How to Design an Outdoor Living Environment

As the official start of summer approaches, chances are you will want to spend more time outside—but what does your backyard have to offer? A patch of land won't necessarily beckon you outdoors. It doesn’t beg you to throw a dinner party. And it certainly won’t keep the kids occupied for very long. Creating an outdoor living environment solves all these issues.

QDT Editor
2-minute read

Wicker Paradise/flickrHere are some design questions to think through:

1. Determine how your family would most use the space

Like renovating an empty bonus room, your space can be transformed in many different ways. Think through why you gather inside and what draws you outdoors. Do you all enjoy relaxing? Do you prefer an active lifestyle? Do you like entertaining? Designing your outdoor living space should center on what would give your family a compelling reason to spend time there.

2. Choose the main use around which you will design other elements

Just like any room in your home, your outdoor living space should have a primary purpose. For many families, a swimming pool and spa are the most compelling reason to spend time outside. They could be designed with relaxation, fitness, and family fun in mind.

Others might consider creating an outdoor dining room, a giant tree fort, or a beautiful waterfall.

3. Create a wish list

This can be a fun activity for the whole family. In a perfect world, what would your backyard include? Children may want a waterslide tunneling into a pool. Teenagers may love a fire pit where friends can gather in the evenings. Athletes may appreciate a hydrotherapeutic spa or challenging swim spa. Mom and Dad may find value in creating an outdoor food preparation and grilling space. There are endless options!

Generally, you’ll need to think through the following areas: activities, landscaping, food prep and dining, seating, storage, safety, and environmental needs (such as the need for shade or to mask sounds from neighboring roads).

4. Determine your budget

While you may have dozens of ideas, you may also have a limited budget. Financing options are available for certain elements, such as a pool. Other elements, such as landscaping, can be done in phases to allow you to spread the costs over time.

Once you have determined your budget, you can begin researching the costs of your main use element and wish list items, prioritizing and creating a timeline.

5. Make a plan and start researching

Transforming your backyard into a lasting outdoor living environment doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll want to decide what you can reasonably take on as weekend family projects and what is best left to professionals. You'll want to understand options for materials, the reputations of and processes involved with various contractors, and much more.

Browse companies online and confer with friends and family. Most contractors and retail sales associates will be happy to explain options and answer your questions in an effort to earn your business.

Once you've gathered enough information, make a plan. It shouldn’t take long for you to break ground on your new outdoor living space!

Image courtesy of Wicker Paradie/Flickr.


Tim Murphy is the founder and CEO of Presidential Pools, Spas & Patio, the nation’s largest pool builder, based in Arizona. Since 1991, the company has been transforming backyards, providing custom design and building services for swimming pools, spas and patios in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.