By Lance McCarthy
What will we do in the space?
This may sound like an obvious question, but it is still helpful to think about carefully. You’d be surprised at how often a space is created that hasn’t considered what it will really be used for. Here are some possibilities:
- Sitting Chairs take up a certain amount of space, and you want to design the area to accommodate that.
- Eating This usually means a table of some sort, which takes up even more space and needs to have some circulation space around it
- Cooking This means grill or more. A grill should usually be 10’ or more from the house, but you want them to be situated within the least number of steps from the door.
- Playing Space for playing cards or reading is a lot different than space for basketball pickup games.
- Hanging Will this be for parties? Will we want to listen to music, or watch tv? Or will this be for smaller groups of people?
How do I want to feel in the space?
This is probably one of the most overlooked questions of all. The design of the space will dramatically impact how you will feel in it. For example, if you want to feel creative and outgoing, and more connected to the outdoors, it is important to have plenty of open sides and high ceilings (or no ceilings).
However, if you want to have a more intimate, cozy feel, you should design the space accordingly.
Quick Tip: Spaces that will feel most comfortable to humans will have “walls” on at least two sides. If you count the side of the house as one, another of the “walls” could be a privacy railing, or a row of shrubs. You can imagine how much more comfortable and inviting this will feel than just plopping a deck in the sun on the back of the house.
How much work do I want it to take over time?
Another overlooked question. In general, the lower the initial cost, the more work a space will require over time. For example, a less expensive deck made of pressure treated or cedar wood will require re-sealing every couple of years to stay in good shape, compared to a composite deck that just likes a good powerwash every once in awhile to stay fresh.
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