PhotoSummer evenings and backyard gatherings go hand-in-hand, and having an inviting outdoor area can help make entertaining family and friends al fresco even more enjoyable.

To help homeowners transform their backyard into a beautiful outdoor oasis, outdoor living product manufacturer Napoleon enlisted a third party research team to find out how the design of outdoor spaces can directly impact human emotions.

"The research shows the most loved areas of the home combine relaxation, socialization and functionality," said Stephen Schroeter, Napoleon's senior vice-president of sales and marketing.

"Outdoor spaces provide a great opportunity to accommodate all three, yet they are still vastly underutilized by most homeowners,” Schroeter added.

Outdoor design ideas

Outdoor living spaces can also boost your home's value. A National Association of Realtors survey shows many buyers are willing to pay a premium for a home with an outdoor living space. 

But when it comes to outdoor remodeling projects, improving your home's resale value should come secondary to enhancing the overall enjoyment your family will get from the finished results.

Homeowners can add to the natural ambiance of firefly-illuminated summer evenings by using the following design tips from Schroeter:

  • Add an outdoor kitchen. Take your cook-out to the next level by adding an outdoor kitchen in which to prepare a meal for your guests. A quality grill is essential in an outdoor kitchen, says Schroeter. Other features to consider adding: an outdoor refrigerator or beer dispenser, pizza oven, and sink for easy clean-up.
  • Create an area for socialization. Establishing a gathering place is key when it comes to outdoor living spaces. To do so, choose a central location and add a variety of seating options. Consider adding a built-in fireplace or fire pit to serve as a focal point and enable your outdoor space to be used later into the season.
  • Create distinct zones. Give each area of your backyard a purpose by using barriers like large plants, a pergola, or privacy panels. Divided zones help create the feel of a secluded getaway, says Schroeter.
  • Appeal to the senses. To enrich the auditory atmosphere, consider adding outdoor speakers or a water feature to eliminate street noise. Enhance the smell of your space by adding fragrant bushes with a sweet scent, such as honeysuckle or lilac.
  • Add charming details. “Small touches can go a long way,” says Schroeter. He recommends personalizing your space with items that define your unique style. “Don’t be afraid to add bold pops of color -- an outdoor living area is a great place to explore a more adventurous design than might be considered inside the home,” he added.

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