James Long: Live better, live outdoors

James Long: Live better, live outdoors

When your mom told you to turn off the TV and play outdoors, she knew what she was talking about. Being outside is good for our mental and physical well-being.

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As adults, having an outdoor living space adds an economic component: Upwards of 80 percent of homebuyers said patios and front porches are “essential” or “desirable,” according to the “What Buyers Really Want” survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

So why is it that when we move into our dream home, we hardly ever use our decks, porches, and patios?

An anthropological UCLA study, described in the book “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” blames our fascination with digital devices — tablets, computers, televisions, games — for keeping us cooped up. The UCLA research participants spent less than half an hour each week in their outdoor space. And these were Californians.

Here’s 6 ways to make your outdoor space more livable. 

1.    Get Comfy

When you step into your outdoor space, your first sensation should be ‘ahhhh’. If you’re not feeling it, then your space is likely lacking the comfy factor. Comfy is easy to achieve and can be as low cost as you want. Start simple with a cushion or two or even a throw.

Some other simple strategies:

·         Make sure your outdoor seating is as cushy as your indoor furniture. Today’s outdoor cushions aren’t the plastic-y, sweat-inducing pillows of the past. Plus, they can handle a downpour and spring back once they dry.

·         Lay down outdoor rugs so you’re just as comfortable barefoot as you are inside.

·         Give yourself some privacy. Create natural screens with shrubs, bushes, or even bamboo reeds. Or install prefab screens from the local home improvement store.

2.    Create a Broadband Paradise

Our devices and electronics have conspired to keep us on lock down. Since we’re not about to throw out our digital toys, boot up your outdoor space so you can keep texting, posting to Instagram, Facebooking, and watching crazy pet videos on YouTube.

Here are things to consider:

·         Wireless outdoor Wi-Fi antennas provide an extra boost so you can stay connected.

·         A solar USB charging station keeps your gizmos powered.

·         Wireless speakers make it easy to bring your music outdoors, and mask a noisy neighborhood.

·         An all-weather outdoor TV lets you stay outside for the big game.

3.    Blur the Line Between Indoors and Out

Creating a seamless transition between your home’s interior and exterior isn’t as simple or low cost as adding comfort, but it’s the most dramatic and effective way to enhance your enjoyment of the space. Plus, it can increase your home’s value.  The most straightforward, cost-effective solution: Replace a standard door opening with sliding or glass French doors.  Use the same weatherproof flooring, such as stone tile or scored concrete, outside as well as in the room leading to your backyard oasis.

4.    Light it up

When the sun goes down, don’t be left in the dark. Outdoor lighting dresses up your home’s marketability and appeal (exterior lighting is buyers’ most wanted outdoor feature, according to the NAHB study), makes it safer, and lets you spend more time outside.

Here are some suggestions:

·         Use up lighting to highlight trees, architectural details, or other focal points.

·         Add sconces or pendant lights to make evening entertaining, grilling, and reading easier.

·         Illuminate walkways, rails, and steps with landscape solar lights.

·         Hang clear Christmas lights or string lights to set an enchanting tone.

5.    Make it yours

Let your style dominate your backyard space.

·         Paint a faux rug with your favorite colors.

·         Create a path made with colored glass, brick, or other interesting found materials.

·         Craft a one-of-kind outdoor chandelier.

·         Build a pizza oven, custom seating, or other feature you crave.

·         Add personal décor that makes you happy.

6.    Make it something for everyone

Your outdoor space will magnetically draw family and friends if it has features they find appealing.

·         A fire pit is a proven winner. Food and fire have brought humans together since the dawn of time.

·         Give wee ones the gift of magical thinking with an outdoor playhouse.

·         Add whimsy with a chalkboard fence that both kids and fun-loving adults will enjoy.

·         Add a doggie window in your fence to entertain Spot. Installing a dog run may even boost your home’s value. FYI: It’s been said that pets are one of the top reasons why people buy houses.  Just remember, as we love our pets, we don’t like pet odors when we’re shopping for a home, keep it clean and tidy. 

And we all know living in Oklahoma the heat and bugs can be a reason to go inside.  However, with outdoor ceiling or stand fans they create a nice breeze for you and enough wind to keep the mosquitos away.  And if you have the perfect porch, even screens or curtains can be a nice feature.  Whatever your space or budget, I think you’ll find it nice to take in the fresh air.

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