The perfect outdoor space is a place where you love to be. And it’s going to look different for each person. For you, it might be a cozy place to gather with friends around a fire pit. Or a lush landscaped yard, or a serious gardener’s paradise, or a gourmet outdoor kitchen, or an alternative living room with all the amenities. Let’s take a stab at some basic ideas that will make the out-of-doors at your Portland, Oregon, home perfect for you.
You might have just a vague feeling of what you want your outdoor space to be. Look around for more concrete ideas—online, in magazines and books, on TV, at the homes of friends. Write down what you like. Maybe even draw some sketches. At some point, you will be taking your ideas to a professional landscape designer or builder, and it will help that professional create your perfect outdoor space if you can provide a starting point.
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Crunch Some Numbers
As with any project, you’ll need a budget. Figure out what you’re willing and able to spend, and get some estimates from builders. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost for a 20-by-20-foot backyard flagstone patio in Portland that features low-voltage lights, a pergola, and a fairly complete outdoor kitchen is $57,433.
Everyone would agree that an outdoor space needs some green, whether it’s a barefoot lawn, artistic plantings and flowers, shady trees, fruit trees, a vegetable garden, or all of the above. And for most, it needs a pleasant place for friends and family members to gather. That usually means a patio or a deck. It also needs some shade for those sunny days and, ideally, protection from the rain. If you’re lucky enough to have mature trees, the shade comes built-in. But if you’re waiting for your saplings to grow, you can create protection from sun and rain with umbrellas, awnings, shade sails, or covered pergolas.
Outdoor living areas also need lighting, whether it’s fairy lights strung overhead or built-in lights along paths and around the deck or patio.
Many homeowners couldn’t imagine an outdoor space without the soothing sounds of running water, whether it’s an elaborately constructed waterfall, stream, and pool, or a simpler bubbler or self-contained fountain. A different kind of water feature that’s popular is the outdoor hot tub.
Another common way that landscape designers add character and coziness is to create separate spaces where you can sit quietly, screened a bit from the neighbors and the rest of the yard. Larger gathering places can feature a small wood or gas fire pit or a large outdoor fireplace with chimney; they also need seating, either weatherproof furniture or built-in seating, or both.
Planning for Portland’s Weather
As you’re well aware, Portland gets rain—an average of 155 days with measurable rainfall. It can get cold enough to freeze pipes. And hot enough to make you uncomfortable: 90s or even 100-plus in the summer. So your outdoor space needs to be designed to alleviate the extremes and take advantage of all those really pleasant days, too.
Your structures, whether free-standing or attached to your home, can have a solid roof—maybe with skylights—or a fabric covering. Shutters, sliding glass doors, motorized screens, and space-heating features can be used to alleviate the effects of cold, wind, rain, and summer sun. They also can provide screening from the neighbors.
Finally, the materials you use must be able to stand up to Portland’s precipitation: marine-grade cabinetry, water-resistant countertops, stainless-steel appliances, weatherproof furniture, and outdoor-grade lighting and electronic equipment.