Make your backyard the outdoor oasis you’ve always wanted.

This time of year, nearly everyone wants to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Summer is precious and can be short-lived, depending on your location. It’s possible to savor and enjoy these months even more by creating a beautiful and functional outdoor space. Here’s how.

Have a Plan
There are a few important questions to ask yourself before beginning the backyard design process. How big do you want the space? Do you have a budget in mind? Do you want to hire it out, or do it yourself? What’s your timetable? Do you want it to be done this summer, or spread it out over a year or two? The answers to these questions will set the stage for your fireplace and patio plan.

The Foundation: Patio or Deck
Many homeowners use a patio or deck as the foundation for their outdoor oasis. The size will depend on how big your yard is and available funds. More than anything else, you want it to be a relaxing area with places to lounge, sit and eat. It can really be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. Furnish it with an outdoor table, comfortable chairs and an umbrella for al fresco dining. Or extend your living room outdoors with cozy seating, end tables and outdoor lighting. Accessorize it with potted flowers to make the space feel warm and inviting.

The Main Event: Fire Feature
Fire features, like gas or wood-burning fireplaces, are among the most popular outdoor living amenities for homeowners today. Whether you want a complete fireplace with hearth, mantel and chimney or a simple fire ring, it will serve as the central gathering area. There are many styles to choose from – see for yourself here.

The Food: Outdoor Kitchen
The options, appliances and accessories for a functional outdoor kitchen are limited only by your available space and budget. A grill paired with an outdoor refrigerator, wet bar, sink and storage cabinets can give you many of the conveniences of an actual kitchen with the added benefit of cooking under the stars. Take the experience up a notch by adding a wood-burning pizza oven to expand your menu options.

Landscaping Basics
The backdrop to every outdoor oasis is a lush landscape. You can help your backyard along by applying weed control and fertilizers at recommended times throughout the year. If your grass is thin, give it a helping hand by running an aerator over it and seeding it later in the year.

Add mulch around your trees for a finished look. This will also reduce trimming and the spots your riding lawnmower misses when turning tightly around them. Flower beds, creatively placed rock gardens and water features are also great additions.

To create an outdoor living space you’ll enjoy for many years, start with a plan and everything will fall into place. A word to the wise: The more inviting you make the space, the less likely you are to have it to yourself. Family, friends and neighbors will probably flock over and designate your patio or deck as the go-to spot. Perhaps they will contribute the hot dogs for roasting?

Make your dream home come alive with these other tips to Create an Outdoor Oasis.

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