After home addition photo of deck expansion, screened porch addition and outdoor fireplace

After

It’s no secret that we’re spending more time outdoors. Factors like reductions in discretionary income and the high cost of fuel have led more of us to skip costly trips and instead invest in creating a retreat that we can use more often right in our own backyards. But when you are looking at a blank canvas, which features should you consider including? More than ever, homeowners are looking indoors for their inspiration and translating areas they love inside their home into outdoor settings.

By far, the favorite place for people to gather indoors is the kitchen, so it’s only fitting that outdoor kitchens are taking center stage. As outdoor kitchens evolve, they are becoming more sophisticated. The traditional grill is being added on to until we now have a work triangle outdoors, complete with a cooking surface, outdoor sink and refrigeration. Kitchen staples like spacious countertops, island seating and even decorative backsplashes are showing up outside, as are specialty appliances that fit the way individual homeowners want to cook – think smokers, keg-erators, and even wood-fired pizza ovens. Since these cooking areas are outdoors, sheltering them from the elements – whether that’s the heat of the summer sun or the occasional Carolina downpour – is becoming more commonplace.

Before home addition photo – small and non-functional porch with limited space

Before

After you enjoy a delicious meal, you’ll want to relax, and no outdoor seating area would be complete without a dramatic fire feature. It can be as simple as a portable metal fire pit or as complex as an elaborate masonry fireplace with waterfall accents. Comfort is king here as well, as builders are incorporating innovative recycled flooring materials to make decking softer underfoot.

Designers meanwhile, are opting for furniture that is just as durable as traditional wrought iron options, but far more comfortable. Think deep, plush cushions, contoured seats and graciously sized ottomans. Whatever furnishings you choose, make sure you select and arrange them to reflect your family’s favorite pastimes. Consider comfortable chairs around a table set at proper height if you love board games, an outdoor sectional to encourage conversation around the fireplace, or bar stools and a weather-resistant TV for the sports enthusiast. Ultimately, you’ll get the most use out of a space if you build it to reflect your family’s passions.