Thinking about investing in your outdoor living space? Sounds like a great idea to us (and yes we are biased!). But what does ‘outdoor living’ actually mean?
Outdoor living is expanding your lifestyle into your yard by taking those elements of everyday life that can happen outdoors into your outside space. It means actively using your garden as a place to spend more time, where you and your family can cook, eat, read, chat, socialise, and even work.
Let’s dive down into this subject in more detail and consider what outdoor living really means, what the elements of your outdoor space can actually be – and then look at financial issues such as how much this all costs and whether it adds value to your home.
What’s The Definition of Outdoor Living?
At its simplest, outdoor living is expanding your lifestyle into your yard. It’s about taking those elements of everyday life that can happen outdoors, outdoors. Outdoor living means actively using your garden as a place where you spend time. An outside living space isn’t just for show or to grow things in: it’s where you and your family eat, read, chat, socialise, cook and even work.
It’s also about embracing the yard all day and all year. A dedicated outdoor living enthusiast won’t let the winter stop them enjoying their garden: they’ll install a fire pit or a hardtop porch roof, and get out there whatever the weather. Likewise, the yard doesn’t close when the sun goes down, because there’s an attractive lighting scheme.
Outdoor living is about style as well as substance. You can put as much thought into the decor of your porch as you do your sitting room. Think about colors, lighting, and (water-resistant) soft furnishings. You can even have a rug!
What Are The Elements of an Outdoor Living Space?
What are the different elements of an outdoor space? Well, think about how you use your indoor space. Given the right climate or shelter, you can do most of these things outside, too…
A dining area is the easiest room to replicate outdoors. Most of us already have a patio with some sort of chairs and tables on it. Add lighting for evening meals, and even a fire pit for winter outdoor dining.
A cup of coffee and a book in the sun: perfect. Rattan furniture (the synthetic version, not the natural) is ideal for an outdoor seating area because it’s comfortable, comes in a great choice of modules and colors, and is robust enough to live outdoors. Decorate with plant pots and lanterns, and think about some sort of awning or canopy to keep the area shaded or sheltered.
This could be a simple BBQ, a built-in, rustic-style pizza oven, or a full-on kitchen complete with a sink, refrigerator and prep space. What you choose depends on your budget, your climate, and how keen an outdoor chef you are.
Take the party outside in warmer weather with a pop-up gazebo. Or, install a pull-out awning on your patio or porch to increase your home’s entertaining space when it’s needed. If you have a good-sized yard, there’s a lot you can do to make it party-ready, simply with lighting and seating areas.
Yes, you can have a bathroom outdoors – or at least, some elements of it! A hot tub, especially in a gazebo, is a luxurious bathing option. You can also install an outdoor shower: ideal if you live near the sea and need to hose down kids, surfing gear, and the dog.
Few of us sleep on our patios, but it’s nice to have a really cozy, relaxing space outdoors. Look out for outdoor sofas with ottomans that create comfortable lounging seats. Wriggle under a blanket in cooler weather, and enjoy the combination of comfort and fresh air.
If you have a decent canopy that cuts out screen glare, and a laptop with a good battery life, you can easily work outdoors. Have a small table and chair on the deck, and take advantage of those working-from-home days.
Older kids need more space? A gazebo with water-resistant bean bags or cushions makes the perfect hangout for teens and their friends. This is a win-win: they feel independent, and you get some peace. You can use it yourself when they’re not around…
Does An Outdoor Living Space Add Value To Your Home?
This depends on what you add, how durable your addition is, and what the general trends are in your neighborhood. We’d suggest speaking with a friendly local realtor if you’re planning on creating an outdoor space as an investment. They should be able to advise you whether you’ll see a return on your investment or at least, increase your “kerb appeal”.
A decent patio is seen as a good investment. It’s an expectation that a home with a yard will have a patio area, so this is definitely worth an upgrade. Installing lighting is also a plus. One word of warning: don’t eat too much into the lawn if you’re building a patio, as families tend to be on the lookout for a good-sized grassy area for the kids.
Certainly, a wooden pergola with decking makes an attractive feature, and may help your yard stand out from the rest. The advice is that a pergola or gazebo won’t give you such an easy ROI as your patio, so build it for your family to enjoy, rather than to increase the value of your property.
Outdoor kitchens depend on your climate. If you live in a state with year-round good weather, go for it. If it rains or snows half the year, an outdoor kitchen could be perceived as a high-maintenance waste of space. A fire pit could be an easier (and still desirable) alternative.
And the big one: is it worth building a real outdoor swimming pool and pool house? The short answer is no. Many buyers will reject a house with a pool because of the associated costs and effort of upkeep. However, if you are one of the few houses in the neighborhood without one, it’s worth a chat with a realtor.
How Much Does it Cost To Build an Outdoor Living Space?
One of the many lovely things about creating an outdoor space is that you can work to your budget. You may simply want to create a comfortable corner on your decking, where you can sit with a book, or you might have been saving for a dream outdoor kitchen or hot tub and gazebo.
If you want to create a relaxing seating area in your yard, this is certainly possible on a budget. You may need to buy pavers or decking if you don’t already have a solid base, but otherwise, clean what you’ve got and you’re good to go. Pick up some patio furniture from Home Depot, add plants in pots and a few strings of solar lights, and there you have it – a simple but attractive outdoor sitting or dining area.
This can then be converted into a cooking space by adding a BBQ or grill. 4-burner gas grills start at around $200, and you can go right up to a $7000 professional model by Hestan. Don’t want to cook but like the idea of a cozy space? Fire pits start at just over $50 in Home Depot.
If you’re looking at a pro-level complete outdoor kitchen from a brand like Fire Magic, you’re looking at five figures. By the time your sleek island unit is fitted with a quality gas grill, a refrigerator, a sink and a beverage center, the chances are that it’s cost more than your indoor kitchen. But boy, do you have a five-star set-up.
Hot tubs vary in price depending on size, materials and how many extras you go for. A mid-range, 4 or 5-person tub costs in the region of $3000, and you can pick up a hard top gazebo kit from about $1200 if you prefer to bathe undercover. On a tighter budget but still fancy an outdoor tub? Try an inflatable hot tub (Amazon has some good brands for about $530).
Ultimately, how you plan your outdoor living space is a very personal decision. It depends upon your budget, usage requirements, style preferences and any potential considerations about adding capital value to your property.
In the final analysis – outdoor living is all about enjoying your yard and garden with family and friends (or creating a productive workspace), so if what you create fulfils this need then you can always judge your outdoor living space to be a success. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >