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Living Space: 5 elements create a perfect outdoor living area

April 28, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 27, 2011 at 11:28 p.m.

This outdoor living space captures two key elements in outdoor enjoyment. It has a wow factor with the swinging bed, and it's a natural spot to relax comfortably.

outdoor living space

Create a focal point. Make sure space has key feature that stands out.

Add secondary areas of interest. Try to link the areas of interest together with paths or plantings that help tie the features to one another.

Layers of landscaping. Consider adding landscaping that offers shading, privacy or that frames a pretty view.

Make it comfortable and usable. By factoring in both comfort and storage, you'll extend the amount of time you can spend in your outdoor living area.

Lighting. Make sure you plan lighting for tasks, such as cooking, and for safety, include walkway lights to illuminate paths or steps.

By Kathryn WeberOutdoor living spaces are increasingly more popular places to enjoy as summer approaches. We're no longer content to spend time in the outdoors in a folding chair with a small charcoal grill. Current trends in outdoor living areas feature dining options, fireplaces, water features and beautiful gardens. Some have even gone high tech with television viewing. But regardless of how you live in your outdoor space, a successful outdoor living area has five key elements - and taking those cues into account will help you create a living space outdoors that you'll love and enjoy all year long.

ELEMENT NO. 1: A MAJOR WOW FACTOR

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

ELEMENT NO. 2: AREAS OF INTEREST

Once you have your 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 or even a simple concrete bench. Try to link the areas of interest together with paths or plantings that help tie the features to one another. Visit local public gardens, and notice how the gardens flow from one point of interest to another.

ELEMENT NO. 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 maybe 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. You'll also want to add flowering plants and some potted plants for interest.

ELEMENT NO. 4: COMFORT, UTILITY

The patio and outdoor living space needs to be comfortable and usable, such as a cozy seating area. But you'll also need to account for things such as storage, too. You might need to store wood for a fireplace, a spot to put away cushions or stow pool equipment. If you want to be outdoors when it's cool, you may want to add in a portable outdoor heater, or if heat is the problem, consider a misting unit to lower the temperatures. By factoring in both comfort and storage, you'll extend the amount of time you can spend in your outdoor living area.

ELEMENT NO. 5: LIGHTING

This is one of the most overlooked considerations in landscaping, but can really enhance the enjoyment of your outdoor space. Lighting is what 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, and for safety, include walkway lights to illuminate paths or steps. The dining area is also a natural spot where you'll want lighting. Instead of an overhead light, try a hanging candle chandelier for a romantic glow. Your focal point and any prominent landscaping features will also look especially wonderful when enhanced with lighting.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui E-zine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, www.redlotusletter.com.

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