There are obligatory components that are essential to any yard in order to make it fully functional. However, once the basics are achieved, you’re still not done. In fact, after the principle players are in place, each of these elements can then be continually upgraded until your backyard becomes an ideal outdoor oasis.
Essential #1: Kiss the Cook
One of the best things about early fall evenings is the option of eating outdoors. Dining outside is a fun change of pace and food just tastes better outdoors, so a grill is usually a good investment. Charcoal takes longer, but as long as you’re patient, there’s something charming and flavorful about the process as well. On the other hand, gas grills are great for fast meals or when cooking for several people. Depending on which model you choose they can be more expensive, but since they’re quick they can also be used year-round.
Upgrade Potential: If you consider yourself a chef, it’s easy to get bored with only one outdoor option: grilled burgers, grilled chicken, grilled steak. Maybe you want to show off your culinary skills, but the equipment is restricting your talent. An outdoor kitchen provides the tools you need to create an edible masterpiece, including stovetops, fridges, or ovens. Maybe put in a sink or natural stone countertops to complete the look. These luxury areas aren’t cheap (they can run you thousands of dollars), but they add instant value to a home and make cooking outdoors an experience rather than a chore.
Essential #2: Take a Seat
We all want to relax outdoors: rock ourselves to sleep on the porch, sway in our hammocks, or maybe simply sit outside, and soak up the sun. So when it comes to outdoor renovations, a proper seating area is an absolute must. Have a place to eat once you get done grilling. Invest in a patio table and umbrella. Make sure there are multiple seating options for when guests arrive. And ensure there is some central area to focus this “outdoor room.” Even a simple cement slab is more inviting than sitting out in the grass, and a small investment in stamped concrete can make a stone patio feel instantly elegant.
Upgrade Potential: The most popular outdoor installation is decking, as decks provide elevation, value, and immediate focus to the sitting area. It makes the patio a hub of activity, and they can be as elaborate or simple as you want. But be creative in your wooden decking. Why not invest in a screened-in porch to save you from mosquitoes? And why does it always have to be in the back where no one can see it? How about an old-fashioned front porch with a charming chain-link swing and few rustic rockers?
Essential #3: Light My Fire
Most of us are fascinated by flames. They’re warm, hypnotizing, and create a wonderful outdoor atmosphere. So why just reserve them for camping trips? Buy a small metal fire pit or ceramic chimney for your patio. They’re inexpensive, last forever, are easy to assemble, and they don’t take up much space. Plus, there’s hardly any maintenance beyond creating an initial spark. Not only are they pleasing to look at, they can also be used to cook or roast marshmallows on those chilly nights.
Upgrade Potential: Fire pits and chimneys are great, but they can also be smoky and appear sooty. Plus, since these units are portable, they don’t add permanent appeal to your yard. Therefore, an outdoor fireplace may be the better option. Since they come with a fully-constructed mantle, hearth, and chimney, their installation isn’t cheap, but you’ll always get a return on your investment: since they’re extravagant, easy to use, and come in both gas and wood-burning varieties, they add lots of value to the home.
Essential #4: When Nature Calls
In order to enjoy these outdoor essentials, you’ll need motivation to spend time outside; and yards aren’t inviting if surrounded by a bunch of dirt and manmade materials. People hang out in the yard in order to be part of the natural world, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to your landscaping. Make sure it feels friendly and comfortable. The best way to achieve this? Focus on Mother Nature: plant a few flowers, a vegetable garden, or some shrubs, as no yard is complete without a tree or two. Plus, don’t forget your lawn: healthy green grass provides a perfect organic carpet for your outdoor retreat.
Upgrade Potential: If natural resources aren’t doing the trick, you may want to supplement the foliage with a few human touches. Hire a landscape architect and add a small pond or trickling fountain. Set up some outdoor lighting to spotlight your plant life. Put up a fence to create some boundaries for the neighbors and the dog. Erect a trellis, gazebo, or pergola for flowering vines. With these additions, you may want to install an automatic sprinkler system to help keep up with the extra maintenance. If you’re really ambitious and want to guarantee a backyard oasis, then add the ultimate water feature: a brand new pool, spa, or jacuzzi.