Consider these five upgrades to create the outdoor oasis of your dreams.

You know that feeling you get – the one like the outdoors is calling you, and you just can’t fight the itch to get outside? It turns out there’s a reason for it. In the mid-1960s, German-born psychoanalyst Erich Fromm coined this basic need to seek connection with nature “biophilia.” It’s why we crave time on our porches, our decks, and our patios. And since we’re spending so much time in these outdoor spaces, why not make them a bit more comfortable?

Up the Ante with an Outdoor Kitchen
Everything tastes a little better when it’s prepared on a grill. But when everything else needed for the meal is inside the house, we end up running back and forth constantly to get beverages, plates, utensils, condiments, etc. An outdoor kitchen simplifies meal prep and provides easy access to all the tools you need to enjoy dinner on the patio.

Think about it: without walls and other limitations, the outdoors is the perfect spot for your ideal kitchen. A grill, a surface area for food prep, and an area to stow supplies are essential. But why stop there? A cooktop is nice to have for preparing side dishes. Add a sink and refrigerator and you can virtually eliminate trips inside.

The design of your outdoor kitchen will depend on the area you are working with and the amenities you choose. Many homeowners have found that an island is an efficient design for an outdoor kitchen since it can comprise everything needed in a fairly compact and efficient space.

Move Indoor Comforts Outside
Our yards and outdoor spaces are part of our homes. Today more than ever, it’s possible to extend the comforts of our living rooms outdoors, especially with regard to furniture.

If you think outdoor furniture lacks comfort and style, think again. In addition to being weather resistant, today’s outdoor furniture is every bit as comfortable as its indoor counterparts. Gone are those harsh, sweat-generating cushions of the past; they’ve been replaced by pliable, soft, weather-tolerant fabrics that make you want to nestle in and stay longer. Wicker or rattan bases are equally cozy and are designed to stand up to weather for years.

Extend the Season with Warmth
Just as a fireplace is the heart of the home, it is also the centerpiece of any outdoor space. If you’ve ever enjoyed a campfire on a moonlit night, you know fire and the outdoors belong together. That’s why outdoor fireplaces are so popular, and continue to gain momentum as one of the most popular outdoor space amenities. If you make only one improvement to your outdoor space, install a fireplace to transform it from run-of-the-mill to the place where everyone wants to spend time. There are many style options for outdoor fireplaces, including the on-trend new Heat & Glo Courtyard gas fireplace shown below.

Let There be Light
Enhance starry summer nights with strategically placed low-voltage lights. In addition to providing light for your guests to move safely from one area to another, lighting adds interest by illuminating your landscape. Most lights are fairly easy to install, provided there’s an electrical source. If electricity isn’t an option, consider solar-powered lighting, which can be set to operate dawn-to-dusk. Also, skip the incandescent lights and go with LED. They produce less heat and save money over time by using about 90 percent less energy.

Just Add Water
Add the sound of gently falling water to the comforts of a fireplace and you have the perfect outdoor oasis to engage your senses. Rock fountains (sometimes made from concrete-reinforced fiberglass) are popular now because they don’t require a lot of maintenance and are fairly simple to install.

If you want to connect with nature and enjoy your outdoor spaces more, you aren’t alone. The proof is in the numbers, as reported in this Zillow Digs™ survey. Enjoy the summer!

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