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Creating a year-round oasis in your backyard
Making an outdoor space feel like extension of indoors. - photo by Photo Contributed

When winter approaches, do you stow the grill and cover the patio furniture, wishing there was some way you could continue to enjoy your outdoor living space all year? If so, you’re not alone.

More homeowners are seeking function and efficiency from their outdoor living spaces, according to a recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Demand is growing to make outdoor spaces unique and usable year-round. Experts say one of the first ways to create this personal year-round oasis, is by bringing the indoors outside.

“A great outdoor space serves as an extension of your home,” says Dan Berger, expert landscape designer, contributor and owner of LandPlan Landscaping in Pleasanton, Calif. “When planned properly, your backyard can provide you extra square footage of living space and serve as an inviting retreat throughout the year.”

  Berger offers some design hints to help turn your backyard living space into a multi-functional, multi-season oasis:

1. Define your space with a base

“You need to define your space based on function,” Berger says. “Once outside you need to feel cozy, enclosed within your new space while oriented to other rooms within your house and yard.”

You can start with an existing porch, deck or patio, or build new ones, to establish boundaries for your space. Consider how you will use it - for living, dining or entertaining - and include features that will make the space easy and efficient for those intended uses.

2. Use natural materials that compliment the outdoors

Eco-chic - materials that are environmentally friendly and beautiful - remains a hot outdoor living trend. “I always like to use natural materials as they just make me feel more connected to nature and more relaxed,” says Berger. Natural, organic, eco-friendly materials create a warm, inviting feel and are better for the environment.

Fortunately, some tried-and-true materials, like Western Red Cedar are spot-on with this trend. This versatile material holds a finish for an extended period of time or weathers beautifully naturally, making it a green choice for everything from decks to flower boxes and furniture. You can learn more about Western Red Cedar and locate a retailer or distributor in your area, by visiting

3. Add dimension

Pergolas, gazebos and trellises add height and dimension to your outdoor environment, and can enhance the feeling of privacy whether in an outdoor kitchen or entertainment space. Consider building outdoor walls to help achieve that feeling of privacy, coziness and orientation. Explore walls made of real wood, rock or fabric.

For extra detail and shade, drape a thin veil of papyrus or other vine over a pergola to create an intimate lounging area. Consider adding a tall plant in the corner or edge of the deck to balance the space and add height. During the holiday season, wrap tall plants with string lights to brighten the space. For more how to tips, visit “WRCLA’s Channel” on YouTube.

4. Simplify the installation

Choose materials that are easy to install over alternative, composite building products.

Durable materials last longer by avoiding the damaging effects of mold and mildew, and can save you money long-term. They are also lighter than man-made products, making it easier to design and create an ideal space. Instead of spending the last days of summer fixing material that splits, breaks or crumbles, you’ll have more time to relax in your outdoor oasis.

5. Update seasonally

As the seasons change, so should the look of your outdoor accessories and furnishings. Berger recommends decorating your outdoor rooms as you would inside. Add holiday decorations in the winter and pictures to your walls in the spring. From summer barbecues to enjoying fall colors or even gathering around the fire pit after the big football game, select accessories and furnishings that will facilitate year-round use.

“The most important thing to remember is to have fun,” Berger says. “Enjoy turning your plain backyard into the outdoor oasis of your dreams. Take your time and make choices that are right for you and your family, and you will enjoy the space for many years to come.”