9 Outdoor Living Space Design Mistakes to Avoid

Decoration and Design
Additions and Remodels
Outdoor Additions
By Alex Mikayelyan October 04, 2021

Designing interior spaces is hard enough when you have four walls and a general sense of space. But what about the outdoors, where there are few dedicated vertical spaces to work with and the landscape is no longer conveniently flat as it is indoors? You can go the easy route, throw some kitsch lawn furniture around the place, plant a couple of flowers, and erect the obligatory garden gnome, but you’d be missing out on so much opportunity to create a visual journey. You have to start somewhere with outdoor living area designs and regardless of what you do for your first project, there are a few tried mistakes you can avoid.

When you know what you shouldn’t do with your design, what you should do becomes a lot more apparent. Avoiding these nine outdoor living space mistakes can make it easier for you to create a more pleasant outdoor living experience for yourself and your guests. 

1. Measuring the Space

How Less Is More in Outdoor Living

How Less Is More in Outdoor Living

When you first start thinking of designs for your outdoor room, it seems as though the sky’s the limit. But this is not the case. Sure, you may have a lot of landscape to work with, but how much of it is actually liveable? For your landscape to be hospitable, the outdoor flooring, be it of the patio, the deck, or the ground itself need to be solid enough not only to accommodate the people standing on it, but also the furniture. It also needs to be far away from any utility installations, such as the air conditioning outdoor unit and exhaust pipes, as these can get quite noisy.

This means your actual outdoor living room may be a lot smaller than you initially imagined, so bringing in a bunch of furniture and decor may not be such a good idea. First, measure how much usable outdoor space you’re working with, and only then fill it with all the furniture and other living space requisites you need.

2. Lack of Surfaces and Storage

Why Your Patio Needs More Surfaces and Storage

Why Your Patio Needs More Surfaces and Storage

For people looking to spend a little more of their day-to-day outside, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a few chairs and a table are all you need to make your outdoor space function. But this is really not the case considering all the pastimes that could become routine while outside. 

For example, if you’re hosting a cookout, you will also need an extra surface to prep and place food, especially if your outdoor dining table is small, or if you don’t want to run in and out of your home every time you need a fork, you can keep a few extra in an outdoor cabinet. Outdoor storage is also seriously underestimated by many homeowners. Proper, waterproof storage can make your life a lot easier by cutting down the number of trips you take back into the house for favorite cookout board games, blankets, napkins, and the inevitable missing table setting.

3. Using Too Much Metal

Why You Should Limit Metal Outdoor Furniture

Why You Should Limit Metal Outdoor Furniture

Metal is a very common material used in furniture. You’ll find it on both interior and exterior furniture because it is sturdy, long-lasting, and is easy to build with. In the interior, it can even be used as a way to slightly brighten up the room.

Using it outdoors, however, is one of those patio furniture design mistakes you might not consider until you screech a metal chair along, gain another leg bruise, or and sear your skin against a hot metal bench. While there are some metals out there that do not absorb as much heat, it would generally be a lot easier to simply avoid it when it comes to outdoor furniture. 

4. Not Using the Right Kind of Outdoor Furniture

How to Protect Your Outdoor Furniture From the Weather

How to Protect Your Outdoor Furniture From the Weather

There are certain materials out there that should not be left outside where rain, snow, hail, and plenty of other weather conditions can damage them. Be sure to purchase outdoor furniture instead; they will not only fit the aesthetic of your exterior more smoothly but more importantly, are resistant to weather conditions that would otherwise destroy indoor furniture.

If you’re looking to have cushions on your outdoor sofa, consider purchasing outdoor upholstery, pillows, and cushions made of material that can shrug off the water, such as olefin. If you are still interested in a metal table set with chairs despite their inconveniences, make sure it’s made out of metal that won’t rust as it will be sitting outside in the rain. If you have wooden furniture, give it a proper finish to ensure that the wood doesn’t rot or get infested with termites. 

5. Heating Options

Cozy Outdoor Heating Ideas

Cozy Outdoor Heating Ideas

If you live in a warmer area of the country, the concept of having heating for your outdoor room may seem somewhat absurd at first. But when you consider how even the hottest areas in the world get quite cold in the evenings, the concept of heating your outdoor living space doesn’t seem as strange. As you’re enjoying a relaxing afternoon with your friends, sitting outside, sharing some food and a few laughs, the sun goes down and you start to feel a little cold. No need to gather all your things and retreat into the comfort of indoors. Simply turn on your heating system and continue to enjoy your meetup in the toasty warmth of your outdoor living space.

Avoid one of these most common patio design mistakes by implementing an outdoor fireplace, a wood-burning stove, an outdoor heater, or a fire pit, all of which can be exactly what you need to keep your outdoor living space warm. Don’t limit your outdoor time to only when the sun is out. Enjoy the fresh air all throughout the day. 

6. No Smooth Transition Between Indoors and Out

Creating a Seamless Transition Between Your Home and Landscape

Creating a Seamless Transition Between Your Home and Landscape

If we were to consider the five worst patio decorating mistakes, this one would definitely be up there. A smooth indoor-outdoor transition doesn’t so much refer to the style or design of the transition as much as the practicality of it. For example, if you have to walk up a few steps, slide open a door, and walk around some excess furniture just to get to your outdoor living space, this is certainly not a good transition. Now imagine doing all that as you carry a heavy tray of food.

Create a clear transition from indoors to outdoors. Clear the path of any obstacles and make sure there is a smooth, uninterrupted flow. This refers to both the physical and visual transition; so avoid placing any physical obstacles, or visual hampers, such as really bright lighting near the entryway or excessive decor. 

7. Letting the Plants Take Over

Why You Should Keep Your Plants in Check

Why You Should Keep Your Plants in Check

Patio decorating mistakes that the more biophilic homeowners tend to make are allowing the plants to run wild and occupy every nook and cranny of your patio. While blending the natural and artificial is a very important design element in outdoor spaces, you should not let your plants take over and overrun your patio.

Firstly, keep your plants trimmed and properly pruned — this is also for their health. Give them their own space to grow in and thrive, but try to keep them from causing any obstacles for your outdoor foot traffic flow. The last thing you want is your guests having to swing from vines just to get to the lawn chairs. 

8. Overlooking Vertical Surfaces

Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Outdoor Vertical Spaces

Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Outdoor Vertical Spaces

Even outdoors, there are a lot of opportunities to creatively utilize vertical surfaces for some extra decor and practical additions. Among the most common outdoor living space decorating mistakes is ignoring what’s there in front of you. In this case, that would be vertical spaces. Now, sure, since there aren’t four walls surrounding you in the backyard, utilizing vertical spaces outdoors isn’t a factor most homeowners initially consider.

However, by mounting storage units and furniture onto the exterior walls — and even fences if they are sturdy enough — you can save on the horizontal space of your backyard. You also have the opportunity to decorate the vertical surfaces, adding even more charm and character to your backyard. Wall-mounted flower pots, for example, are a popular choice for fence decor and create a simple and satisfying vertical garden in your backyard. This way you can liven up your outdoor living space without having to overcrowd your patio or deck. 

9. Impractical Lighting

How to Keep Your Patio Bright After the Sun Goes Down

How to Keep Your Patio Bright After the Sun Goes Down

Not unlike the heating problem, many homeowners also don’t consider lighting and make some scathing patio design mistakes as a result. As the sun goes down, not only will your guests get cold, but they’ll also have trouble seeing each other.

Insufficient lighting significantly limits your use of your backyard and won’t let you enjoy yourself as much after sunset. Install some proper lighting fixtures, be they wall-mounted or cozy string lights. Give yourself and your guests plenty of light to see the space around you and enjoy your evening activities uninterrupted.

Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan