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How to Make the Most of Your Backyard Living Space

Pergolas are a great option; some even have adjustable slats to vary the amount of shade. Photo by Christina Kiffney Photography

People often tell me how much they love the feel of indoor/outdoor spaces.  With Colorado’s pleasant, sunny weather, it’s easy to blur the lines between being inside versus outside, wanting to hang out outside for a large percentage of the year.  It’s not hard to believe that outdoor living spaces are still trending!  You can see innovation and imagery in almost every piece of inspiration out there, i.e. magazines, websites, and apps.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, being outside is now high on everybody’s list. Because parks can be crowded, many people are transforming their personal properties into an outdoor shangri la. The key to making the perfect outdoor area is comfortable furniture with versatile spaces. In practice, this means having a sunny place to sit on cool days and a shady spot to sit on hot days.  Nothing is more miserable than sitting on a cozy outdoor couch while being roasted by the sun.

Shade Structures

A solid structure, with a fixed roof system (like a picnic structure), can be the best solution for the long term because it can withstand the high winds and the intense sun we experience here.  I’ve seen some pretty decent looking gazebos at Costco with a nice post and beam look with a simulated copper roof...not bad...but you have to comply with their standard dimensions.  It may be the best option to have a custom structure that suits your space perfectly.

If the budget for a custom outdoor living room is not in the cards, there are some simpler options, like a sail shade.  The internet has some amazing options for sail shades that are delivered with all the parts needed to hang it up.  When we work with clients, we help them determine the size they need for their space and order the sail shade for delivery.  We then determine where supports are needed - the most recent house we remodeled was in the shape of an “L” so all we had to do was add a steel post to the missing outside corner, then voila...a 14’x’18’ shaded patio!  Our clients can just unclip the sail in the wintertime in order to allow more light into the area and to preserve the sail fabric for another season.

Let’s not forget about the magical feel that nighttime can bring to outdoor spaces, especially when they are professionally lit.  A well placed fixture or string of lights can really transform the feel of a space in the evening.  With outdoor lighting, it’s important to pay attention to the codes in your jurisdiction, and Boulder’s codes can be very tricky to navigate.  Similar to firepits, they are awesome, but can be illegal in certain areas.

Mobile Outdoor Office

Lastly, now that many of us are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, why not take advantage of these wonderful outdoor spaces and set up your mobile office? If you are in the design stages of your outdoor room, add a few extra power outlets to keep those laptops and handheld devices powered up.  With everything cloud based, an outdoor Wi-Fi solution is a must.  At my house, I use the Orbi system by Netgear, and I know they sell outdoor boosters that can be connected outside.  To extend my coverage, I added an indoor satellite to my system because my main level was not getting a good signal from the modem in the basement.  I positioned it near the window by my outdoor space and it has helped tremendously with connectivity, both inside and out.

The last piece of this puzzle is controlling the glare on your screen.  There are several helpful solutions to try.  At the risk of stating the obvious, the easiest solution is to sit in the shade and turn up your screen’s brightness.  It can also be helpful to adjust the contrast.  Otherwise, you can try wearing polarized sunglasses; they can cut the glare.  An anti-glare screen cover can be wildly helpful and are easy to find on the internet.  Or you can invest in a stylish laptop “hood”. :)

Computer privacy hood

Head over to our gallery to see some of our porches and other work.

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