One of the best things about summer is relaxing outdoors with friends and family. And while the hot summer sun will soon give way to the crisp breezes of fall, your outdoor fun doesn't have to end. With a few key upgrades, you can turn your deck into an outdoor room you can use well into the fall.
The design elements you choose depend on where you live and how you plan to use your space, but no matter which way you go, remember to stick to a palette. Use the colors of nature to inspire your decision.
Get your space ready for fall by doing the following:
Accessorizing. As with your living room, your outdoor space will benefit from some accessorizing. Pull in fall hues like deep red, golden yellow and burnt orange by purchasing some pillows and throws in these colors at a discount store. If you're good with a sewing machine, you'll save even more by buying bolts of fabric and making them yourself. Mixing up patterns while keeping inside your color scheme will provide added depth and visual interest.
Create a fall centerpiece on your outdoor dining table using branches, twigs and pinecones from your yard. Tie some ribbon around the branches and twigs to dress them up, or spray-paint them a nice fall color. Put the pinecones in a clear glass vase and place on an end table. Inexpensive touches like these do a lot to make your deck truly feel like a living room.
Adding warmth. In addition to bringing in warm fall tones, actual warmth is important if you're planning to entertain outdoors in the fall. Blankets will help, but adding a fire pit to your yard adds warmth and gives your space a modern touch. Never use a fire pit on your wooden deck. Instead, select an area of your yard to use — just make sure it's far away from your house. In addition to being safer, this separation of space will create a nice flow for entertaining.
(Photo: Fawn Teresi)To keep costs down, consider building the pit yourself. On her blog, Always Chasing Life, Fawn Teresi has some tips for building your own "designer" fire pit for around $30. Price varies depending on size and style of stone used, but that's still far less than the cost of a similar stone fire pit, which can range from $300 to $500. Ask for help at your local home improvement store.
Step 1 — Buy your supplies.
You'll need a steel fire pit, retaining wall blocks and gravel to complete this project. Steel fire pits are available at most home improvement stores, but scour garage sales and Craigslist first — you could score one there and save some cash. Just make sure it has a lip so it can rest on the block base. Ideally, the steel bowl will also have a screen cover. This will make it easier to place the blocks.
The number of blocks you'll need depends on their size and the size of the steel fire bowl you buy. Ask a professional at your local home improvement store how many blocks you'll need to create a pit that is four levels tall. The photo shown here is three, but you may want to add another level to make sure your flame is high enough off the ground if you're not building it on a concrete patio.
Step 2 — Get your yard ready.
Make sure the area you've selected is free of tall grass, low-hanging tree limbs and anything else that could catch fire. Then, prepare the area by digging up a layer of grass approximately twice the size of the finished fire pit.
Step 3 — Start building.
Measure the diameter of the inside of the steel fire bowl (not counting the lip, since this will rest on the bricks). In the center of the grass-free area you created, make a circle with the bricks to create your first layer of the fire pit. Check your work before going any further by placing the fire bowl in the center of the circle. If the lip of the bowl is inside the circle, move the blocks in towards the bowl. If your fire bowl has a lid, just build the first layer of bricks around it — it will save you some measuring.
Continue building the circle of bricks until it is four layers tall. As you are stacking the bricks, remember to stagger each layer as shown in the photo. Once you've completed the stone ring, place the steel fire pit in the middle.
Step 4 — Lay gravel.
This step is more than just aesthetic — it also helps prevent fire from spreading. After your stone pit is complete, lay gravel around the rest of the grass-free area. Again, the amount you will need depends on the size of the area, so ask a professional at your home improvement store. You can also add some edging around the inside of the dirt circle to prevent gravel and rocks from spilling over into your yard.
Then add some seating, a wood pile and some friends and enjoy the new space you've just created.
Protecting your electronics. This fall, crank up the grill, gather your friends and watch some football outside. There are manufacturers who make televisions made for the outdoors, but these can be expensive — sometimes twice the price of an indoor TV of the same size. And while it's not the best idea to store your electronics outside, especially if you live in a cold or humid environment, you can still enjoy a little outdoor entertainment with a few extra steps.
First, make sure your television is protected from the elements by an awning, pergola or cabinet. All of these can be purchased in stores or made at home — just look up the plans online. If you're short on time or not very handy, create your own rolling TV stand. Just purchase a small stand from a resale shop, screw in some metal casters and wheel the television from indoors to the deck. This is an easy DIY project, especially if you have more than one TV and can designate one as the "deck television."