With beautiful weather for most of the year, living in the Southwest gives you the perfect opportunity to create an outdoor living space on your property. Take advantage of the sunshine and favorable temperatures by using the following tips to build yourself a functional and comfortable outdoor living space.
CREATE MULTIPLE OUTDOOR AREAS
You can design multiple outdoor areas for different activities, ranging from a space to watch the sunrise, drink coffee, and read the paper to a larger outdoor cooking area that provides beautiful views as you enjoy a delicious evening meal.
Create a garden area off the master bedroom that can be accessed through a sliding glass door. A combination of pavers, concrete squares, and gravel would work well in this area. Add a plant or two, a water fountain, and a garden wall and you suddenly have a private oasis for reading or yoga. Make sure to add a sun lounger for maximum relaxation. Another quick design idea would be to build a stacked-stone wall brimming with succulents and flowers.
The main outdoor living space is often designed with a covered or partially-covered deck to shield the sun in the summer months. This is a wonderful area for cooking on the grill, spending time with friends, and enjoying the picture-perfect views.
A southern-facing sitting area allows you to soak up the warm sun in the winter months. This can be as simple as two Adirondack chairs with big cozy cushions next to a small table. Grab a soft blanket and your new favorite book and you’ve just created a relaxing paradise.
The deck provides a great opportunity for decorating with patio lights and outdoor string lights. If your deck is covered, globe lights can be easily hung around the perimeter of the ceiling or across beams to create a romantic or festive atmosphere. You can wrap deck railings with LED mini lights, hang icicle lights down the staircase, or even create a wall of light with curtain lights hanging across a covered section. Lanterns, wall lights, and a well-placed globe pendant also adds ambiance.
There are many options when it comes to outdoor flooring. Concrete slabs of varied shapes, Trex composite decking, pavers, gravel, and a variety of stone products can all be used to create a beautiful outdoor space. You can choose one or mix and match – it’s all about your personal taste.
You may be thinking that an area of grass would be a good idea, but grass does not thrive in the desert. Instead, use the low-maintenance options mentioned above and fill in the spaces in your landscaping with gravel. Gravel comes in various desert hues which will keep the theme of the outdoor living space intact. Get creative by casting-in-place large concrete rectangles, squares, circles... you can space them to add colored gravel in between slabs.
If you love the look of natural stone, you might consider bluestone. Bluestone is sturdier and holds in place better than generic flagstone and it is more resilient against the elements, making it weather resistant and perfect for outdoor living. However, here are two things to consider:
1.) Natural stone tends to cost more than brick pavers or poured concrete paving stones and it must be sealed for optimum durability.
2.) Pavers offer a lot more color choices and patterns and you can blend in different designs more easily – such as borders or circle inserts.
FIRE PIT, FIRE BOWLS, AND FIREPLACES
An outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or fire bowl will add both ambiance as well as warmth in the evenings, creating an inviting outdoor living space to entertain family and friends. You can design a stone-clad wall with a fireplace near your main outdoor living area or opt to have a fire pit surrounded with chairs a short walk from the covered deck in order to take in the big starry night sky. Connect it to the main area by putting in a walk way lined with rocks and lit with solar lights, leading to fire pit surrounded with chairs.
OUTDOOR GRILL AND DINING AREA
There are so many options when it comes to outdoor dining. Would you like a stand-alone BBQ, built in grill, or a kitchen area with a small refrigerator and countertops? Your builder can often be a great source of ideas to create a design that reflects your vision. Determine the general theme, style, colors, patterns, textures, and materials you want your outdoor living space to have and create a dining area to match. Whether it’s vintage chairs combined with a table composed of salvaged wood, or steel chairs and brightly colored cushions with a glass top table, style integration is key.
SHADING – Covered Patio and Trellis
Most southwest homes have some version of a covered patio. Whether it’s grand and elaborate or just a small section of coverage, it can be designed to keep you comfortable year-round. To provide a variety of barriers from the elements, you can easily put shades or drapes on the side, add a lattice or trellis, or have strategically-placed tall flora.
Dining under a trellis can be very romantic when you add outdoor string lights. During the day, it will provide shade and privacy from neighbors, creating an intimate space for enjoying time outdoors whether alone or with friends.
Relieve your stress, relax your muscles, and improve your sleep – these benefits and more can be the result of a 20-minute soak in a hot tub. It’s all about hydrotherapy, relaxation, and pleasure. If you plan to have a hot tub, you may want to consider not having it under a covered area. Being able to have a clear view of the star constellations is must in Placitas!
INCLUDE A FOUNTAIN
Fountains add dimension and movement in outdoor living areas while enhancing the look and feel of the features around it. The sound of trickling water is naturally cooling, soothing, and calming and is a wonderful year-round feature for any outdoor living space. Choose one or more natural stone fountains to create a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere.
ALTERNATIVE SEATING: Hammock, Porch Swing, or a Built-In Bench
Consider adding a porch swing for taking in those gorgeous distant mount views, or imagine enjoying a lazy afternoon on a hammock catching fresh breezes – a perfect space for reading or a siesta. Built-in benches are a popular option because they are an easy way to add more seating on the patio. Just cover the bench with comfortable cushions and you’re ready to go! Ask your builder about creating a built-in bench in your main outdoor living area and see what designs work for you.
PLANTS AND FLOWERS
Plan what types of plants and flowers you want in your outdoor living area. There is a long list of varieties that grow easily here in Placitas. Penstemons, Gaillardia, Chrysanthemum, Coral Bells, Creeping Phlox, Pansy, and Sunflowers are just a few colorful flowers you may enjoy. Multiple types of Sage, Flowering Quince, Upright Rosemary, Agave, Claret Cup, and various types of Yucca are all great options too. And don’t forget to plant a few tomato plants so you can enjoy sweet, ripe tomatoes all summer long.
INCORPORATE POTTERY AND TERRACOTTA
Adobe, pottery, and terracotta are easily recognizable symbols of Southwest design that can withstand time in direct sunlight. If you want to keep your outdoor living space complementary to the area in which you live, you will want to incorporate some of these items with your landscape design. From Olla pottery holders for plants to terracotta tiles, these decorative features can add a richness to your exterior design.
There are many final touches to consider that add character, style, design, and comfort to your outdoor living space. A basket can be filled with extra pillows or throws. Mirrors on the stucco walls add decorative dimension. Include artistic pieces, such as ceramic wall pieces. Add candles, lanterns, or accessories like a graphic area rug to add a pop of color and ground the space. Adding curtains brings in color and, functionally they can provide shade.
Whatever outdoor living spaces you do choose, take time to consider what you want to bring into your day-to-day lifestyle. This is your opportunity to make the most of your property and take advantage of the sunshine and favorable weather of the Southwest!
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