Find out how to make your outdoor spaces more inviting, appealing, and comfortable. Get tips on improving lighting and decor. Learn about creating an outdoor kitchen.
LESLIE: If you’ve got a hum-drum front porch, a neglected deck or a bare-bones patio, you can bring new life to your outdoor spaces. Now, this is prime real estate that can expand your home’s usable space if you make it work for you year-round.
Kevin, great to see you again.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here again.
TOM: Outdoor space is really prime these days as more and more homeowners really treat that outside space as kind of an extension of their daily living area. So, how can we make these spaces really work for us and not break the budget?
KEVIN: Man, isn’t this a huge trend? This is all you hear about, right? People trying to change their outdoor space  into living space.
So, let’s go through some of the obvious areas, alright? If you’ve got a porch, OK, it’s a great place to start. Think about things like a porch swing, right? Who doesn’t want to sway back and forth on a porch swing? And if you want to dress it up a little bit, use sturdy ropes rather than chains to hang it. That’s going to give a little bit more of a natural look. And then I would just say make sure that the ropes are properly rated to maybe 600 pounds or more. And give it a look once in a while to make sure it hasn’t worn out.
TOM: There was a big article recently in USA Today talking about the return of the porch. It really is becoming a very popular architectural feature once again. So it’s a place that we love to spend time.
KEVIN: I had one. Now I don’t and I miss it terribly.
And in fact, the other tip that I was going to give you was something that we had on our old porch and those were rockers. People love sitting in a rocking chair, so put a couple rockers on the porch or maybe think of a hammock: a great place to sort of relax and hang out. Just keep a couple side tables close for the books or the drinks.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what I think? It’s really fun when you’ve got an outdoor space like that.
We have a screened porch on the back of our home and we use it year-round. It really is our favorite place. And you want to sort of make it an extension of your interior décor style, so think about using fabrics and rugs and furnishings that are specifically made to stand up to the elements. And decorate it as you would any room in the house.
KEVIN: Yeah. And if you don’t want to put a rug out there because maybe you get some water on it, even if it is covered, I’ve seen people actually paint rugs down on the porch floor so it’s permanently there, it’s not going to get beat up and it’s a good look. And you can hang plants in baskets in the right places. It’ll really spruce things up and you’re going to want to spend time there.
TOM: Now, if you’re working on your outdoor space, you’re going to want to spend time out there not only in the daytime but also at the nighttime. So it seems like there’s …
LESLIE: That’s the best time.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Seems like there’s a good opportunity to improve outdoor lighting, as well.
KEVIN: Outdoor lighting is great. I mean it’s good when you’re out there. But also, when you’re in the house, if you can look out onto your outdoor space and see something lit up, it really gives an extension to the house. So, the simplest way is to use candle lanterns. You can spread them all over the furniture, you can hang them from trees, you can place them on tables or railings. And it really gives a nice nighttime glow. They’re really easy to move around; you can put them wherever you want.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, what if you don’t have sort of a set-up outdoor space ? Is there anything, architecturally, that you can add to sort of define a room in your exterior?
KEVIN: So if you’ve got a wide-open space, really the trick is to sort of define the edges, right?
KEVIN: Give it a little bit of definition. And you can do it with potted plants, you can actually have things that are high and low or you can use something like a pergola, right? You can imagine what these things are. They’re built-up structures. They’ve got open roofs. Sometimes, it’s great to train a plant up on them so it grows. Those types of things will give great definition.
And then at night, you can create a little focal point. Put a light in one corner so it draws your eye right there and you’re not just seeing the big, open expanse.
TOM: Yeah. A lot of times, you just pick one space and kind of build off of that.
Leslie, you do this in decorating all the time, you know? We have folks that just have a pillow. They love this pillow and they build a color scheme kind of off of that.
LESLIE: Oh, completely.
TOM: You can do the same thing outside; you can pick one area that you really like and then build from that to create that truly outdoor living room .
LESLIE: And I think it’s important when you’re dealing with an exterior space, as well as – to look at your yard and see if you have like a secret nook or a little area that could become a destination. If you’ve got a little garden area – and maybe you want to put a small bistro table back there with a nice pathway and some nice candle-lighting or some potted plants that becomes your little morning-coffee spot or your favorite reading spot. So it’s really interesting to sort of examine what you’ve got in the exterior and sort of create those destinations.
KEVIN: And if it’s adjacent to the house, you’re going to have an exterior wall exposed and don’t think of it as an exterior wall; thing of it as an interior wall. Put sconces on it, hang some artwork on it. And all of a sudden, it becomes a beautiful backdrop for the outdoor space.
TOM: What a great idea. We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.
Now, something else we love to do outside is to cook. Big trend in doing that are outdoor kitchens today. Any tips for that area?
KEVIN: Well, who doesn’t want to spend time outside cooking and grilling stuff like that? So we’ve all got the grills out there but why not make it a little bit more robust, right? How about a little prep sink for clean-up or getting ready for the grilling? Or a cooler. Step it up a notch, put a little refrigerator out there to keep the beverages nice and cold. You could make yourself a nice little kitchen in an outdoor area.
TOM: Yep. You don’t have to be limited to just the little stainless-steel shelves that hang off your grill, right?
TOM: You can really create everything that you have inside. You can create the prep area, create the sink area. And it doesn’t have to be very, very expensive. All of these things are available today in sort of a modular format, where you can buy just once piece at a time and put it together to create a nice, little outdoor kitchen for yourself.
KEVIN: And just use the smart materials that are good for outside – things like stone or wood that’s going to hold up – and then you’re in good shape.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for helping us spruce up our outdoor spaces .
KEVIN: Always a pleasure, guys.
LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more savings, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.