(BPT) - As Americans increasingly appreciate the therapeutic benefits of nature, they're putting more thought and effort into creating beautiful, comfortable and functional living areas outside their own homes.
These days, such outdoor havens are considered valuable home extensions rather than underutilized corners of your yard. More than 70 percent of U.S. households now incorporate outdoor living spaces, reports one survey, and nearly 70 percent use those areas at least weekly in season.
A favorite material for such havens is Western Red Cedar, a stunning and fragrant wood species that incorporates beautifully into decks, porches, furniture and other functional elements of your home.
Not surprisingly, Western Red Cedar has many fans in the construction world. Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan of HGTV's "Colin and Justin's Home Heist" recently broadcast an online episode featuring the building of a lakeside cabin pergola that features the finely grained wood. "It smells incredible," notes Ryan. "Honestly, you are transported to the center of a forest ... it feels escapist, it feels luxurious and it looks amazing. If you brought lots of plastic or man-made materials into this environment, it would just be wrong."
The unique characteristics of the sought-after cedar allow it to weather into a gorgeous silver patina even as it resists rot, decay and insects. Further, the durable wood is a dream to work with because it's lightweight, lays flat, stays straight and is free of pitch and resin. Bonus: The forests harvested for the wood are carefully and sustainably replanted.
Dreaming of a private, well-appointed outdoor space where your family and guests can relax while enjoying nature? Consider how these other suggestions might also help put those wheels in motion.
Cover your bases: Make your space easier to use through the seasons by adding a gazebo, pergola, pavilion or three-season porch that can protect you, your guests and your furnishings from sun or rain. Consider draping curtains or netting that can be pulled back at will, allowing greater privacy and/or protection from bugs. Ideally, your new oasis will merge the best of both worlds, bringing the comforts of home outside while still offering the benefits of fresh air, fragrant breezes, sunshine, birdsong and positive interactions with flora and fauna.
Eat, drink and be merry: The old adage about guests gravitating toward the room that has the food? It's absolutely true, and incorporating cooking into your outdoor haven can lend a fun and informal entertaining element that just can't be replicated indoors. Options for equipment include grills, smokers, pizza ovens, fireplaces, bars or full kitchen setups with ovens, sinks, refrigerators and prep areas. Make sure to choose weather-resistant finishes for everything, install effective lighting and make sure you have plenty of comfortable seating for foodie friends.
McCallister notes on his show how rewarding it can feel to transform unused outdoor areas into havens of fun and relaxation, "transforming dead space into valuable life space." That same feeling can be achieved by do-it-yourselfers who embark on their own outdoor projects.
"Outdoor patio spaces have sure changed in the last few years with the onset of new outdoor materials, furnishings, fixtures ... and the homeowner's desire for more outdoor living and entertaining space," notes Audra Slinkey in a recent report by the National Association of Realtors. "Today's yards are multi-functional and serve to entertain, lounge and maximize lot square footage."
It's beautiful, it's practical and it's easy to use. Western Red Cedar can be an ideal building material for your next home improvement project. For more information about the building material and its guest appearance on "Colin and Justin's Home Heist," check out RealCedar.com.
By Annie Nye, Interior Designer