Easy Living in a Backyard Paradise

By Jessica Tomes

A really great backyard isn’t just pleasing to the eye (though this is an added bonus). More importantly, a really great backyard facilitates a safe and secure place for your family to live, play, and grow old together — a place for family meals, spur of the moment gatherings, and festive celebrations with friends. When done right, a backyard is so much more. More livable space. More square footage. More memories in the making. Sounds like a dream come true, right? But what are the necessary elements for creating your own backyard oasis?

You’re probably going to want to have an outdoor kitchen. Spring in Texas is the perfect time to cook and enjoy a family meal outdoors. I mean, the southeast Texas summers tend to get a little warm, but that’s nothing a dip in the pool can’t fix! You will probably want to have a sink, a grill, and some countertop prep space (at the bare minimum). An outdoor beverage fridge is always a nice addition. Running back and forth from inside to outside quickly grows cumbersome. And when you’re swimming, you have to worry about toweling off so that you’re not dripping all over the house. Why not go ahead and make things easy for yourself?

Create shady reprieves. Even sun lovers need a little relief from its rays! (And besides, too much sun really isn’t good for your skin.) A covered patio or deck is always a good idea when you’re designing your personal backyard oasis. A few oversized umbrellas placed strategically around the yard or pool, and landscaping — think tall, mature trees — can also help to keep your family cool and comfortable in the scorching, summer heat. Outdoor structures like gazebos, pergolas, and trellises can help to define otherwise open space.

Furnish for comfort. And durability. You obviously want your outdoor space to be stylish, but you also need to think practically when selecting outdoor furniture and decor. Whatever you choose needs to be able to stand up to the elements. Wrought iron, aluminum, and traditional wood are classically obvious choices. New weatherproof patio furniture and fabrics are now available, very similar in style to items inside your home, but durable enough to withstand whatever the weather — or your family — throws at it. You can even find weatherproof rugs and table lamps to match your ideal outdoor entertaining space. And speaking of entertaining spaces…

Don’t forget to create a shared meal space! (You know, a table.) We are loving the trendy farmhouse table just as much outdoors as we are indoors. And for you crafty do-it-yourself, weekend warrior types, this is a relatively simple project to undertake — and a real crowd pleaser! Because everyone loves a farmhouse table. And for those of us who don’t know the difference between a drill and screwdriver, we’re probably better off sticking to retail. (I know I definitely fall into this category.) It’s safer this way for everyone involved. Wink, wink.

“We absolutely love to have dinner outside at our dining table. It’s the perfect setting for hosting friends and family, or just having a dinner with our little family,” says Cristy Resendez. “We catch a nice breeze where our table is positioned, and having dinner with only the chandelier on makes for a relaxing meal.”

Is a backyard even a backyard without a swimming pool? Okay maybe, but in Texas a swimming pool is almost a necessity. How else are you going to keep from melting (we’re talking total puddle status here) in July and August? In the early spring (and fall and winter), before it’s warm enough to really go for a dip, a hot tub is a great way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors after a long, hard day — the ultimate luxury.

“We wanted to create a space that was fun for the kids, but also relaxing for us. I love our pool area,” says Kim Smeltzer. “Everyone in the family is happy out there! I love the tranquility; the sound of the pool is so relaxing. I even enjoy going out there in the winter, just to curl up in a lawn chair with a cup of coffee.”

Good outdoor lighting (we’re still crushing on those trendy, hanging Edison bulbs), ceiling fans, fire pits, and fireplaces (or portable heaters) are also nice things to have. Any steps or walkways should always be illuminated for safety. Fountains add an element of zen (the sound of trickling water), and can serve as a lovely focal point. Don’t forget your accessories! Weatherproof throw pillows in cute, colorful patterns, decor items that are safe for the outdoors, and melamine dinnerware add a punch of pizzazz and personality. Colorful, aromatic flowers and plants help to create the perfect vibe. These touches help to transform an ordinary deck or patio into an entertainer’s dream. You’ll be ready to party all spring and summer long!