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What started out as a yard in the great American dream has evolved into an outdoor living space, encompassing dining areas, retreat spaces and living rooms. These spaces extend the livable area of your home, while saving you money and increasing the value of your home. Here are some ideas to get you started.


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What started out as a yard in the great American dream has evolved into an outdoor living space, encompassing dining areas, living rooms and even play areas that go way beyond the swingsets of the 1950s. These spaces extend the livable area of your home, while saving you money and increasing your homes value. This is particularly true in the Southwest, where bug-free, temperate outdoor conditions predominate for much of the year. In fact, a little further south, Latin American homes often blur the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces  a bedroom might open to the garden or the dining room might call for outdoor eating all year round.

To take advantage of the wisdom of outdoor spaces, its important to remember that youll be more likely to use them if theyre close to the entrances of your home. One exception to that rule, however, are retreat spaces  sanctuaries youll want to remove from the house to create a sense of privacy and solace.

One of the most popular outdoor spaces is the outdoor dining room/kitchen. Plans for outdoor dining rooms can range from the basic to the outrageous, depending on your inclination and budget. Merely placing tables and chairs to take advantage of (or avoid) the sun, with a barbeque set up nearby, may be all you need. Even so, consider accents to dress up the space, like container gardens and solar-powered lights.

If you want to go for broke, install an entire outdoor kitchen with weatherproof cabinets and outdoor-ready appliances. Often the cabinets and appliances form the walls or boundaries of the space which you can then dress up with Spanish tile and a dining set. Use a pergola to provide shade and some cover.

Another popular option is the outdoor living room. Some families create not one, but two outdoor living spaces, one on the east side of the house and one on the west side. When its hot out, they always have a shady respite, and during cooler weather they can soak up the suns rays all day long. Planting greenery around these areas will help defray cooling costs in the summer and provide privacy and protection from the wind. Consider making these spaces more cozy with weatherproof fabrics, rattan furniture and pillow-draped seat walls. And to add interest, build your outdoor living room around a focal point such as a view, water feature or even a fireplace.

There are many reasons to consider creating outdoor living spaces. They not only raise your property value, but can be a place to entertain or simply an easy way to enjoy the great outdoors without having to leave your home.