There’s nothing quite like the feeling of welcoming friends and family into your home. And if you’re like me, no dinner party is complete without gathering outside after the meal with a cold (or warm!) drink in hand, catching up on life, and watching as the kids run free in the grass. Designing the perfect outdoor space doesn't have to be intimidating, and you can do it on a budget. While we often think of summer evenings as being the ideal time for outdoor entertaining, here are a few hints for creating a backyard space that feels warm and inviting, no matter what the season! Whether you are looking for an outdoor fireplace, patio designs, or ideas for a small backyard, here's how you can entertain year-round.
On of the best ways to make your outdoor space feel welcoming is to ensure that it is easily accessible from the house. Having a deck or stone porch that is level with the back entrance of the house is one way to make the transition flow seamlessly. Another way is to have wide, shallow stairs that lead down from the house or the deck. Steps like these have several benefits. They are easier to navigate than tall, narrow stairs, especially while juggling an appetizer plate or glass of wine! They can also double as seating and conversation space outside, and create a space that flows better visually. You can boost their appeal even more by adding pathway lights up the stairs for better visibility.
Deck/patio layout and furniture placement are also important factors to keep in mind when designing your space. Avoid placing dining tables or chairs directly outside the door. Physical and visual obstacles impede the flow of traffic and create a feeling of division between the inside and outside of the home. Instead, keep the back entrance uncluttered and inviting. Creating multiple destinations in your outdoor space will help the area feel more conducive to gathering, and can add visual interest as well. Perhaps an outdoor sofa/chair set with a coffee table or firepit can serve as the main gathering area, with a dining area off to one side. I always love to have an alcove or seating wall with a firepit. Also, having a space not too far from the house for grilling and food prep (and maybe a mini-fridge!) definitely takes outdoor entertaining to the next level. I also like to include some more intimate conversation areas with a bench and a side table or two.
Sights, Smells, and Sounds
It’s vital to add beauty to your space! A yard that appeals to the senses will feel extra inviting. Adding plants is one of the best ways to do this. Gardenia, honeysuckle and other fragrant flowering plants work nicely, as well as any that appeal to your personal tastes and provide a pop of color! I’ve also found that placing several pots planted with a variety of fresh herbs around the space can help discourage mosquitoes from joining the party! These planters have the added benefit of smelling amazing, as well as being useful in creating delicious meals and cocktails.
As for sound- while music may be an obvious choice, there’s nothing that compares to the sound of running water when it comes to creating a peaceful space. Something about those negative ions and the visual appeal of a pond or fountain takes the ambience to the next level! Planting plenty of bird friendly native plants, and having a fresh water source will also attract some feathered friends, and hopefully some beautiful birdsong.
Physical, as well as visual warmth are absolutely essential to any outdoor evening gathering! While staying warm isn’t an issue in these Virginia summers, the warm glow of a fire still ups the cozy factor. During the fall and winter months, having a robust fire going in the firepit draws people to gather round like nothing else! We’ve had many a winter evening where friends joined us out by the firepit, sipping hot spiced cider and enjoying conversation.
There are other ways besides a firepit to bring that warm glow to your backyard. Hanging a simple string of party lights from the trees or pergola is an easy, inexpensive option. Placing candles (especially citronella), tiki torches, and tabletop oil torches are also good summertime choices. Thoughtfully placed outdoor lighting can also make the space feel truly magical! An uplight into the branches of a big tree, accent lighting in a stone wall or flowerbed, or an illuminated bubbling fountain are all ways to turn a beautiful area into a breathtaking one.
About Easton Outdoors
We started out as the neighborhood lawn boys – a group of high school friends trying to make some pocket change. It soon became more. We realized how much we enjoyed landscaping. Over the years, we've transformed hundreds of properties, beautified countless landscapes, and made many homeowners proud. This has become our passion!