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Style Magazine

Dream Backyard: Creating an Outdoor Oasis

Summer and outdoor living are synonymous. Whether you’re wanting to entertain, eat al fresco, or lounge around on a balmy evening, in a perfect world, your backyard should be an extension of your living space. But if your yard isn’t ready for human occupancy—let alone hosting—you might miss out on some of summer’s sweetest memories. That’s why we called in local experts for their advice on taking a yard from rarely used to the coolest place to be.
Embrace the indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
A “California room” is an indoor-outdoor extension of your living room, dining room, or kitchen. It has three walls, with the fourth open to the outdoors. While most are attached to your home, a freestanding California room is a genius way to utilize an under-used spot within your backyard. Whitney Critchley, creative director at Terra Outdoor Living (, tells us to “think of it as a semi-enclosed porch with all the inside amenities you love: electricity for appliances, chargers, entertainment systems, a cooktop for meal prep, a roof to shield you from the elements, and comfortable furniture for lounging.”
HOW: Outfit your California room with furniture that’s equal parts comfortable and durable. Shop for weather-friendly materials that can withstand the elements and outlast the seasons. “At Terra, we offer many collections that bring the inside out with all weather-friendly materials—ideal for lounging, living, and relaxing,” shares Critchley.

Outdoor kitchens make any yard perfect for entertaining.


Install an outdoor kitchen for open-air entertaining.
“Imagine being able to go outside in the warm weather, invite a bunch of friends over, and cook up a storm while everyone comfortably enjoys the evening,” says Tim Bell, general manager at Capital Landscape ( Outdoor kitchens are the perfect addition for homeowners who love hosting. They make outdoor entertaining a breeze, and the cook doesn’t have to miss out on the action. The cherry on top? They can increase your home’s value, too, according to Bell.
HOW: Bell advises keeping the size and constraints of your backyard—as well as any existing architecture within the yard—in mind; otherwise, you may end up with an outdoor kitchen that doesn’t flow well with the space. Rubi Cornejo, marketing manager at Advanced Pavers & Landscape ( advises homeowners to “take the time to research local building codes, obtain necessary permits, and work with a trusted landscape designer and contractor to ensure a successful project.” In addition, choose a company/contractor that also installs for a seamless design and build experience.
A visually stunning water feature is a treat for the senses.
Cornejo loves adding water features into backyards for ultimate zen. “A water feature can add a sense of tranquility and relaxation to your backyard.” In addition to ambiance, it also adds visual interest and a focal point to your yard and is a conversation starter when entertaining.

Water features can be a treat for the senses!


HOW: When choosing one, Cornejo advises homeowners “consider the maintenance required for each feature and select one—whether it’s a fountain, birdbath, pond, or waterfall—that fits your lifestyle.”
Prevent mosquitos for comfortable evenings.
As the stars come out on warm summer evenings, so do the mosquitos. Planting mosquito-repellent plants throughout your yard ensures you and your guests can enjoy balmy nights without the swatting. Lavender, rosemary, and peppermint keep the pests away while filling your yard with aromatics.
HOW: Bell recommends strategically planting mosquito-repellent plants near all seating areas within your outdoor space. “You’ll be far more likely to avoid bites throughout the year,” he says.
Plant a bountiful garden.
The colors and fragrance of a summer garden bring life to backyard spaces. “A well-planned and maintained garden can add beauty and function to your backyard oasis,” says Cornejo. “Try incorporating raised garden beds, container gardens, or even a greenhouse to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers.”
HOW: Don’t be afraid to get whimsical when designing your garden! Use a variety of plants and textures to add depth and interest; play with colors to bring a pop to the yard.

Plant a garden


Light up your yard.
“Plan for adequate lighting to make your backyard enjoyable both day and night,” Cornejo recommends. Twinkling lights strung through the summer night sky are an affordable way to illuminate your yard in the evenings, as well as add ambiance to summer gatherings. If you love toasting marshmallows, consider a fire pit; they provide lighting and a hub for family and friends.
HOW: “I recommend researching and selecting high-quality materials that are durable and weather-resistant,” Cornejo says. Waterproof LED lights are the way to go for outdoor lighting. If you like the coziness of a fire pit but not the mess (or smell) of wood burning, choose an electronic or propane-powered unit.

by Nelly Kislyanka
Photo by Sang An. Water feature photo Martin - Group cheers photo DisobeyArt - Hanging mosquito repellents plants photo Gorilla -