Not making the most of your outdoor space? You don’t need a huge yard to create the ultimate entertainment space. Well planned outdoor spaces really feel like an extension of your home while offering an escape during much of the year. With some good design advice and a little DIY know how, you can create an outdoor entertainment zone that has everyone coming to your yard.
To create the ultimate entertainment space, we want to include 5 core elements: a deck defining the space, a shade structure to make an extension of the home, seating to create zones, a cooking area, and plantings/soft goods.
Start by determining your needs versus the space you have. To create the perfect outdoor entertainment spot, you don’t need a lot space if each zone has a purpose. If your yard is currently flat ground, a small ground level deck can be built to really “set the space”.
One area where wood is a clear winner is outdoor decks. Not only are these materials easy to locally source but they are also easy to add onto in the future if your space needs change. They can also be easily refinished over time or when adding on new areas. As a plus, when you’re done with the wood it can almost always be upcycled into new projects or it’s biodegradable. Whereas composite decking materials usually end up in the landfill and won’t color match to new material after years of sun fading.
As a general guide, allow at least 50 square feet for cooking and seating areas. Allow another 10-15 square feet for aisle ways depending on your actual layout. Beyond that figure 7 square feet per person for a comfortable standing environment.
Shade structures are an important part of any outdoor space. Not only does the sense of “roof” create a feeling of home but shade also increases comfort throughout the year. Wood slat rafters can easily block harsh light during times of the day. For an East facing deck, consider installing the rafter tops sloped East to allow mid morning light. For a south facing deck, installing the tops sloped south will provide warmth in the cooler parts of the year while blocking high angle summer sun. If the area is shaded by the house for the majority of the day, install the rafters vertically.
Want more diffuse light? Adding a fixed or slide out shade cloth is an easy way to complement a wood framed pergola. In one study, 20 percent of people said too much sun was a priority back yard problem.
One thing biophilic design teaches is the importance of zones in any space. It creates a safe and inviting atmosphere to give people the option of loud party discussion in open standing spaces or quiet retreat to covered seating for more intimate discussion.
Outdoor seating should be a mix of loose table seating and fixed benches at the perimeter. An outdoor dining table can be easily moved for large informal parties or reset for family cookouts. At one project, we had a number of Douglas Fir glue laminated beam drops from construction. They were easily transformed into movable bench seating while the table was built out of pine 2×6’s on edge to mimic the glue laminated beams.
Perimeter bench seating is also important as it frames in the space and gives the eye a boundary to the deck. Consider wood privacy walls for a backdrop to seating areas to make them feel even more comforting. Not only are these economical to build but lend easily to future design changes.
Building elements tend to be visually hard in appearance. Soften your space by adding plantings, soft goods, outdoor rugs and other décor to make your outdoor space feel like a natural extension of your home. In fact, a 2014 survey taken by Houzz found that 56 percent of respondents listed making their yard friendlier to entertaining as their main improvement motivation.
In that same survey, Houzz also found that 70 percent of respondents were most likely to use their backyard as an outdoor eating space. But creating an awesome cooking spot doesn’t have to break the bank. Although you can create a fully functional outdoor kitchen that mimics your interior kitchen, think about your realistic usage. For most people, a simple grilling station outside their indoor kitchen will suffice.
It’s fairly easy to transform an attractive rolling grill into a totally custom station that looks like it costs much more. Start by removing the casters and the two side wings that come on most grills. Then build a base out of fire retardant wood studs or light gauge steel that the grill fits in. Frame the opening so that the studs are at least an inch away from the grill at the front and back. No studs are needed at the sides.
Then clad the perimeter with your choice of lightweight materials. In this case, we found wood to be an easy, attractive, and economical choice. Cedar 1x4s were cut into strips and then treated with a natural wood sealer before being installed in horizontally gapped rows.
Feel free to make the base the size and shape that works best for you. A beverage station, small fridge, or meat smoker are easily integrated into this concept. Finish it off with your counter of choice.
Now that you have all that delicious food cooked up, top it off with some fresh ingredients. A recent survey found that 60 percent of people plan to grow herbs or vegetables in their back yard. But this doesn’t have to take a lot of space, maintenance, or work. A simple herb planter is easily integrated into your entertainment space. In fact, a vertical planter wall can also serve to create that sense of privacy mentioned above.
We built this vertical herb planter totally out of cedar 1x4s. It even has a DIY friendly built in drip irrigation system on a timer.
By integrating these 5 core elements, you can create an outdoor entertainment space that fits your wallet, your needs, and will create a space for the whole family to enjoy for years to come.