Living The Dream: Planning Your Perfect Outdoor Space

FINALLY!  Spring has enthusiastically, colorfully, and jubilantly arrived!  After an interminable winter, we are OH-SO ready to get back outside, and enjoy our friends, family and property.


But is your space ready for all your big plans?  

If some updates are in your future, here is the first of 3 parts on what to consider before you even THINK of setting foot in an outdoor living store. 

Outdoor space planning utilizes many of the same principles as interiors, but there are a few unique elements that need to be considered. 

 Ceiling-less spaces with low or non-existent walls can really throw your spatial perception off, so above all, resist the temptation to “wing it”.  

Your best first step is to measure the space you have, and to get it on paper. Transfer the measurements onto grid paper, and create a master plan, Make copies of the blank, so you can block out different layouts. 

Next, create your wish list-what do you want this space to do for you:

-Is enough seating for those big parties you can finally host a concern?

-Looking for a casual weekend retreat for sunning, reading and napping?

-Perhaps a quiet oasis at the end of  the day, where you can put your feet up under the stars, listen to the crickets, and be hypnotized by a fire pit?  

Maybe a little of each?  That’s ok!!

At this stage, I counsel my clients that there are no wrong answers, being familiar with what is important to them comes first. Then, if space and circumstances dictate, prioritization is easier, as the whats, and whys have already been explored. 

Homework done, here are the basic ABC’s to consider when making decisions.

Allow enough space:  Chairs around a table need at least 18” (24” is better!) to pull out, and get in, and out of; that doubles the needed space for a 48” table up to 8’ diameter! 

Include door swings. Make a clear path from the house to the grill, but keep it far enough from the house that a breezy day won’t fill your house with smoke-or worse!   

Do you need to include a children’s table?   Be sure to plan for generous space around the grill, fire pit and any umbrellas. 


 Be ‘special’:  Special elements like free-standing bars, tall bistro tables/stools or oversize sun beds au deux create a buzz,  break up a space, visually adding  interest, and are a great way to encourage mingling. 

If a great sound system, dramatic outdoor lighting, or an outdoor TV would make you little piece of paradise complete, talk to a professional installer first, so  placement and quantity of furniture enhances placement of speakers/equipment.


Create groupings:  As in interior spaces, large communal sitting areas only work if you are playing trivial pursuit, or watching TV, where everyone is in on the same purpose, or conversation. Once a group hits 5 or 6, secondary conversations and sub-groups develop,  

Even if 10+ is your typical entertaining style, instead of one huge table, consider 2 or 3 smaller tables. You can place/move them around more, and it allows for genuine conversation from all at each table. 

Think lots of individual chairs: flexible by themselves, when at either end of an anchoring sofa or loveseat, they form more intimate groupings.  

NEXT: Solutions for your tough scenarios