7 ideas to make your backyard irresistible

With summer in full swing, North Americans are putting their own spin on the Scandinavian passion for open-air living — friluftsliv. We’re not just doing things outside as much as possible, we’re expanding our indoor living space to the outdoors. And that’s increasing the value of homes and adding features buyers are looking for.

More than 80% of home buyers said patios and front porches are “essential” or “desirable,” according to the What Buyers Really Want survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

So why not jazz your space up with these outdoor living ideas on a budget?

Design your space to blur the line
between inside and outside

Creating a seamless transition between your home’s interior and exterior isn’t as simple or low cost as adding some cushy cushions, but it’s seriously the best way to pull you outside more. 

The most affordable way: switch out a standard door with French or sliding doors.

The wow-way: add weatherproof flooring, such as stone tile or scored concrete, for the space outside and the adjacent room inside.

Go overboard on comfy

Comfy is easy to achieve and can be as low cost as you want. Start simple with a cushion or two or even a throw. A couple more simple starters:

• Get some cushy cushions. Make sure they’re outdoor-worthy and can handle downpours.

• Put down outdoor rugs for barefoot comfort. This is an especially economical solution to a deck that’s seen better days. It hides the worst offences while saving your bare feet from splinters.

Make it easy to use all your devices

Our devices and electronics have conspired to keep us on lockdown inside. But if you want the benefits of fresh air and sunshine while continuing to browse on your phone — or work from home — here are some fun ways to stay charged outdoors:

• Get a Wi-Fi antenna to boost your range.

• Create a new habit of using solar chargers and you’ll rarely be without juice.

 • Add some wireless speakers for the simplest DIY sound enhancement you could ask for.

Crank up the mood lighting

Outdoor lighting dresses up your home’s marketability and appeal (exterior lighting are buyers’ second most wanted outdoor features, according to the NAHB study), makes it safer, and lets you spend more time outside. Here are some fun and easy ways to achieve this look:

• Use uplighting to highlight trees, architectural details, or other focal points.

• Add sconces or pendant lights to make evening entertaining, grilling and reading easier.

• Illuminate walkways, rails and steps with landscape solar lights.

 • Hang fairy or string lights to set an enchanting tone. This looks especially pretty beneath trees, across patios and under umbrellas.

Personalize it

Personalizing your outdoor retreat makes it especially welcoming and cozy. Add souvenirs that you may have picked up on your exotic travels, or simply items that “speak” to you. Here are a few ways to pull this off:

• Paint a faux rug with your favorite colours.

• Create a path made with coloured glass and shells, brick, stones from the beach, or other interesting found materials.

• Craft a one-of-a-kind outdoor chandelier. This could be as simple as a piece or two of driftwood strung with lights.

• Driftwood can also create a wonderful table by tying a few pieces together with boating rope and setting a piece of plexiglass on top.

• Artwork isn’t just for the indoors. Hang a picture on the wall of your house in your sunroom or screen porch.

• Build a pizza oven, custom seating, or other feature you crave.

• Add any personal décor that makes you happy or comes with special memories. That old donut-shaped life preserver from the family cottage? That rusty wood saw from the farm? Hang it up!

In fact, make your outdoor retreat an ongoing project where you can hone your DIY skills.

Add some fun stuff to do

As enjoyable as it is to just sit outside in a lawnchair with your feet up and a cold drink in your hand, surveying your backyard paradise, not everyone likes to be completely idle. Here are a few ways to add activity to the mix:

• A fire pit is a proven winner. Food and fire have brought humans together since the dawn of time.

• Give wee ones the gift of magical thinking with an outdoor playhouse or sandbox.

• Add whimsy with a chalkboard fence that both kids and fun-loving adults will enjoy.

• Add a doggie window in your fence to entertain Spot. Installing a dog run may even boost your home’s value. FYI: It’s been said that pets are one of the top reasons why people buy houses! Who knew?

Arm your space against bugs and weather

One word: Manitoba. Yeah. So it goes without saying, mosquitoes love summer as much as we do. But it isn’t impossible to enjoy your outdoor space bug free. Here are a few suggestions:

• Install an awning, canopy or pergola.

• Rig glass fence windscreens to the keep your BBQ fires burning.

• Screen in your porch or deck against bugs.

• Add a big umbrella for shade.

If you already have a screened porch, don’t forget the slats between wood planks. Cover the floor with outdoor carpet or staple screening to the underside of floorboards.

— Houselogic.com