Creating the Perfect Outdoor Living Space By Julie Senger Now that winter is finally over, most of us are anxious to get outside and enjoy warm weather this spring and summer. As we continue to battle a pandemic, we are also keenly aware of how valuable our outdoor spaces have become for our own enjoyment as well as for hosting small gatherings while adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of remaining socially distant and wearing masks. April is a great time to begin creating the perfect outdoor living space, where you can escape the confines of the indoors and enjoy much-needed fresh air. Here are some things to think about while you plan the layout of your new favorite hang “out” spot. FurnitureWhether you plan to sit outside to chat and have a drink with friends, dine al fresco with your family, lie out in the sun to soak up a little vitamin D, or circle the firepit with a few neighbors to roast marshmallows, there’s furniture for that! Here’s a list of items to shop for depending on how you plan to spend time in your outdoor space:• Extra Folding/Stackable Chairs• Hammock/Hammock Stand• Coffee/Side Tables • Bar/Barstools• Outdoor Living Set • Lounge Chair Set• Dining SetLightingLighting is important because it helps create ambiance in your space during evening hours. When choosing how to illuminate the area, consider your needs. If you plan to grill after dark, you will want lighting that is bright, so you can adequately see your food preparation area. If you are trying to create a romantic or relaxing atmosphere, you may opt for a dimmer lighting source to set the tone for the mood you’re trying to evoke. Here are some lighting options to consider:• Cafe String Lights • Lamps• Lanterns • Tiki Torches• Patio Ceiling Light Fixtures/Chandeliers• Christmas/Fairy String Lights• Remote Controlled Track Lighting (with color changing options and movement settings)Food PrepWhen summertime rolls around, there’s nothing better than preparing meals outside. In addition to the tasty al fresco dining, outdoor meal preparation means you’re not heating up your house and causing your utility bill to skyrocket when you crank up your central air conditioner in an attempt to cool it back down. Here are a few items you may want to invest in:• Coolers/Beverage Tubs• Gas/Hibachi/Charcoal Grill• Smoker• Turkey FryerClimate/Pest ControlTo get the most use out of your new space, you will want to provide climate control options to keep you warm on cool days and cool on warm days. Setting up a heating or cooling source will extend the “outdoor season” into the autumn months. You will also want to control those pesky mosquitoes, flies, and other unwanted outdoor pests. Consider the following options:• Firepit/Chiminea/Patio Heaters • Ceiling/Portable Fans• Cool Misting Devices• Bug Zappers/Citronella Lanterns/Candles• Exterminator Mosquito Yard Treatments • Shade Umbrellas/Awnings/Canopies/Pergolas/Other Coverings for Weather Protection HardscapesIf you are planning to make a larger, fixed, more permanent change to your outdoor living space, you will most likely need to hire a professional to install or build the items on the list below. While these features will certainly require a larger financial commitment, if you ever decide to sell your home, they may also yield a great return on investment by increasing your property value. Consider these additions for a spectacular outdoor living space:• Outdoor Kitchen • Fireplace• Woodfire Oven • Gazebo• Pool/Hot Tub • Koi Ponds• Waterfalls/FountainsDecorative AccentsLet your creative juices flow, as you select decor to fill out your space and give it a personal touch. Color and theme choices abound to help you create the right vibe. Whether you seek to cultivate a tropical oasis, surround yourself in pastels and floral prints, or opt for clean earth tones with comforting fabrics and patterns, here are some things to put on your shopping list:• Outdoor Area Rugs • Plants • Candles • Decorative Pillows • Tapestries• Art/Sculptures/Signs • Weatherproof CurtainsEntertainmentWhether you are hosting backyard events -- a tailgate party, outdoor family movie night, perhaps a neighborhood tournament (volleyball, horseshoe, or cornhole) -- or you just want to sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee and/or a glass of wine while listening to music, you are going to need some or all of these things:• Covered/Wall-Mounted TV • Yard Games• Portable Projector/Movie Screen • Outdoor SpeakersAfter everything is set up, your new outdoor retreat will offer the opportunity for lots of quality time to make many new memories with family and friends. Happy spring!