Outdoor Living Space

Surround your Bonfire: Create an Outdoor Living Room

I can remember when I was a kid going up to the lake for the weekend.  At night we’d sit outside on the patio by the water.  We gathered around a small bonfire talking and having a good time.  The air at night was a little cooler and the fire created an intoxicating warmth that drew everyone in.  It was fun and social.

I always wanted to bring that feeling of a great outdoor social space to my house.  I wanted to essentially make an outdoor living room.  It would have all the comforts of an indoor space, except it would be outside.  And it would have a feature that you couldn’t have with and indoor space; a fire pit centerpiece.  If you were to create a place like this in your yard, I would evaluate the process in four steps.  That is: Locating your space, Defining its Boundaries, Furnishing it and then Accessorizing the space to enhance its overall atmosphere.


Locate your Space:  The first thing you should do is figure out where to create your outdoor living room.  Yard size is a major factor here. If you have a large backyard, you have a few more options as to where you locate this space.  Larger yards can create a private are that is off to the side, or an open area that becomes the centerpiece of your landscape.  Whether your yard is large or small doesn’t matter.  You can be creative in either case.  It is how you define and decorate the space that makes it special and unique.


Define that Space:  Once you figure out the best place on your property to place your outdoor living room, you’ll want to have a flat and clean surface to build it on.  A concrete patio or an area of pavers would be ideal as it has defined edges and also would reduce maintenance.   Next, you can use a structure of some sort to create a boundary of covered space.  The idea is to have openness, but to define it with a structure.  A Gazebo or Wooden Pergola type canopy could work in this situation.  I prefer a pergola because they tend to be more open and offer more furnishing flexibilty than a Gazebo.  Pergolas can be prefab structures you buy, or you can build your own with some decorative columns and a custom built canopy.  Cross beams or outdoor fabrics can cover your pergola.  Pergola design can be as simple or elaborate as you want.


Furnish your Space:  Once you have a space, you can now furnish it with, well …furniture.  Depending how you want to use that space, you can arrange Outdoor Sofas, loveseats and chairs inside the perimeter.   Seating is the heart of this space because it is where you can sit, talk and relax with friends and family.  To accessorize the seating, coffee tables and/or end tables are most likely a necessity.  You’re going to need a place to set down your drink.


For a different function, you might put a Patio Table and chair set to create and outdoor dining area.  And with these movable and mostly light weight furnishings, there is a good degree of flexibility to switch out the furnishings to suit your needs.  Outdoor sofas and chairs with aluminum, steel or even wicker framing can be softened with removable cushions.  Store them (the cushions) indoors when it is going to rain so they don’t retain water and get moldy.  You can even put chaise loungers inside the pergola and lay around relaxing with a good book.  It’ll be just like renting a cabana by the pool at the Grand Wailea.

Accent that Space:  To make this space extra special, let’s add some small accessories to help enhance this outdoor living room.  To light the space at night, you can hang outdoor light fixtures from the perimeter of the canopy.  They can be larger outdoor fixtures that produce a lot of light or you can opt for small atmospheric lighting, such as mini Christmas-like lights, that accent the canopy.  A combination of these lights can create flexibility in the lighting of the space and creating an interesting atmosphere.  You can also surround the pergola or canopy with outdoor post lighting.  These could be around the canopy or lighting the path to the canopy.  Pole mounted torches can also serve the same purpose.

Plantings and Landscaping can help define of this space as well.  In addition to potted plants that may hang from your canopy, planters or potting urns can create sleek arrangements around the space.  This is perfect if you don’t have a lot of green space surrounding your Garden Pergola.  If you do have a little more landscaping to play with, you can use this natural setting of your landscaping to make your artificial outdoor space a more lively space.  Landscape Rocks/Boulders, short stone retaining walls and shrubbery/hedges can define the outer perimeter of your outdoor space.  It can also create a sense of privacy, while still maintaining the openness we started with.

Another unique piece (my favorite piece) you can add to your outdoor space is a fire pit or fire table.  Whether it’s a prefab unit or custom built pit, there are many possibilities.  As long as your canopy is high enough or open enough, a small fire table or pit can replace the coffee table as the centerpiece of your sitting space.   I wouldn’t recommend a fabric canopy if you put in a fireplace…for obvious reasons.

Creating an outdoor space like this is perfect for sitting around and relaxing.  Some friends of mine have a little backyard fire pit.  When we go over there, we always end up sitting outside with some wine around the fire.  It is very peaceful and enjoyable, especially if its Autumn and the air at night is slightly cooler.  The warmth of the fire creates a wonderful experience.  If a slight breeze comes by and rustles the drying crispy leaves before they fall of the trees, it just adds to the atmosphere.   Well, as long a wind doesn’t push the smoke in every direction.  These are just some basic ideas on how to create a unique living space in your backyard. You can be as elaborate or simplistic as you want.  Combining the elements about to create your living room outside can be fun and rewarding.

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One Response to “Outdoor Living Space”

  • Comment from Andrew Brienen

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