tips for creating an outdoor oasis

Hello lovely friends! We hope this post finds you with a happy kinda week!

‘Tis the season at our house for gardening, blow up pools, s’mores, sprinkler runs, popsicles… and all around fun in the sun. Recently, a sweet gal named Amy wrote me with this question :

I have been obsessed with your back yard, all of your how-tos and the beautiful work you guys have put into it. I desperately need something for ours. The problem is, I have no idea where to begin. This might sound kinda dumb, but what do you recommend for making my back yard better? Where do I start? Any tips? Please please help. Our yard is so sad. It needs some character, about eight months ago…

table_settingWhen you’re working outdoors to create an outdoor room, you’re literally creating something from nothing. You do this with any space, but there’s something about the whole no-walls thing that can be a little daunting. So you’re so not alone. When all was said and done, It was absolutely worth every moment of sweat. (And if I’m honest, blood + tears)

I think that when we tend to look at a home, we save landscaping on the list for last. It’s outside, so it seems trivial. We like to delve into the main areas for redos, like living rooms and kitchens. Those are the heart of the home, after all. But let me put this out there: working on your outdoor space brings a different level of value to your home. For us, redoing our yard has added “square footage” to our home, lengthened it’s lifespan for our family, and if you ask the kiddos… upped the fun level to optimum. ;} Once we got around to it, we just wished we’d tackled it sooner. It has become the new ‘heart of the home’, and it’s the perfect space for entertaining.

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So here’s a few of our favorite tips on where to begin with your own outdoor oasis.

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1. Zones. 

When it came to our back yard makeover, I knew what I wanted, but wasn’t sure how it would look. So I took notes on what our space should be divided into and for what. I sketched. I poured over ideas in magazines and Pinterest… I obsessed. I visualized. I breathe, sleep and eat design… I’m pretty sure I drive all my friends nuts. It’s who I am.

outside_pergola_patio_swingSo think about your yard, and it’s purpose. How you want it to be used. Melissa from The Inspired Room recently nailed it with this example, and when I read her breakdown, I realized I had a section for every space she covered. We knew our kids needed an oasis, and realized we did, too.

So keeping our needs and our design aesthetic in mind, Jamin and I came up with spaces for different things. From playing, to lounging, to celebrating with friends and family… this yard serves those needs.

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2. Materials. 

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Think of your outside space as a room. And think in terms of a variety of materials, layered with texture to bring character and interest to an otherwise plain jane space. Then, use those materials to define your zones.

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We added shutters for interest. We built a pergola to help anchor the space.

outside_gardenWe used a variety of finishes like painted concrete, cobblestone pavers, and rocks lining the gardens to keep it varied, defined, and interesting. Of course, I’m not even touching on the endless natural accessory that is plants, and the different ways you can use them to bring dull areas to life. Think beyond the rule-infused (and sometimes self-limiting) ‘regular’ stuff when it comes to a back yard and give it a jolt with a variety of materials. This will help define your space.

outside_pergola_patio_swing3. Furniture. 

When it comes to furniture, break it up. There should be a no-matching rule allowed beyond a few pieces. ;} In the same way that you use texture and layers, apply it to your furnishings in the back yard. Using different pieces in unexpected ways (see table top with a door + glass) or giving them a dual purpose {see firepit + table top} or even something as simple as a swing combined with chairs around a firepit… you get the picture. Thinking beyond the typical in simple ways can give you fun, personal results.

outside_fire_pit_cover4. Color. 

Reinvent your space with color. If you don’t like it, paint it. Combine stain with paint for a contrast. And use fabrics like icing on a really good cake, to repeat color throughout your space.

Then, pull paint colors from your repeated fabrics. I used blue in my chandy, the ‘hideaway’, and the chairs to infuse it with color and strengthen the feeling of a “room outdoors”. The yellow in the door and even the flower pots do the same thing in subtle ways. Use repetition with variety to infuse it with character.


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5. Lighting. 

Last, but certainly not least… Our home came with zero lights in the back. Say what?! So we added these lights around our pergola, and into our hideaway for a great feel at night, and plenty of light for the kiddos to see.

If you have a covered porch, and you’re waiting for your dream design, and all you have are those globe lights from target for your in-the-meantime… DO IT. It’s the simplest way to add instant ambiance to any outdoor setting. It gives an atmosphere like no other, and can be your most powerful ally in creating a space of your own. Don’t forget the lighting.

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These are a few tips on breaking it down for creating an outdoor oasis. We hope that helps! What are some of yours? We would LOVE to hear your input, what’s worked for you and what hasn’t. It’s amazing how an outdoor oasis can make your home feel for your family!

Pssst… Check out all of our how-tos for this space, here!

Have an inspired day, y’all!


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17 Responses to tips for creating an outdoor oasis

  1. loved this article, so helpful we’re starting with a blank space too!

  2. Meredith says:

    Do you keep your cushions and pillows outside all of the time? I live in Montgomery too – well actually Prattville – and particularly with the weather we’ve had lately I would worry about ruining them. Have any tips?

    • Hey Meredith! I totally feel the same way. We will leave ours out for a few days at a time, but that is it, max. It’s tricky because I’m always watching the weather. I left some out that I had on some chairs and a table before we even did this redo, and they mildewed out. Most of our yard is under a pecan tree, so that only complicates the mess. We bring them in/keep em covered/still working on a concrete system, but you can read more about the deats, here! ;} I am the same way though! Hope this helps. ;]

  3. Laura says:

    Great ideas! I love the gathered look, but for this year I bought some “matchier” stuff from Aldi. We finished the paver patios last year and really needed something to use. We have a giant oak tree in the yard, so we can’t do anything with cushions right now because of the abundance of squirrels! They ate a padded swing we had! And then some wasps nested where the cushion attached to the frame. I discovered that when I tried to move the swing. Ouchies! We will see more how we use our space and gather accordingly as things wear out. Thanks for the backyard eye candy!

    • Oh no!!! We have wasps EVERYWHERE here. I hate them. I even knocked one out of the air that was dive bombing my head, with a spade. It was like baseball. And then I ran and squealed like a girl. Because I am one. Good story ;)

      • Sara says:

        Ladies, get to your local Home Depot, Lowes or a nursery and get a wasp catcher. You hang them in various parts of the yard and it lures them in and, well, they’re done for. We get a lot of wasps and had to put some of them up this year for our yard. I hate to use wasp sprays and stuff so this is the alternative and seems to be working!

  4. Great job! I like how you combined the colours! And with these lights – it’s so romantic! Very useful post.

  5. Lynn says:

    Real good advise. Your backyard looks like it is an oasis.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Stumbled on your blog and love the post. Great detail and a lot of useful tips. Thank you for the advice and hope to see more of you around the blogosphere!

  7. Kathy says:

    Hi, I have been following your blog for about a year. I recently had new windows installed in my brick ranch home and knew I would want shutters to add to the curb appeal but I didn’t want louvre shutters. And then I saw your backyard rehab/shutter posts! Thank you so much. I had a friend build and install the shutters and I am sooo happy. I have pics to share if you are interested, just don’t know how to share them with you on here. Thank you again!

  8. Meredith says:

    Thanks for this inspirational how-to! I enjoyed reading it and am excited to try some new ideas in our own backyard. We live in the city and are lucky that we don’t back up to an alley. We border a beautifully tranquil space, but our yard is oddly shaped. We have a nice porch off our kitchen, but the rest of the yard is shaped as an “L.” So, I definitely need to get creative. Mostly, I wonder how/where I can incorporate a kids’ oasis. I’m setting my daydreaming in motion now, thanks to this entry.

  9. Diane Lauze says:

    Would number 6 be: Planting material–shrubs, flowers, etc.

  10. Dayle says:

    It’s a charming space. I’m curious how it holds up in inclement weather, all of the outdoor furniture/fabrics.

  11. Diane says:

    I love your yard!!!! I LOVE your swing…did you make it? Would love a close up pic of it please!!!!

  12. Pingback: diy_backyard - rugged life | rugged life