5 Ways to Improve Patio Designs for Portland Landscaping by Christin Bryk

October 2013

Portland Patio Design with Steps and ColumnsHere in the temperate Pacific Northwest, many homeowners dream of having an outdoor living space that they can enjoy all year round. Winter temperatures in this part of the country tend to stay above freezing, so it’s possible to enjoy a backyard oasis 365 days per year. Patios are a popular way to create an outdoor living space.

Having seen dozens of Portland patio designs come to fruition, I can tell you that certain elements go a long way in creating an enjoyable, beautiful, and appealing patio. Here are a few tips for turning any patio into a sweet hangout spot—feel free to incorporate them into your own patio design.

1. Add a Fire Pit. Fire brings warmth and good cheer. Imagine sipping your favorite warm drink around a crackling fire, surrounded by family and friends. Fire pits may be made with rock, brick, or recycled materials. There are a few things to think about when adding a fire pit.

You can choose to build a built-in fire pit, or may purchase a moveable version such as a chiminea or fire bowl. If you go with the built-in option, it won’t be easy to move around in the future if you decided to do something different in the space.  However, this can be an attractive choice, especially when the fire pit is seamlessly incorporated into a larger Portland landscaping design, perhaps incorporating bricks, flagstones, and/or pavers.

Just be sure to practice good fire pit safety:

      • Your fire pit should be at least 10 feet from any structure.
      • Remember that some localities ban burns within city limits, and your area may also enforce seasonal burn bans.
      • Avoid fires during times of high winds.
      • Keep the area around the fire pit clean of debris and trash,
      • When enjoying a fire, keep water on hand in case of emergencies.

2. Improve Outdoor Lighting. A well-lit environment is friendly and inviting. Exterior lighting is also excellent for security—the more lights, the better at keeping would-be robbers away. Outdoor solar lighting is one convenient choice, as it requires no additional wiring, but oftentimes the light intensity fades in the darker months and doesn’t stay as bright into the night.  Low voltage LED lighting is another great option that is energy efficient.  There are many styles to choose from  that can provide path lighting or even up-lighting options that create focal points and play off of the trees in the garden.  Finally, we can install embedded/attached deck lighting that provides ambient and task lighting. (The end of the lighting could tell you where there is a transition point such as the stairway, for instance.) Moveable lighting, and hanging lights are more options.

Indeed, the number of lighting choices can be dizzying, so call us for advice on lighting your exterior landscaping. Portland, Oregon homes with proper exterior light will be more appealing, more secure, and add value.

Portland Outdoor Patio with BBQ 3. Create a Grill Island. The warmth of the cooking area will create an environment where people will want to be. A grill island is usually a larger investment than the previous suggestions, but it will go a long way towards the overall improvement of your property and residence.

An outdoor kitchen provides many benefits. You will be able to entertain family and friends al fresco with ease and grace, certainly. The ability to cook outside will also make everyday cooking easier, especially during those sweltering months when it is too hot to slave away over a hot stove. An associated advantage is that by cooking outside, you are able to extend the living space inside the home. Your family will also love the healthy meals that outdoor cooking provides!

4. Build a Covered Structure. This is a “no brainer” in the Pacific Northwest, as our winters tend to be soggy. At Landscape East & West, we have many covered structure options for your deck or patio. Regardless of whether you put up a patio cover, pergola, or gazebo, having a covered outdoor area is highly desirable, and homes that do include covered structures tend to earn higher resale prices. These structures can also add functional square footage to your property.

Portland Patio Dewsign with Seating5. Include Built-In Seating. Offer your guests a place to sit without spending hours on reorganization and preparation. Built-in seating possibilities are numerous, but we especially like building seating into the decking and patio area itself. For decks, seating can be an integral part of the design; we can even create rounded or curved shapes for your built-in deck seating. Seat walls are a great way to create an inviting area round a fire pit.   These can be constructed out of natural stone, cultured stone or segmental manufactured block. If a patio needs retainment on one side this is a great way to take advantage of the grade change.  With the right positioning, your built-in seating can create a gathering space, a cozy circle around the fireplace, or the perfect rendezvous around the outdoor dining table. Other possibilities including providing seating around a conversation area, perimeter seating, or turning a corner space into a sitting area.

Partoland Patio Design - Roman Holland Paver PatioHere at Landscape East & West, we’re passionate about helping homeowners create their dream outdoor living areas. We’ll work closely with you to create a scaled hardscape plan. This plan will include your project’s exact layout, so you won’t be shocked with any surprises down the road. Will the patio furniture fit? How will area drainage work? What about building steps down to the patio from the house? All of these questions and any others you may have will be answered during the hardscape planning process. We can also incorporate fire pits, built-in seating, and even outdoor stereo systems into your outdoor patio area. Creating the hardscape plan helps our customers explore all of their options, at all price points.

For outdoor living inspiration, we recommend bringing your favorite ideas, cut out from magazines, or bookmarked online. We also maintain a portfolio section on our website, so that you don’t have to look too far for inspiration. Bring your ideas to your initial hardscape planning meeting with your Landscape East & West designer. He or she will be more than happy to help make your outdoor patio landscaping dreams a reality.

Christin Bryk, Landscape Design ExpertContributing author Christin Bryk is a Design & Sales Associate at Landscape East & West, Portland landscaping professionals. Christin specializes in helping customers create the perfect patio landscape design.

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