How to Create an Outdoor Space you Love

I love vacations!

And, I certainly believe everyone should take more of them. Last year was a milestone year for my husband and I: Chris turned 40 in January, and I turn 40 in August. We planned a ski trip for about a week in January to celebrate Chris’ 40th, but, of course, the epic flu that came around hit us hard. Our kids were sick, my in-laws were sick, Chris was sick… and so, we couldn’t go. We were going to reschedule. And, of course, if you’ve seen the Seattle rain, it was horrible – truly never-ending – that winter, so a ski trip just didn’t seem like the right call. Anyway, week after week, we kept going along, and we thought, “Well, it’s time to reschedule this,” but we kept putting it off. Finally, after another day of rain, we decided, “Screw this, we are going to the sun.” We’d heard a lot of good things about Costa Rica, so we made it happen.

Now, this post isn’t just about my excitement with taking vacations, or about Costa Rica. This is about how, when you’re on vacation, you can stop, breathe, really reflect on things, and learn something. One of the things I took away from that trip to Costa Rica, is just how great outdoor spaces are. I’ve written about this before; however, it’s easy to forget when we have so many months of rain, like this year. (Finally, it’s the sunny season in Seattle, now. Phew.)

So here are, in no particular order, some of my favorite things about outdoor spaces that we can do in Seattle, inspired by Costa Rica:

  1. Seamless Connection to the Outdoors.

    This might be obvious, but don’t isolate your outdoor and indoor rooms from each other. Have there be no threshold, or a very small threshold, or just a step to the outdoor patios.

  2. Outdoor Showers.

    Obviously, you don’t want to be chilly, so ideally, this is in a warm, western-facing yard, but even if it’s not, you can do a really nice heated shower near a hot tub.

  3. Shallow Pool Areas.

    So, my husband always reminds me about Useless Bay at Whidbey Island – tide goes out, sand gets hot, the tide comes in, and you can swim in Puget Sound for a couple hours. In a similar fashion, having a shallow area is a great spot for kids, or you can put a chaise lounge in it and hang out in the sun. The water heats up quickly, you use less water in the first place, and it has a great impact.

  4. Infinity Edge Pools.

    Keep them small. Heat them in Seattle. Obviously, it’s an energy inefficient use – maybe look at using solar energy. And, keep them small and special. Don’t over do it.

  5. Fire.

    This one is also obvious. You need something to keep you warm outside most of the year in Seattle.

  6. Infrared Heaters.

    I’m a big fan of these. Basically, add additional forms of heat wherever you can. We didn’t need that in Costa Rica, obviously, but they are pretty great in Seattle.

  7. Outdoor Rooms.

    Now, in Costa Rica, at least half of your living space is typically outdoors. In Seattle, though, you’re not so lucky. But, try and carve out an outdoor room. Here, you’ll want a space that’s covered that gets enough sun, but not too much, especially western exposure because it’s pretty epic.

  8. Water Features.

    And, I mean something that flows, not a static pond. The sound of water falling is really helpful for masking traffic noise, plus it’s soothing.

  9. Flowers and Plants.

    Have some plants out there that really feel special. Make them aromatic or seasonal. We can have green year-round in Seattle, so take advantage of that. Make sure you plant things so that it’s always changing and so you have enough green year-round to be interesting. Even if you’re not outside, you can enjoy it through the windows.

  10. Attract Wildlife.

    Next one is funny… In Costa Rica, we went on a bunch of hikes, saw lots of monkeys, and other animals, and crazy amounts of wildlife. And, we don’t have that necessarily in Seattle, aside from maybe raccoons and rats, but we do have beautiful birds, and flowers that attract them. So, in our yard, we have a plant (again it goes back to the plants) that attracts hummingbirds. Think about what kind of plants you can include in your yard that will attract animals.

  11. Outdoor Furniture.

    This seems obvious, and this is kind of where interior design meets architecture and landscape architecture. But having some great outdoor furniture is pretty special, and helps you bring the indoors out. You can get some fabrics that are great for the outdoors, like from Sunbrella, and you’ll want to plan for some storage to put that furniture in when it’s sopping and raining out in February.

  12. Glass.

    Take advantage of your yard by using lots of glass to create a connection between your interior and exterior spaces. Seattle’s older homes have horrible connections to their yards, and this is a way that you can truly bring the indoors out, even when it’s raining. If you can appreciate a view to the outside, it’s pretty miraculous in our damp weather.

So, even though we still live in a climate that is rainy, and cold, and miserable most of the year, we can take what we learn on vacation, bring it back to Seattle. At least, as we look out the window at our beautifully landscaped yard, maybe with a water feature, or some beautiful birds, and some nice green plants, we can be reminded of Costa Rica (or wherever your favorite warm place is), and we can realize that we can make it through just a little more rain.

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