Let's face it, we're all looking to stretch out and expand our space at home, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that there's nothing quite as sweet as your own backyard.
As long as your backyard has an amazing patio.
The patio is the heart of any outdoor living room, and it doesn't take much to go from a boring slab of concrete to an inspired, welcoming hangout that's perfect for parties, pets, kids, and just plain lounging around. With some creativity, DIY spirit, and a bit of a budget, you can transform your patio into a space not only that you love, but that creates value.
Here are the must-adds that will seriously upgrade your outdoor living experience.
Pergola. It's amazing what adding four posts and some slats across the top can do for your yard, but a pergola is a game-changer, defining space, adding visual interest and height, and creating the sense of a true outdoor room. You can perk a pergola up with climbing vines or a swath of shade cloth across the top to help keep out the midday sun. DIY kits start around $1000 but be sure to check with your local codes and HOA to see if adding one requires a permit.
Let loose with the lights. Whether you hang a flock of flickering votive candles (from the pergola, right?) or string some strands of funky retro bulb lights, lighting creates warmth and atmosphere and can again help define the space. In a pinch, toss inexpensive twinkle lights around doorways or nearby trees and shrubs to add some evening sparkle.
Grill. A good grill is a must—you don't want to be fussing with charcoals when you're hosting a barbecue or whipping up a quick dinner, so opt for a propane or built-in gas grill (if your budget allows) and create some good workspace‚ like a simple stainless steel table to hold food and cooking accessories.
Firepit. Fire features not only prolong the season for your outdoor patio by creating coziness and warmth, but fire pits and backyard fireplaces can increase your home's marketability if you're looking to sell. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects' list, fire features top the list of the most popular outdoor design elements. Bonus: They're a permanent campfire, perfect for marshmallow toasting.
Furniture. New outdoor furniture sets can cost thousands, but some thrifted motel chairs or old rockers will get new life with a coat of paint in lime green, orange, or turquoise to create a focal point that's bright and cheery. Toss a handful of outdoor pillows on for interest and softness.
Water features. There's nothing like adding some H2O to your design... A small fountain creates soothing white noise and provides a spot for birds to bathe, while a pond can become a focal point and opportunity for lush landscaping. Want to go bigger? You can DIY a splash pad for your kids and pets, complete with multiple jets, a drain, filtering, and chlorination systems.
Unexpected garden element. Time to add an interesting planter! A galvanized horse trough, old kitchen sinks, dressers with their drawers pulled out, a vintage bathtub or baby carriage—almost anything unusual can be packed with potting soil and filled with overflowing flowers. In spring you can keep it simple and toss handfuls of mixed wildflower or annual seeds (zinnias are easy, colorful, and make for fabulous cut flowers) to see what pops up. Swap summer plantings out for fall with hardy mums and pansies, and in winter, tuck evergreen boughs and pine cones into them for color and texture. Pro tip: give some of these containers a coat of weather-resistant spray paint in a bright or unexpected color and tie in pillows, candles, and furniture in the same color scheme for a cohesive look.
Whether you add just a few of these or all of the above, know that outdoor living is hot in real estate right now, with buyers keen on homes with expanded and beautiful outdoor living spaces. You can not only create a space to enjoy right now but also expect an ROI (return on investment) of anywhere from 50 to 100 percent depending on the market, with pumped-up patios more in-demand in warmer climates.