We probably appreciate our porches and patios more on holiday weekends than we do at any other time during the year. So as you celebrate Labor Day outdoors with friends and family this weekend, make a mental note about the ways–big and small–that your outdoor space could be more comfortable and convenient for you and your guests.
Here are a few things that you might want to add to your home-improvement to-do list so next summer’s outdoor gatherings are even better:
1. Do you have enough room? A small porch feels cozy and is just the right size for intimate gatherings when you invite one other couple over for dinner or want to enjoy an al fresco meal with just the immediate family. But once you add a few extra friends or your family starts expanding to include your adult children’s spouses and kids, that cozy porch can start to feel cramped.
Grow your outdoor space along with your family and your circle of friends by adding to or enlarging your patio. Since, you probably don’t use much of your yard beyond the patio, there’s probably enough room to spread out a bit. Once you have a larger space for outdoor entertaining, you can expand your invitation list without worrying if there’s room for everyone.
2. How easy is it to get the food from the kitchen to the patio? If you’re cooking indoors but serving and eating outside, the trek can seem like an obstacle course. Two possible solutions: First, you could reorganize the patio furniture and fixtures so there’s nothing in your way as you navigate from indoor kitchen to outdoor dining table. Or, you could build a mini-kitchen outdoors.
If you already have a grill, you can prepare the main course right on the patio. Consider building that grill into a console that includes counter space made from weather-resistant stone; stainless steel cabinets; and even a small refrigerator and sink. The more your outdoor cooking space functions as a kitchen, the fewer trips you’ll need to make indoors. That makes food prep quicker, allowing you to interact with your guests and keep the cool air indoors.
3. Is your patio safe for cooking and entertaining after dark? Having the right amount of light is critical. Line every step and staircase with lights; place lights on any retaining or decorative walls and posts that enclose the space; and illuminate the table or eating area with lighting so guests can see their food.
For a dramatic effect, add some subtle uplighting in the gardens that surround your patio to highlight any trees that tower over the patio.
4. Will the weather spoil your party? Labor Day–and all of the summer holidays–will be hot, so plan for it. A roof made from shingles or metal, or a large awning to cover the patio will block the sun and drop the temperature considerably. It will also keep the party outdoors- even if it rains.
5. Does your outdoor space mirror the style and good taste that your guests see inside your home? Sure, outdoors is more casual, but small, finishing touches can carry your indoor look to the patio.
A few ideas: Surround the patio with built-in planters filled with colorful, seasonal plants and flowers. Repeat colors and finishes from indoors when you select paint, furniture, umbrellas and table linens. If you add a roof, consider topping it with the same shingles that are on the roof of the main house.
Treating your porch or patio as a part of your home rather than as a part of your yard will make it more of a special “room” for entertaining the people you want around you as you celebrate the end of summer.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.