I could have done so much more to create memorable outdoor living spaces. I would have made better decisions if I had just known then what I know now. I should have paid as much attention to these issues as I did the home’s livability on the inside. Don’t make the same mistakes!

Because it’s such a big purchase, buying a home has a certain amount of uncertainty. To deal with the numerous decisions, we narrow our focus to achieving our goals at that moment, whether that’s evaluating closet space, choosing countertops, or staying within budget, which can cause us to take our eyes off the big picture and overlook important aspects such as outdoor living and entertaining. This often results in the all too common “could have, would have, should have” regrets.

Could Have: While some relish the idea of an older home on an acreage, I was ready to be done with that – the maintenance…lack of modern amenities…just keeping up with the mowing was tiresome. And coming from that home, I never thought much about back yard privacy. But that is a real issue now. Whether it’s a card party or hosting our book club, it seems like the neighbor kids are always in their back yard on the playset or trampoline. I do love their laughter, and they’re great kids, but that noise and activity can be distracting. Now I appreciate the builder’s home designs that provide outdoor privacy from side-neighbors.

Would Have: If I had thought about the fact that the sun always sets on the back of our east-facing home, I would have paid extra for a roof over our deck. Our big umbrella just doesn’t cut it when we have friends over. Additionally, we’ve had to scuttle barbecuing plans due to rain – a covered deck would have allowed the barbecue to go on.

I wish I had thought through where the grill would go. We would have had a natural gas line run out to the grill, meaning no more lugging around those heavy LP gas tanks. And we would have had a light installed over the grill. Now, when I’m grilling after sunset and cut into the meat, it is hard to see if it’s cooked medium-rare, medium, or medium-well.

Had I known we would move Mom in, I would have chosen that barrier-free option for the transition onto the deck. The threshold and two-inch drop are dangerous for her, having caught her walker more than once.

Should Have: Traffic jams are for cars, not where we go in and out to the back yard. I should have gone with that Gunnison design that had doors off the dining room AND doors from the great room onto its loggia. There was even a door from the owner’s bedroom.

Gunnison - #50016

Buffered by the dining room and owner’s suite, the Gunnison’s (plan #50016) loggia provides desirable privacy. Access from the dining room and great room provides a circular traffic flow, minimizing potential congestion. And just imagine stepping out of your bedroom onto this great space with the morning’s first cup of coffee.

NO REGRETS. As evidenced by these disappointments, there is a tendency to unduly focus on creating the perfect spaces inside our homes, overlooking key considerations for making your outdoor living spaces equally memorable. Taking the time to look at how you like to entertain – or just relax – outdoors can result in the place you most long for in your home is actually outside!

Pre-air conditioning, big front porches were practical and commonplace. Neighbors conversed, and multiple generations played together, on the porch. Birthday parties, kids’ or grandkids’ treasure hunts and squirt guns, or just curled up on a porch swing with a good book, enjoy it all from the Modena’s (plan #29372) 7-foot deep porch that wraps three sides of the home.

Modena - #29372
Modena - #29372

Still, most outdoor living today focuses on the back yard. While covered outdoor living spaces provide welcome shade and protection from inclement weather, know they do cut down on the amount of sunlight entering your home. Skylights can be a beautiful and functional solution to restoring diminished light levels resulting from covered outdoor spaces.

Outdoor Cooking. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults own a grill or a smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. So, it’s only natural that our affinity for grilling out is a significant design consideration, beginning with where that grill will be located. Will it be the centerpiece of a full outdoor kitchen?

The Evergreen Weekender (plan #42054) presents a decidedly casual approach, inviting conversation and s’mores around its fire pit anchoring the uncovered portion of the home’s rear patio. At the other end of the covered patio, a wall for privacy and suggested outdoor kitchen location. This design also helps avoid common regrets when it comes to bathrooms and storage. Its powder bath has two doors – one just off the patio. Guests don’t have to traipse all across the house just to use the bathroom. And there’s convenient double-door access to plenty of storage for outdoor furniture, games, and supplies in the deep garage.

Evergreen Weekender - #42054

Screened Porches. Amidst comfortable furniture, plants, and the gentle breeze, screened in porches are useful any time of the day. The screened windows connect us to the outdoors and still keep out those pesky mosquitoes. Dinner on the porch, with a few select friends, amidst the cascade of sounds and aromas, is a special treat.

The Sinclair Terrace (plan #42424) is a celebration in outdoor living – with its 30-foot wide rear screened porch and access to twin covered porches, one with outdoor kitchen and private access from the owner’s suite!

Sinclair Terrace - #42424
Sinclair Terrace - #42424

You don’t want to find yourself saying, “could have, would have, or should have” with regards to outdoor living. From small, intimate gatherings to neighborhood parties and milestone event celebrations, attention to your outdoor living accommodations before you sign a purchase agreement is one way to reduce uncertainty and eliminate regret!

For more resources on thoughtful design: 

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