up, Not Out

Potted plants are a dime a dozen, but what about a wall full of green to decorate your outside living space? Vertical gardens are all the rage and they're just as easy to plant as they are to care for. You can buy the prefab pouches that come in a variety of widths and lengths, and they hang as a unit on a garden or house wall. For a handmade vertical garden with a rustic feel, keep an eye out for a palette on the side of the road and staple landscape fabric to the back and three sides. Fill it with soil and plant the spaces in between the boards. Then prop it up against a wall and watch it grow.


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  • "32 Outdoor Room Design Ideas." Housebeautiful.com. June 25, 2012. http://www.housebeautiful.com/decorating/outdoor-room-design-ideas#slide-5
  • "Easy Outdoor Room Ideas." Bhg.com. June 25, 2012. http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/porch/outdoor-rooms/easy-outdoor-room-ideas/#page=3
  • "Growing Tomatoes Upside Down-- Good Idea or Just a Fad? "howtogardenguide.com. June 25, 2012. http://howtogardenguide.com/2009/03/18/growing-tomatoes-upside-down-good-idea-or-just-a-fad/
  • "How to Turn a Pallet Into a Garden." Lifeonthebalcony.com. March 25, 2012. http://lifeonthebalcony.com/how-to-turn-a-pallet-into-a-garden/
  • "Outdoor Living White Paper Update." Kleberandassociates.com. June 25, 2012. kleberandassociates.com/.../KAOutdoorLivingWhitePaperUpdate.pdf