Creating Great Outdoor Spaces: What Does It Take?

Create the ideal outdoor space of your dreams, while saving money and aggravation with this expert advice.

If the “lock down” cycle has gotten you dreaming of creating and enjoying your perfect outdoor space, trouble your beautiful – or handsome – brain no further.

There are only 2 things required to create a truly outstanding outdoor space- just 2:

Strategy and Honesty. Not the answers you expected?  I know. Come closer.

Why Strategy: Great outdoor spaces require the same wise design strategy needed for indoor spaces.

Strategic design formulas must still manipulate function, placement, layout, line, form, shape, color, pattern, movement, and rhythm – but with an extra layer of complexity that springs from the outdoors.

Ceilings now include blue sky and white clouds; “walls” contain landscaped views with shape and color, and floors may include wood, stone, indoor-outdoor rugs, pebble, grass or some combo therein. 

With more elements to control, design strategy – not guesswork – is always the glue and the guidepost.

Why Honesty:  For great outdoor spaces, honest budget assessment is a must, as is your upkeep tolerance.  

The purchasing list for tricked-out outdoor space is long: hardscaping, landscaping, decks, patios, structures, pools, planters as well as media and furnishings built to withstand outdoor elements. It adds up quickly.

Then there is your upkeep threshold: Cushion lovers, this means you.

How many decorative pillows can you stand moving when storms blow in? How many seat cushions can you comfortably store in the off season, and by the way, where exactly are cushions or furniture being stored in the off season, and in what?

Beyond the above, here’s an eyes-wide-open FAQ to help guide your thinking and support your best and most beautiful outdoor space outcome.  

Can you really use TV’s Outdoors in 4-season climates like Bucks County, PA?

Yes! However, you must use specifically designated outdoor flatscreens and speakers. They’re built to withstand extreme cold and according to a fav colleague John Pentz, owner of Adaptive Integrators, outdoor flat screens are 6x brighter than indoor models to offset all that sunlight.

Correct equipment aside, strategic placement is key. “In this region, we install specific flatscreens in various covered and uncovered outdoor spaces, and with the right speaker placement, we can even create a surround sound experience,” John added.

What’s the Best time Plan My Outdoor Space?  If you’re building from scratch, start between the November through March time period prior to the May you wish to “open” your space.

This allows time to get into your selected team’s schedule, and IMPORTANTLY, it allows for standard fabrication times if doing custom outdoor furnishings.

That means that for this summer, the ship has sailed, but you may be able to squeeze something in for a late fall delivery.

If instead of building new you’re instead DIY-refurnishing an existing space and using only ready-made items from retail, place orders by March to allow a buffer for backorders and delivery in the May you wish to “open.”

With COVID19 you can expect supply chain disruptions. These disruptions could decrease stock availability, while increasing lead time, a phenomenon that could last for upwards of 10 months of this writing.

In other words, if you find planters you like and find all 5 of them in stock, order them now – don’t wait.

Who Do You Need On My Team for Amazing Results?

True story: A new and soon-to-be fav client engaged us to design their new home’s first floor while hiring a landscaper to do their outdoor spaces.

The finished outdoor spaces were beautiful but none of the patio tiers worked for the end use OR furniture layout the client wanted. Not one.

A good designer could have easily flagged the functional shortfalls and helped the otherwise excellent landscaper to make simple but game-changer adjustments to the patio plans.

Instead, a very pricey, very pretty, mistake lives on that property. Forever.

If you’re investing serious dollars into an outdoor space, your triple-threat team is always builder-landscaper-designer. If you’re your hardscaping only, then your ideal team always includes a landscaper and designer. If doing media, add a media group too.

Follow the guidance offered above, lovely….and not only will a great space await you, but importantly, the money and aggravation you save will be your own.

About Donna Hoffman: A multi-award-winning Bucks County based designer, Donna heads her design company specializing in new construction, renovation, whole home and full room design to deliver  livable luxury to discerning clients.  Seen in Forbes, Real Simple,  TV and radio, Donna is one of the nation's design thought leaders  and also founded, TheInteriorDesignAdvocate.com which provides  on-line courses for DIY’ers.  

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