It’s no longer just a place for the grill and a chaise lounge. It’s not the place you drop the cooler full of beer. Today, the outdoor living area is often just an extension of the home, complete with kitchen, living and entertainment areas and even zone-based sound and entertainment systems. When it comes to backyard living, there is no reason to sacrifice comfort, style or amenities.

There are many considerations when pulling together your outdoor living space, but just like the inside, at the heart of most outdoor spaces is the kitchen. Like the kitchen in your home, the cost range can vary widely from anywhere in the $3,000 range to over $30,000. It almost always includes a grill and maybe an integrated refrigerator. But have you thought about plumbing a sink? Adding in an icemaker?

If your grilling and entertainment in the great outdoors is next level, you may be looking at a pizza oven or a rotisserie. Even the grill of old is a highly evolved beast with many options and can include burners, roasting spits, smokers, side burners, griddles, and even warming drawers. Your outdoor kitchen depending on usage may need prep counters and storage space as well as bar-height counters for guests and integrated sound systems.

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Once you have the kitchen done, its time to think about the rest of the space. Think about how you will use the space, how it fits into your yard and divide and conquer. Think in terms of zones and traffic. Know the traffic patterns and it will give you a good sense of how to design the space, plan for seating and create pathways with containers or landscape elements.

You will want to create a focal point. The best, in most cases, is fire. From an outdoor fire pit to a built up fireplace, fire draws the crowd. It’s cozy and enjoyable for a solo reading adventure or rounding out an evening with friends. There are many options from pellet to fuel to wood, portable to permanent so whatever your size and budget, fire should always be an option. Make sure to check local building and zoning laws for fire placement and safety. Depending on the size of the space, you can create other focal points around outdoor art, fountains, statuary or even landscape elements. Use these to create unique spaces in your outdoor living space.

From benches to stools, chaise to lounge, seating is very important. Throw some pillows on a low wall and you have instant additional seating. Use a variety of sizes and types as budget and space allow. Just make sure you pay attention to how positioning affects traffic and how you can use strategically positioned seating to define spaces.

To add that final touch, use containers for color and visual interest. Pots and plants are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors and make for an easy way to make a space visually interesting and also to change it up from time to time or give it a seasonal twist. You can use sculptural elements, vases and water features to turn your backyard space into an oasis.

Get inspired with some of these shots:

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