Top 10 Features for Outdoor Living Spaces

Decks and sometimes 2 decks at different levels, are very popularOutdoor living spaces have been popular for many years with decks becoming popular in the 1950s when massive home building happened after World War 2. What’s changed is how we’re using our backyards are the outdoor living features we’re adding to our homes to embrace outdoor living.

So let’s look at our homes and how we’re using outdoor space, whether it’s the traditional backyard or a side yard with a better view. The economy and how we spend our money is increasing the time we spend at home, time now spent:

  • Eating at home more than going out.
  • Entertaining at home versus meeting friends out.
  • Taking staycations to save money.

1. Safety and security is important to homeowners with lighting  a focus (96%)based on the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) survey for 2011 (details below). From here we’ll explore the top features that support how we use our backyards.

Eating at Home

Eating at home is an important way for families to stay connected. Family dinners are not just about eating, but about communicating and checking in with everyone to make sure they’re okay. Eating outdoors can be as simple as serving your meal indoors and carrying plates to a seating area on a deck or patio just outside the kitchen … to more expansive outdoor kitchens which are quite popular.

2. Seating/dining areas (94%) are the minimum requirement for eating outdoors. Most often there is a sliding patio door to a deck or patio, just off the kitchen or family room.

3. Grills (94%) are almost an American institution as you can buy a simple barbeque grill to more elaborate gas grills with all the trimmings.

4. Counter space (74%) isn’t important until you don’t have enough of it, i.e. if you’re cooking outdoors, then you probably want to serve the meal outside and that requires space for serving.

5. Utility storage (61%) is useful for things you use frequently, to save time running for what you forgot. For families who eat out a lot, extra cutlery, paper plates and napkins that are near your eating area will make meals go more smoothly so you can enjoy this special time with family.

Entertaining at Home

Entertaining at home means different things to different people. Entertaining almost always starts with food, whether it’s a full meal or hors d’oeuvres. You’ll use the same outdoor eating features for your family when you entertain, so you’ll want to factor in the number of people you might cook for or share a sit down meal with at the same time.

So let’s jump over to those extras that you’ll use to relax along, with family and when you have a party in your backyard.

6. Fire pits/fireplace (94%) are becoming much more popular, placing second after lighting in the list of outdoor living features. What a perfect way to sit outdoors to enjoy the sunset and cool night air after a long, hot day.

7. Installed seating (90%) whether benches, seat walls, ledges or steps, define gathering places for guests to mingle and have a good time. They’re also great for when you want to relax and read a book outdoors.

8. Weatherized outdoor furniture (84%) provides flexible outdoor seating that you can rearrange according to the type of party you’re having or where the sun is shining.

9. Stereo systems (58%) give a party that special touch. Music adds sizzle to a party, or maybe you want soft music in the background while reading a book?

10. Sinks (55%) take you another step towards creating that outdoor kitchen or maybe a place for everyone to wash the dirt after playing or gardening … before sitting down to a family dinner.


Oops, I promised 10 great things to create a truly wonderful backyard experience … and we’ve already got 10. There are a few more features below, identified by landscape architects who completed the ASLA survey but really, do we need another television?

See what homeowners are putting in their backyards

Would love to hear what your favorite outdoor feature is?

Send photos and we’ll share with just your first name and state where you live.

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  • Kerri

    @TinaGleisner:twitter , another TV for outdoor living – no. But a TV to watch a movie under the stars – is magical. So maybe move the TV from the playroom outdoors for the season.

    • Tinagleisner

      Kerri, Too funny. My husband is a very active amateur astronomer and he would tell you that the best thing to do outdoors on a nice, clear evening is to explore the stars … so I personally can’t imagine ever watching TV or movies outdoors. My preference – some nice music, a guitar always preferred but I don’t play, and a nice fire going.

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