Discover Your StyleDesign Tip: Don't let your outdoor room become cookie cutter. Invest in something that taps into your personal style, architectural tastes or otherwise reflects what's inside your home. This grand pavilion captures the drama of its backdrop and packs more of a style punch than a traditional gazebo.
Vacation at HomeDesign Tip: With gas prices and travel expenses rising, the backyard is becoming vital when it comes to leisure, says Scott Cohen, landscape artist of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif. Taking vacations at home means designing your backyard like a resort with all the amenities. Waterproof plasma flat-screen TVs and swim-up bars are all fair game.
Define Outdoor SpacesDesign Tip: In general, the biggest mistake in backyard design is one oversized patio with plantings on the borders, says landscape artist Scott Cohen of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif. "When you're designing outdoor space you have to think about how people socialize. As soon as you have more than four people over they break into different groups, and that's how your yard should be divided, too."
Create a Focal PointDesign Tip: When you create an outdoor room, there has to be a reason to use it whether it's functional (to eat, to swim, to cook, to relax) or it's visual (a sculpture, fountain, fireplace, fragrant plant). Plan your yard with focal points in mind.
Mix Fire and WaterDesign Tip: Depending on where you live, most outdoor spaces aren't complete without a fire. Add a fireplace or fire pit to extend the seasonality of your outdoor room. Fire and water elements can even be combined; think of the beautiful reflection of flames on still water.
Shape up the PoolDesign Tip: Kidney-shaped pools are out, and entire spa-pool experiences are in. Landscape artist Scott Cohen of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif., often designs yards where the pool is a focal point. "For many it's the place where everybody is going to hang out, " he says. "We do spas that seat eight to 10, or they can swim up to the water bar and play cards." Other great features include a water shoulder massage and vanishing edge pools.
Cook OutsideDesign Tip: Preparing food outside is half the fun of having a yard. When you're designing your outdoor kitchen, think big: "Everything in the outdoor kitchen is big, from beverage centers to warming doors, through-the-counter trash chutes, griddles for pancakes for brunch, wok plates, smokers, rotisseries," says landscape artist Scott Cohen of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif. Also, "make sure that the host doesn't have his back to the guests when he's cooking," he
Personalize Your YardDesign Tip: Get creative in your backyard outdoor room. Landscape artist Scott Cohen of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif., installed two hippo statues, one that spouts water into the pool, for a client. Your imagination is the limit: "Whatever you can do inside these days, you can do outside too," he says.
Add Color and TextureDesign Tip: Fill your backyard with a variety of colorful plants, shrubs and landscaping materials. Don't be afraid to spend more for quality, comfortable patio furniture so you can enjoy your plantings.
Use Unique MaterialsDesign Tip: Consider alternative materials for creating your outdoor room. Shells, wine bottles, crushed glass and fossils make stunning outdoor countertops. Using different hardscape materials — like stamped or stained concrete — can save you a bundle while infusing the backyard with style.