Beyond the Build: Creating Outdoor Havens for Your New Home


Well done in securing your new abode! As you settle in and arrange the interior just as you like it, don’t forget about the outside of your home. There’s real magic in a well-designed yard. Landscapes and outdoor living areas aren’t just nice to look at: they’re an invitation to spend more time outside, the transition from indoor to outdoor living. I’m a builder, and I’ve profited firsthand from designs I’ve seen come to live outside as a way of extending a home’s allure and function and turning a house into a living, breathing space.

1: Designing with Purpose: Your Outdoor Vision

Prior to beginning any serious work, picture in your mind’s eye how you desire to use your outdoor living space. What do you long for it to be: the sort of place that is perfect for hosting barbecues, a place to lie back and enjoy the warmth of a fire pit, or somewhere to work off some steam while tending to a garden? Having a clear vision will guide your work, seeing as you’ll better know what sort of design choices make the most sense. Also, contemplate what porch and landscape architect Benjamin Vogt calls outdoor living’s Four E’s: Entertain, Encourage, Enrich, and Escape. These E’s, he says, should guide your work.

2: Landscaping for Beauty and Function

Shaping your outdoor environment is an art, and it starts with selecting the right plants. If you live in a place with a climate different from what you’re used to, it might be a good idea to talk to some local experts. Obviously, the people at the local plant nurseries are the experts of the region’s plants, and when you tell them your situation (sun exposure, soil type, and existing plantings, if any), you’ll maybe have almost a half-hour conversation with them about their recommendations, and you’ll take notes on all of it. Then you’ll walk around the shade house, making sure you know where everything is, and ask them your remaining questions.

3: Outdoor Living Rooms: Extending Your Living Space

Many people are gravitating toward the idea of an outdoor living space that is an extension of the home’s indoor living space. For this reason, covered patios and decks have gained popularity. They offer the closest thing to the proverbial “living room” in the great outdoors. Here is where homeowners can set up plush seating areas, some with the look and feel of luxurious indoor furniture. Outdoor rugs, which have gotten quite good at standing up to the elements, can define these spaces or pull them together. Ambient lighting in the form of string lights, path lights, and landscape spotlights can carry you right through evenings comfortably. And for the commented-on conversation piece, the one that seemingly invites people to mill around, there’s the fire pit or outdoor fireplace.

4: Sustainable Solutions: Eco-Friendly Outdoor Spaces

Incorporate sustainable practices in your outdoor planning. Use materials for your walkways, patios, and other hardscaping elements that allow water to seep into the soil, reducing runoff and refilling the aquifer beneath. Plants can be water hogs, so grow them by the principles of xeriscape design or simply use plants that demand very little water. And since saving water also saves energy, do you really need a three-tiered fountain that burbles all night with a 700-watt pump? Find water features powered by the little sun above instead. By using these kinds of healthy, efficient, and delightful alternatives, you’ll love the way your outdoor space looks—and respects Mother Earth.


your new home’s outdoor areas are a blank canvas just ready to benefit from some artistic planning and design. They’re the place where hearty strains of desire made soft by the tune of inevitability coalesce to project endless possibilities for personal and private worlds of being. They’re places we can fashion into any vision of a utopia we care to imagine. With careful planning and design, use of the right materials and plants, and by not forgetting about functional elements, you can turn your new gateway into an ever-expanding partnership with the natural world that surrounds it. Don’t be shy about using your personal style to guide the overall outcome. And remember, the time you invest in turning your dreams into reality in your new outdoor living space will return many dividends of pleasure for years to come.

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pramod kumar

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