Let’s face it: these are some stressful times to be living in. Many of us have been stuck at home for extended periods of time, options have been limited, events cancelled, and those that remain come with a twinge of anxiety.
It’s no wonder that so many people are taking this time to create a space at home – inside and out – that they can enjoy not just for a few days or a weekend, but every day and for many future days. All those home improvement projects suddenly become much more relevant now that you may be there 24/7 a great deal of the time. All those “one day maybe” plans sound so much more urgent right about now.
If that sounds familiar, you may be wondering how to upgrade your outdoor space so that you can skip the beach, the park or the road trip this year and spend time relaxing right in your own back yard. Well, we’ve got plenty of ideas to get you started. Stop staring dejectedly at your lawn mower or sparse patio and start dreaming right now.
This is part one of a two-part series to help you create that oasis you’re not only dreaming of but that you probably desperately need right now. In this post, we’re focusing on some of the specific elements that you can add to create an inviting space and achieve a sense of well-being.
1. Include Comfortable And Inviting Seating Areas
There’s only so much relaxing you’re going to do if you’re hovering with your hands in your pockets, or if your only seating option is a plastic folding chair. In fact, you can’t even use the word “relax” without asking “where?”
If there was only one requirement for a relaxing space, seating would be it. And not just any old seating. We’re talking deep, soft sofas, chaise loungers with their own umbrellas, cozy nooks, and pillows everywhere you look.
Sure, there are plenty of options for great looking seating, from gorgeous rustic picnic sets to stone benches, but comfort is what’s going to make your yard an inviting place where you want to kick off your sandals and relax. Think luxurious, cozy and just plain decadent. Anything from a great Adirondack chair to a lightly rocking hammock will do, as long as its a place that brings a smile to your face and a comfy place to rest your bottom.
Oh, and if you really love that rustic picnic set? There’s room for that too – as a pleasant dining table for those relaxing al fresco dinners.
2. Add A Water Feature Or Pond (Or Both!)
If you already have a water feature of just about any kind, you’re probably already on board with this one. If you don’t then it should definitely be your number 2 go-to landscape element right behind seating.
The sight and sound of running water, the wildlife and fish in a pond, the surrounding elements like natural stone and lush foliage, even the four-season appeal, is unequaled in its power to soothe. We’ve touched on some of water’s incredible powers before, so we invite you to discover it’s potential for yourself.
For now, it’s worth mentioning that water has been proven again and again to reduce anxiety, improve mood, promote healing and even positively impact focus and memory.
You can add anything from a simple water bubbler, to a bubbling column, fountain, patio water garden, pondless waterfall, or full-fledged pond and still enjoy the benefits of water.
And if the thought of maintaining a water feature is a little daunting, you can relax there, too. Even the largest pond, when designed as a naturally balanced ecosystem, will be self-sustaining and require minimal effort from you – and a lot less effort than tending a green lawn!
3. Include Lighting For Evening Ambiance
Imagine relaxing under the evening stars, enjoying a conversation or a quiet moment. You’re ensconced in your comfortable chair, listening to the soothing babbling of a waterfall or stream. What’s missing?
Well, maybe a good glass of wine, but definitely lighting! Outdoor lighting serves multiple purposes. It illuminates parts of your yard that you use – whether for dining, reading, talking or lounging. It enhances safety, keeping your surroundings visible and ensuring that you can navigate easily from one place to another. It sets a mood, whether you choose playful fairy lights, bold spotlights, elegant sconces or cozy lanterns. In short, it makes your space usable long into the nighttime hours so you can unwind after a busy day.
We could write a whole essay on lighting, and in fact, we have! Good lighting is partly about choosing where to use it, from underwater in your pond to within your water feature, high up in trees to create moonlight, in gardens, along pathways, beneath benches, and plenty more.
It’s also about setting a tone. Do you want drama? Subtlety? Do shadows fascinate you? Could you gaze all night at light playing off the ripples in your pond? Choose the mood that makes you feel most content, and we bet there’s a lighting technique to achieve it.
4. Bring A Room Outdoors
Do you have a favorite room in your house? A cozy den, comfy living room, totally zen bedroom? Where do you go when you want to really relax and unwind? Imagine that place – now imagine it outdoors!
With some creative design you can have an entire outdoor room – floor, ceiling, furniture, accessories – everything minus the walls.
The beauty of bringing your relaxation space outdoors is that you can enjoy all of the wonders of nature, from the waterfalls to the breeze, the chirping of crickets and scent of Hyacinth, the garden views and fresh air, without giving up any of the creature comforts of your home.
Whatever elements soothe you can join you outside. Lush carpeting, gently spinning ceiling fans, a favorite piece of artwork, tranquil music, and yes, even your television. Include a fireplace for cool evenings, or build your room around an outdoor kitchen for dining. Bring out everything from the lighting to the plumbing and electricity.
Treat yourself to luxury with a spa surrounded by beautiful florals and foliage. Bring a book, light a candle, and you can transport yourself into a resort atmosphere simply by walking out your back door.
5. Create A Private Sanctuary
It can be hard to relax and unwind if you’ve got a… let’s just say “friendly” neighbor. Even harder if your friendly neighbor has noisy kids, or if you live near a busy road.
If you’re currently gazing out at your expanse of a yard and wondering how you can possibly create a private space, or if you’re brooding over your small space, convinced there’s no privacy to be had, cheer up! There are myriad ways to section off space, enclose areas and even block noise.
Remember our friend the water feature? That’s one great way to block out noise, which can enhance the sense of privacy and go a long way to creating your own personal oasis in the madness. The sound of bubbling or running water is a lot more soothing than traffic noise or your neighbor’s dinnertime argument.
When looking for ways to create privacy, it’s helpful to think up. Straight up, that is. A fence is an option, but it can also be stark and probably won’t instill any warm-fuzzy feelings from either side. But a natural privacy screen like bamboo, Forsythia bushes, a row of Summersweet Clethra shrubs, or some other beautiful – and beautifully functional – element can both shield you from the world and become part of a naturally enclosed private space.
Some other elements to consider include trellises, gazebos, or “living” walls made of natural wood with plenty of hanging plants. All of these can bring you a bit of peace with the benefit of a gorgeous view.
Close Your Eyes And Imagine Your Space
These are just a few ideas to get you dreaming about your best outdoor space. Did any of these speak to you? Can you think of another element that you’d like to add? There are plenty more!
Think vegetable and herb gardens, fire pits, beautiful sculptures, gorgeous patios, hidden pathways, a private workshop tucked into a corner of the yard. All of these elements can be used to create a space that is the perfect place to spend your down time.
In our next post we talk about creating relaxation through sensory experiences. If you can’t wait that long, you can contact us right now and set up a consultation so we can talk about your outdoor space. Let us know what you envision, we’ll make recommendations, and together we’ll create a plan to bring your dreams to life.