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Create Your Own Personal Oasis With an Outdoor Living Space

Posted on Apr 11, 2019 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

Deck overlooking the water

Q: After six months of soggy gray, I want to take full advantage of the sun. How do I make the most of my yard during the warm, sunny months?

A: I’d argue that quality time outdoors is more important in Seattle than most other American cities. While our surroundings are beautiful, we don’t often get to enjoy them because of dreary weather that dominates most of the year. We have a limited supply of sun and we want to get the most out of it.

One of the best ways to enjoy the sun is with an outdoor living space. With so many decks, fences, screens, trellises, waterproof structures, and raised flower beds to choose from, there’s no shortage of options. With the right concepts and materials, you can make a lovely spot in even the smallest of spaces. Here are some ideas to help turn your yard into an outdoor oasis:

Build a Privacy Screen Planter

A privacy screen planter is a wonderful solution for small spaces. A classic privacy screen is great for avoiding the prying eyes of neighbors, but attaching the screen to a small planter box makes things interesting—it’s a perfect way to add a little green to your backyard or patio with a small herb garden or flower bed while also providing additional screening.

Design Your Dream Deck

One of my favorite ways to spend a beautiful day is on a deck. Whether taking in your surroundings while hosting a dinner party or gathering around a tabletop firepit on a starry night, the deck is a prize. From simple decks that blend in with their surroundings to showstoppers that serve as backyard focal points, there are endless options when it comes to designing a dream deck that fits all your aesthetic, material, and maintenance needs.

Create a Dry Space Under Your Deck

Many homes have a second-story deck with usable space or a patio below. This can be a great shady spot to enjoy, but during the rainy season (or the occasional summer downpour), this space is no longer usable because of rain dripping through the boards on the deck above. Investing in a product that creates a ceiling for your under-deck area will allow you to reclaim this space and enjoy it all year long.

Add Outdoor Lighting to Your Home

It’s important to ensure your house is well-lit, not only for general ambiance, but to help guests and delivery drivers see your home at night. Outdoor lighting is recommended for year-round safety by emergency services, too. Consider adding some downlights to your landscaping for a little extra glow or string lights around an outdoor dining table for late-night summer meals.

Upgrade Windows or Add Skylights

Running low on outdoor space? That’s okay! Upgrade to a beautiful new set of windows or add some skylights to let in light and enjoy views of the great outdoors 365 days a year. Modern windows allow you to experience your surroundings without losing energy because they’re made with high insulation factors to keep the cold out during the winter months and low-E glass to block UV radiation on warm summer days. Crack them open for a little fresh air and the sound of chirping birds. Adding one or more skylights can transform a dark room into a sunroom by letting in natural light year-round and some even open to increase airflow.

Scandinavians often say the secret to a long life is being outside every day. In this fast-paced world, we often forget how much we value nature. Then we spend a day outside or go on vacation and remember why we need it. With the time we work and the gray we endure, we must take advantage of all outdoor opportunities—for both health and peace of mind. Creating a special outdoor living space is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest while getting what we need from nature.


Mike Dunn is president and CEO of Dunn Lumber, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ more than 2,900 members, write to

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