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Outdoor Living Spaces: Patios, Decks & the World Outside Your Door

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The boundaries of our homes have extended up and out, as in outside. As our homes become smaller, we've seen living spaces pushed outdoors, often to the point where inside and out blend seamlessly. Outdoor spaces are where we gather with family and friends, barbecue, eat, play, exercise, work on projects, garden, read, and retreat.

What's in an outdoor living space? Patios, decks, porches, balconies, gazebos, walls, fences, kitchens, fire pits, swimming pools, spas, children's play areas, playhouses and treehouses. And then you need to furnish, landscape and decorate your outdoor space. Get busy-- there's lots to do.

  1. Patios
  2. Decks, Porches & Balconies
  3. Hardscaping
  4. Landscaping Your Outdoor World
  1. Outdoor Patio Furniture, Decorations & Accessories
  2. Grills, Fire Features & Outdoor Kitchens
  3. The Outdoor Lifestyle
  4. Children's Play Areas

Patios

Flagstone Paving for Patio

Step outside into the world of patios. They can be attached to your house or detached. Paving materials range from standard brick or concrete to flagstone or pea gravel. Patios can be built in any shape or size, and can be a DIY project or built by a contractor and crew.

Decks, Porches & Balconies

Redwood Deck Photo

What makes a deck a deck and not a patio? What's the difference between a porch and a portico, or a porch and a balcony? What's a veranda, piazza or courtyard?

Hardscaping

path and pathway materials

Take a look at your outdoor space. Any area that doesn't have plantlife growing in soil is most likely "hardscape." It's these areas of hardscaping that provide permanent definition and may help establish a distinct style to the garden. What's considered hardscape? Walls, walkways, structures, loose gravel and large ornamental pieces. Hardscaping is often described as the "bones" of landscaping.

Landscaping Your Outdoor World

tropical pool landscaping

You've got a patio, deck, inground spa, interlocking pavers and an arbor. What's missing? You can't live outdoors without plant life, whether it's poolside plantings, a patio garden, containers on your deck or a Pennisetum setaceum on your front porch. Learn how landscaping works into the whole outdoors scheme, and vice versa.

Outdoor Patio Furniture, Decorations & Accessories

tropitone evo

Besides their obvious practical functions -- like somewhere to sit on the patio -- outdoor furniture, decor and accessories help establish and continue a design theme in the landscape. Learn decorating techniques, tips and trends, along with inspiration for seasonal decorations.

Grills, Fire Features & Outdoor Kitchens

bbq

What coaxes many outside is the lure - and aroma - of a barbecue. Learn about budget-friendly and high-end grills, gas vs. charcoal vs. electric, and grill recalls. Sample some of the best recipes for outdoor cooking, along with sauces, spices and rubs. Hungry?

The Outdoor Lifestyle

family bbq

You swim in the pool, relax in the hot tub, entertain friends by cooking on your outdoor grill and dining on the patio. Children spend hours in their special outdoor play areas. Holidays and milestones are celebrated outdoors, and you decorate accordingly. Everything seems just a little more special when it's experienced outdoors.

Children's Play Areas

Playhouse Photo

Children need a designated area outside to hang out with friends and play, exercise, maybe grow a vegetable garden, and spend some quiet time by themselves. The space doesn't have to be large, but it does need to be safe and a place where imaginations can grow. Include your child in planning the ideal outdoor play space.

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