By Kathryn Weber

The striking pergola adds a wow factor to this patio, as well as providing a comfortable spot to relax

The striking pergola adds a wow factor to this patio, as well as providing a comfortable spot to relax

Outdoor living spaces are increasingly more popular places to enjoy as summer approaches. We're no longer content to relax outside with no more than a folding chair and a small charcoal grill. Current trends in outdoor living areas feature dining options, fireplaces, water features, lavish gardens, even such high-tech accents as televisions.

However you plan to use your outdoor space, to create a setting you can enjoy all year long, try to incorporate these 5 elements:

1: A major wow factor

Whether this is a sparkling swimming pool or a pergola, a successful outdoor space has a key feature that stands out. In designer-speak, this is called a focal point. If you can't fit a pool or grand seating area into your budget, use a natural element, such as a beautiful tree as your focal point, or can create one with an interesting planting, an arbor, patio or seating area.

2. Areas of interest

Once you have a focal point, it's time to add secondary areas of interest. These can include a fire pit, water feature, a piece of garden sculpture or artwork, an interesting specimen plant, even a simple concrete bench. Try to link the areas of interest together with paths or plantings. Visit local public gardens and check out how the gardens flow from one point of interest to another.

3. Layers of Landscaping

Rather than thinking in terms of trees and bushes, consider how you want your outdoor space to function. Would you like a kitchen garden, a vegetable garden, or perhaps some privacy screening between you and the neighbors? Shade is another consideration. Consider adding landscaping that offers shading, privacy, or that frames a pretty view. Add flowering plants and some potted plants for color and interest.

4. Comfort and utility

An outdoor living space needs to be comfortable and usable, but you'll also need to account for things like storage. You might need a place to stack wood for a fireplace, store seat cushions, or stow pool equipment. If you plan to be outdoors when it's cool, you might want to add a portable outdoor heater. If heat is the problem, consider a misting unit to lower the temperature.

5. Lighting

This is one of the most overlooked considerations in landscaping but can really enhance the enjoyment of your outdoor space. Lighting sets a mood and creates a romantic and charming ambiance indoors and out. On your lighting to-do list, make sure you plan lighting for tasks, such as cooking. For safety, include walkway lights to illuminate paths or steps. The dining area is also a natural spot for creative lighting solutions. Instead of an overhead light, for instance, try a hanging candle chandelier for a romantic glow. Your focal point and any prominent landscaping features will also look especially wonderful enhanced with lighting.


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