Hello all, happy summer! I know this summer is very different than any of us have ever experienced, because most of our regular summer activities and trips have been canceled. I remember spending time in the summer with my grandmother in southern Illinois, and what sticks out the most in my mind is the time and effort she spent in the summer setting up her yard for us before we arrived.
We would spend so much time outside in the summer there and I delight in the memories of her backyard, with her cute tablecloth with watermelon cut and ready, her garden bursting out with veggies and giant canna flowers in full bloom, croquet set up and ready to play, kiddie pool filled and breezeway with the ping pong table set up. She always had things prepped for us in such a good way, that it makes me wish she was still here to ask her how to replicate that level of goodness for my own children now.
So how is your summer starting? What are you planning for your usual summer festivities…now from home? Don’t get me wrong, it has been sweet for the things that started to reopen, like going out for dinner once and luckily the areas in nature we frequent were never really closed at all. We still travel to the river at least once a week. But 4th of July is coming, and the cases where we live have been doubling. So spending more time at home brings me back to the point that now more than ever, it is important to create an outdoor (as well as indoor) oasis. Today we will focus on the outdoor.
The goal is to create an outdoor space where you can feel inspired, relaxed, comfortable, productive, active and private. Creating this outdoor space, whether it is your garden, pool, balcony, patio, or even kids play zone, will bring you new meaning and create memories as we spend more time with our families here now more than ever.
So I thought I would put together some ideas to help inspire you to create an outdoor oasis to sip your favorite beverage and take your mind off the stresses of the world. You can also create a zone to work outdoors, should you have work to do from home, that will inspire and activate you. When a space awakens your senses it is bound to help you find the solace or activation you may need at that moment.
Take a deep dive and feel into what you want in the space you plan to set up.
What do you want, need, and desire in your outdoor living areas? What is your budget to create the spaces that you would ultimately love? Make a wish list for your space and DREAM BIG! Make a list of all of your wants and be very specific! You can even make a vision board of what your ultimate back yard would look like. Once you have the picture in your mind, imagine what it smells like, feels like, what do you want to grow there to eat and how does it taste? If you think of the sounds, can you place objects like bird feeders to attract the birds you love? Remember that even though you are creating a space for you and your family, there are other long term benefits such as increasing your home value. Now is a good time to put the work in to perfect your forever home as well as increase your home worth for the future! And even if you do not have the budget to complete all of your dream plans, if you have the vision, you can get started with the projects that cost the least and make the path to work out your plan bit by bit.
Here are the key qualities we are looking for in our space:
1. Is there shade, or can you create shade? The last thing you want while chilling’ in your zone is a sunburn.
2. Is it cozy?
3. Is there is enough space?
4. Can you grow plants there?
5. Is it private? Can you make it private?
6. What materials will be needed?
7. Can you get the help you need to accomplish your plan?
8. Who will use the space? (Adults, children, seniors, pets?)
9. What cannot be changed about the landscape?
10. What level of upkeep will be needed?
11. Think about resources and how much water will be needed. (Always choose low maintenance, drought tolerant and native plants when possible.)
Now that you have the practical considerations in mind, you can start to research the specific spaces you may want to add. Here are some ideas that I have in mind for my space and some cost little to nothing. You may have your own inspirations, but I thought I’d share and you can even see my Pinterest link below.
– Outdoor furniture makeovers. Here you can sand, re-paint or stain old furniture that may be looking a bit tired, but just needs a little TLC. I bought an old metal bench years ago that had begun to rust, but after a little sanding and two cans of turquoise spray paint (try the water-based, more eco-friendly versions and wear a mask), the bench looks brand new again!
-Upgrade your outdoor lighting, add strings lights on your deck and in the trees and put them on a timer for sunset to bedtime to save electricity. Or even better, invest in solar lighting. They have awesome copper white or color string lights and solar globes for elegant night lighting.
-Power wash your home exterior, out buildings, deck, patio, pavers, pool surround and rock ways. This alone will enhance your space and I know my inner OCD character cannot wait to do this. You can ask a friend to borrow a power washer or rent one.
-Add a decorative rug! Even if you have a small balcony, this defines an outdoor area, makes it colorful and fun and even shapes the gathering area. I recently picked up a large sisal rug for the area between the above ground pool and the back door, so the kids could stop running in dirt and it is a game changer!!
Create outdoor zones:
-Create an outdoor art space. This could be as simple as putting down a drop cloth and an old table to getting an easel that you can move around the yard for fresh inspiration. You can add seating, flowers and a line to hang fresh art works. I usually just set up a watercolor station for my girl and let her go crazy. My kids love crafts and doing it outside where mess is less stress is way more fun for all!
– Outdoor kids zone. This can be very easy, DIY and can be done cheaply with what you already have, find old items being passed on online, or you can buy and build new structures that will last the length of childhood. Some fun DIY ideas are: water table using old sink, sandbox from old kiddie pool, obstacle course using wood around your property, cornhole (also know as bean bag toss), fairy garden, fence chalkboard, rock path painting, tire painting & garden, creature habitats, outdoor teepee and flower/vegetable rings. You can also buy and set up play structures, a pool, various games like badminton or a trampoline. We like to camp on our trampoline to watch the stars in the summer, kids like it best with a safety net as you can hear the animals at night!
– Make a kitchen & dining zone. Outdoor kitchen and barbecue area is a great idea as the kitchen inside gets hot in the summer, so cooking outside is key! Set up a picnic table with decorative table cloth for eating messy outdoor meals, like sloppy joes, corn on the cob and watermelon.
– Outdoor movie area with screen and projector for movie nights. This one is on my list as we generally watch inside, but I love this idea and is also fun post corona times for gatherings!
– Garden zones, add as much greenery as you can wherever you live! Add plants on the deck, add a vegetable garden, add herbs close to the kitchen in pots as well as in the garden, add trees & tall grasses for shade and privacy. I know that in hot and sunny California, producing food and providing cool shade are both needed. Plus, the more green we have, the more rich and cool we all feel!! We added lots of garden areas around the house this year, and now we just have to protect them from the deer that also delight in new garden areas.
– Add a camping zone. If you can safely make a fire pit in your area, there is nothing more fun for the family than roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. Set up your tent in the backyard too, make a small bonfire and camp right in your own back yard!
– We all need a snooze zone. Set up a hammock and find those books you bought but haven’t read yet….it’s summer and its time to get your reading on!! And if the book doesn’t hold your attention, then its time to get your snooze on!
– Set up a comfort zone. If you have the money or the skills to repair a used one, get yourself a hottub, after all this work setting up these killer outdoor spaces your muscles are going to need this! And if that’s not in the budget, set up a large outdoor rug, yoga mats and pillows for a stretch area! Don’t forget the pillows! Summer comfort rule, you can never have too many pillows!
I truly hope that the ideas will help you to set up the most enjoyable and special spaces for you and your family so that you can have the most memorable summer of your life! Let it be the one that your entire family looks back on and says “remember that summer we had at home due to coronavirus,” as you all joyfully laugh and say “it was the best summer ever!” We can do this together! Make it extra fun and blend up some frozen watermelon and mint for the kids (and add something special for the adults.) Sip your way into summer fun all from the comfort of your beautiful, new outdoor summer space!!