Outdoor Entertaining: Designing the Perfect Space for Fall

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Fall is many Atlanta residents' favorite season for outdoor entertaining, since the Georgia heat is...

Fall is many Atlanta residents' favorite season for outdoor entertaining, since the Georgia heat is not an issue. At the Fall Home and Garden show this year, there was a heavy focus on extravagant outdoor living spaces, complete with fire pits, outdoor kitchens and hot tubs. If you're thinking about turning your patio, deck or backyard into an outdoor party space, consider these planning tips before you begin. Consulting with an expert landscaper and remodeler will help save you time, and help you avoid costly design mistakes before you begin.

Designing your outdoor space

When planning your outdoor oasis, plan the layout like a series of rooms. Consider privacy, where the sun will hit throughout the day and what elements your outdoor living space will need, such as an outdoor kitchen, hot tub, garden or fire pit.

Your central area is where the bulk of the entertaining will be done, and most people find that a space between 12 and 20 feet is ideal. Make sure that you avoid long, narrow spaces in your floor plan. They make socializing awkward and will most likely repel guests. If you want stairs leading from the deck to the ground, try to keep the steps about six feet wide to keep the space from feeling cramped.

When choosing the location for your grilling area or outdoor kitchen you will want to place it as close to your indoor kitchen as possible to be close to gas, water and electric access points. But keep the direction of the wind. You don't want your house filling with smoke.

Choosing flooring for your outdoor space

If you visit homes that have high-end outdoor kitchens and areas for outdoor entertaining, you will notice a common element if you look down. Few people cut corners when choosing flooring. This is especially important if you're building an outdoor kitchen that you want to last.

Avoid surfaces that become slick when wet or if grease from the grill spills. Most people choose a concrete, brick or natural stone because they are porous materials that give traction. Keep in mind the other elements of your design when choosing a floor, most stone floors can be matched with fire elements, water features and furniture made of the same material.

Outdoor kitchens and grills

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of outdoor cooking options that are on the market today, from charcoal grills to fully functioning kitchens that rival any found inside the home. Ultimately, what you choose will depend on your budget. All of the experts agree that you should buy the best quality appliances that you can afford when planning an outdoor kitchen.

If you are planning on a traditional outdoor grill instead of a full kitchen, most experts suggest avoiding a grill that is built into your design, even though they are attractive from a design perspective. Most people find that they will want to move the grill around due to weather, sun, wind, or for deep cleaning.

Keeping warm during fall entertaining

One of the biggest challenges to entertaining outdoors during the fall is beating the chill. While Atlanta doesn't get as cold as many areas, there is no doubt that the fall evenings can get chilly. When designing your space, keep your guests' comfort in mind.

The most popular way to combat the chilly air is with fire pits. Think past the old campfire-style round well of flames, and take a peek at the unique and decorative fire features that you can install for just a little more money. These fire features attach to your home's gas line and double in functionality as a part of your dcor and a source of warmth.

If your outdoor space includes a hot tub, consider building privacy walls around the sides most likely to get a breeze to help keep guests getting in and out of the hot tub from getting cold. Heated towel warmers are another nice touch that will help cut down on the after-soak chills.

Seating arrangements

How you plan your seating will depend on several factors:

Where will your televisions be located? If you plan on including a television, make sure that the bulk of your seating has a clear view. Semi-circle seating arrangements are a popular choice .

How much space do you have? When planning your dining area seating, choose round tables instead of square. You can almost always squeeze in an extra chair or two at a round table if an unexpected guest arrives, but a table with corners makes increasing the number of guests a challenge.

Will your outdoor areas have walkways between gardens or decks? Most guests will appreciate hidden coves or retreats away from the noise of the party. If you have walkways between areas of your outdoor design, consider tucking benches or a garden swing. Keep in mind the temperature; these areas might also be good places for added fire elements.

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