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Now that summer is here, most of us long to be outside enjoying the weather before the cold winter forces us to once again retreat into our homes. Since the downturn in the economy many people are now entertaining at home. And where people were once putting additions onto their houses, more and more people are rethinking the way they are using their current space.

One of these spaces is the backyard. No longer relegated to just children's toys and overgrown grass, the backyard is being reclaimed as an extension of the interior of the home. There is a growing trend of moving the indoors outside and creating living spaces such as family rooms and dining rooms in the backyard.

To create your own outdoor living space:

1) Plan the space near your back door. You will be more likely to use it if you don't have to traipse through the yard to get to it. It will also make it easier to carry food and drink outside to your guests.

2) Be realistic about how you are going to use the space. Does a zen water garden sound lovely in theory, but you have pets and small children who will turn it into a decidedly un-zen like experience? Well, you may need to rethink how your life fits into the space.

Do you enjoy cooking? Would you like to have your outdoor living space be an extension of your indoor kitchen? Do you enjoy having a couple of friends over and relaxing in front of a fire with a bottle of wine? Do you have small children who want you to watch them play on their playscape while you "relax." Yes, those are ironic quotation marks, I have children.

Take all of these things into consideration when you are planning the arrangement of your outdoor living room.

3) Add large pieces of furniture... a table, some chairs, a couch. A small outdoor fireplace or firepit can be a great focal point and will help to keep the bugs away when you are relaxing in your outdoor living space at night. Don't forget some pint sized furniture for the children.

4) Accessories make a difference. Layer the accessories just like you would inside of your home. Container gardens add color and interest. Try planting flowers and ornamental grasses in various containers. Shrubbery planted in containers can make a great privacy screen to shield you from the neighbors. Solar powered lights are inexpensive and require no professional installation. Bold colorful pillows will add interest. Candles for a quiet relaxing ambiance. Walk around your home and look at things you already own and imagine using them in new ways.

5) Longing for some shade, you don't need to build an expensive pergola. A simple sun umbrella will provide all the shade that you or your guests need.





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