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The Best Outdoor Entertainment Area Design Ideas For You
By Mike Holmes
Friday, March 25th, 2022 @ 10:00am
11 Design Ideas for Your Outdoor Entertainment Areas
Believe it or not, it will soon be spring, and I bet most of you are looking forward to the warmer weather and spending time in your backyard with friends and family again. Most of you know I love spending time on my boat, but the pandemic put a wrench in that. Fortunately, it allowed me to take stock of my backyard, and I was able to finally do some serious upgrades that included an outdoor kitchen and tech-smart pergola, creating an outdoor entertainment area that rocks.
Here are some design ideas to help you build your perfect outdoor entertainment space.
What Should You Consider When Designing Your Outdoor Area?
To get the most out of your outdoor entertainment area, you need to determine what your main goals are for your backyard. The size will matter when designing your outdoor space.
- Do you entertain a lot?
- Are they large gatherings?
- Do you have kids or pets that require outdoor space?
- Do you just want a quiet space to relax and unwind after a long day?
Consider your backyard as a blank canvas and designate areas for specific tasks, such as a small sitting area for morning coffee and catching up on emails, or a spot to engage with your kids. You might even consider acquiring a pool or hot tub!
You will also have to integrate essential elements, like plumbing, dedicated gas lines, electrical, heating, climate, and privacy especially if you have your sights on an outdoor dining and kitchen area! These are all helpful questions to ask when designing your outdoor entertainment area.
Outdoor Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs for Your Outdoor Area
If you have a big enough backyard, one idea to help you make the most of the space is to install a pool. A pool is a great place for you to have family and friends over, for kids and their friends to play outdoors, a nice setting to host BBQs, and a healthy way to stay active – all within the safety of your home. I know my children and grandchildren certainly love coming over and enjoying the pool on a nice sunny day.
Fiberglass Swimming Pools
There are many different types of pool materials to choose from. I recommend fiberglass swimming pools as they are relatively easy to install and simple to maintain. While the upfront cost may be higher than vinyl pools, fibreglass pools are more durable and long-lasting. The fiberglass construction allows for more customization and is available in various designs and sizes. Fiberglass structures with a gel-coat finish resist algae, are easier to clean, and require fewer repairs.
Installing a swimming pool is not a DIY job. Professional installation is needed to guarantee the pool is adequately supported with sand and pea gravel. It’s important to consult with the right professional, like the people at Leisure Pools.
As mentioned fiberglass pools are easy to maintain, which is one of the great things about them. No more measuring chemical levels and making sure you’re adding the right amounts of products. With fiberglass pools, you simply need to maintain the optimum pH levels by adding salt to your pool. This will help the pool’s surface last longer.
What I love best about these pools is that you can use them all year long. Yes, that’s right! Unlike other types of pools, you can actually keep your water in and use it as a skating rink during the winter season —I love it.
Hot tubs are another great way to relax with friends and family but they can also help reduce muscle pain, tension, and stress. They’re great if you have a smaller space too and plan to use it all year long.
Electrical Considerations for Your Pool and Hot Tub
Extra precaution is required when doing any electrical work close to water to prevent deadly electrical shocks. As a result, any electrical requirements for pools, spas, hot tubs, decorative ponds, and water features should be discussed with a LEC (Licenced Electrical Contractor) business.
Generally, there can’t be any receptacles within 5 feet of the pool, but any devices and equipment related to your pool or spa and surrounding areas must be safeguarded by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). This also applies to outlet receptacles, underwater lights, motors, and controls for pool covers. Any pool pumps and light fixtures less than 10 feet from the pool edge should also be safeguarded.
Work with your LEC to safely install all of your pool or hot tub’s electrical needs, paying particular attention to overhead electrical and communication lines, underground wiring, and existing receptacles.
Outdoor Lounge Couch – Versatile Patio Furniture
Comfort should be the focus of your outdoor entertainment space. Use a series of outdoor lounge sofas and chairs, making your outdoor space a welcoming area to spend the evening with family and friends.
If the space is not sheltered, make sure your furniture can withstand the elements or have a chest or hidden storage space to safeguard the cushions from severe weather.
To create a welcoming atmosphere make sure you use layering and different types of lighting in your outdoor entertainment area. Create layers by, using hanging lights, post lights, and wall lights, or consider a group of patio torches or hanging lanterns.
Pathway lighting, especially along stairs is critical for preventing trips and falls. Up-lighting and down-lighting in nearby trees and gardens, fencing, and pergolas can generate drama with accent lighting.
Types of Outdoor Lighting
Floodlights have a wide span and are great for illuminating large areas. Floodlights can also assist with security for your property.
Landscape lights include globes, spotlights, and pendants especially if you have a pergola. Lanterns and sconces are good choices for highlighting architectural details, gardens, and greenery.
Check out this video of a backyard smart lighting design with Philips Hue here.
Motion sensor lighting is another great alternative for added security that works at night or only when it’s dark. They can help detect the presence of people, animals, and cars and are usually on a timer. However, be careful with the set-up and sensitivity, as they can sometimes be bothersome to homeowners, with lights going off and on over the slightest movement.
Spotlights are similar to floodlights but illuminate in a more focused light stream. They can be used to illuminate signage, trees, statues, architectural features, pools, and waterways.
Powering Outdoor Lights
Low voltage, line voltage, and solar power are the three options for powering your outdoor lighting. Low voltage lighting typically uses 12 volts to operate, making it both energy-efficient and straightforward to install. They require a special isolating transformer, which helps reduce shock hazards.
Line voltage lighting works at 120 volts and requires more robust wiring to protect cables and junction boxes for outdoor lighting.
It’s important to remember that all 120-volt, 15- and 20-amp receptacles in your backyard and within 2.5m of grade must be protected by a Class A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). If the outlet is exposed to rain and snow it will need a cover plate marked “Extra Duty” whether or not a plug is inserted into the receptacle. This is ideal for high-powered lighting such as floodlights.
Self-powered solar-powered lights do not require any wiring, but fixtures must be placed in areas where they will receive plenty of sunlight. Solar lights are simple to set up and are ideal for use in areas where electricity is not readily available.
Outdoor Kitchen – Design a Functional Cooking Area
If you have the space to include an outdoor kitchen to accompany your outdoor entertainment area, the same rules apply to your indoor kitchen. The kitchen must be designed with logic and functionality in mind.
For smaller backyards, a small and moveable portable charcoal or gas grill is best, and perhaps an additional rolling cart that can provide counter space and storage. Other options are modular models with customizable components, like grills, side burners, storage cabinets and drawers, sinks, bar cabinets, and refrigerators. But if you want to go all out, you can splurge on a fully custom built-in kitchen. It will all depend on your budget.
Another important thing to remember is permits. Moveable grills can be easily set up. However modular or custom outdoor kitchens will likely require permits, including electrical and plumbing.
What Type Of Grill Should You Get for Your Outdoor Kitchen?
The grill or BBQ is typically the focal point of any outdoor kitchen. Add a side burner, an infrared rear burner, and rotisserie system, and stainless steel cabinets for storage and you are all set. Cabinets are also great for house plumbing and gas lines, or propane tanks.
Check out the 33” or 40” insert grill from NewAge, with powerful BTUs, heavy-duty stainless steel grates, and even a warming rack. I sometimes like to treat myself to a nice steak for dinner, and this grill has the perfect nighttime grilling feature for that with halogen lights inside the grill and LED lite control knobs. This is very cool.
Other features to consider can include a pizza oven, or a ceramic kamado grill – perfect for smoking, roasting, and grilling.
Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets
Outdoor cabinets provide more than just storage and organizing. They provide your backyard with more functionality, letting you make the most of your space, whether you’re wanting to host get-togethers with family and friends or simply spend time outside appreciating nature.
Outdoor kitchen cabinets can be designed for your specific needs, like utility cabinets, appliance cabinets, and storage cabinets. However, one of the most important aspects of an outdoor kitchen is using products that are weather and UV-resistant to the elements, like stainless steel and aluminum.
Do You Need To Add A Sink In Your Outdoor Kitchen?
Adding a sink to your outdoor kitchen is a bonus and convenient, as it will prevent you from running back and forth to your indoor kitchen. It is also perfect for rinsing things, washing hands, and food prep.
Access doors under the sink can provide storage and house the plumbing. The best way to get water to your outdoor sink is to connect to your home’s water lines, as the sink will function just like all the other sinks in your home. Remember, additional plumbing requirements will likely require a licensed plumber.
How To Prevent Fires In Your Outdoor Kitchen?
When working with an open flame or any cooking, it’s always essential to ensure the area is fire safe. Keep these precautions in mind no matter what features you plan for your outdoor kitchen.
- Ensure the gas shutoff is easy and accessible
- Always have a fully functional fire extinguisher close by
- First Aid Kit
- Install safety lighting
- Keep cooking area a safe distance from any structure, window, door, or combustible items and follow local construction and safety requirements
- Ensure you have plenty of ventilation, like island vents, vented panels on cabinets for propane tanks
- Insulated grill jackets are a good idea to protect the structure from extreme heat
Remember, a vent hood is required if your outdoor kitchen is covered.
Outdoor Dining Area Design
Whether you like large gatherings or just want a small space for immediate family, you want to make sure there is enough space for people to move around comfortably.
For added convenience, another important factor to consider is creating your outdoor dining space close to your kitchen and a bathroom. Also, if you plan on having large gatherings and perhaps outside speakers, consider your neighbours and the noise level.
It’s also important to think about your outdoor furniture, especially if you live in a place like Canada with extremely cold weather.
Outdoor Furniture (Tables and Chairs)
Whether you are dining, relaxing, or entertaining, choose outdoor furniture that is comfortable, functional, weather-resistant, and washable. To create a cohesive atmosphere and seamless transition between areas, the colours and patterns and design you have inside your home should continue to the exterior of your home.
Depending on the size of space, you may have room for a dining table and chairs and even a lounge area. The choices are endless.
For those of you who have seen my Holmes Family Holiday special, I found this very cool glass igloo for my home. We made it into a giant snow globe! It will bring a whole new level to an outdoor entertainment space. Adding twinkle lights can help you create a unique dining experience that can be used all year long!
Smart Pergola, Awnings, and Patio Umbrellas
To make your backyard inviting and comfortable, you need to protect your outdoor space and create some shelter. You can achieve shelter by strategically planted trees and shrubs, a patio umbrella, or an awning. A more elaborate alternative is a pergola or better yet a smart pergola.
You can achieve privacy by using drapes, louvered panels, or retractable panels. These features provide protection from the sun and wind, but also allow for natural light and fresh air to circulate without compromising privacy.
Best Smart Pergola For Your Backyard
Last summer I installed a smart pergola at my home, and I love it. The pergola is made entirely of extruded aluminum and withstand all environmental conditions. This includes withstanding large snow loads and winds. It can open, close, pivot, and slide according to my needs.
One of the great features that I love about it, is that I can easily change pivoting louvers to follow the sun’s direction throughout the day, allowing me to regulate the quantity of sunshine I want. I can have the roof open on a nice clear day, or see the stars at night. The best part about my pergola is that I can operate it remotely or through an app on my phone
Some of the smart features offered in my model are wind and rain sensors. When the wind speed reaches 60 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour), the wind sensor will automatically open the louvers, allowing the wind to circulate throughout the system. When the pergola detects rain, the rain sensors will automatically close it, so damp cushions are never an issue.
I selected an architectural design style that complimented my deck and home. The best thing is the pergola can be customized in size so it can be placed in any backyard, whether large or small. Examples of accessories that can be added are lighting, ceiling fans, heaters, screens, and speakers. Plus, I can use my pergola all year round!
Electrical Considerations for Your Pergola
Remember, the Ontario Electrical Safety Code and electrical utilities (local distribution companies) have clearance requirements for structures such as a pergola, to overhead powerlines.
If you have powerlines running over your home, It’s important to consult with your local distribution company if they own the powerlines prior to installing the pergola to obtain the clearances. It’s also important to contact Ontario One Call if the pergola requires footings to be installed. They will help you determine if there are any underground electrical lines or services below you should watch out for.
Movies Under the Stars Complete Outdoor Home Theatre
I was reminded last summer that you don’t require a lot to watch a movie under the stars. A blank wall, a bed sheet or a portable screen and a projector, laptop and speaker, some popcorn and snacks and you are all set! It’s really a neat idea and so much fun for the family.
Outside Fire Place
Adding a fire and heat source will allow you to enjoy your outside space into the cooler months, keeping you warm and comfortable. Think about putting in a fireplace or a fire pit. There are various options and styles to choose from, including portable devices that can be moved easily.
Consider a pair of stand-alone portable heaters, which are available in both electric and gas versions. This will allow for more flexibility in your backyard, as it can help you shift your seating area as needed whether you’re alone or when you have more guests over.
Install a Water Feature – Fountains and Waterfalls
Consider incorporating a water element into your outdoor entertainment space for a refreshing and peaceful touch. It doesn’t have to be an ornate fountain or cascade to have an impression. Even a trickle of water can have an impact. The sight and sound of moving water provide a relaxed and calming effect on people and can even lower blood pressure.
Consult with a landscape architect or technician to find out how you can incorporate a water feature into your outdoor entertainment space. You will also need a power source. A licensed electrical contracting (LEC) business is required to do the installation if your fountain is hardwired.
Adding Lights To Your Water Fountain
Adding lights can also create a sleek look and highlight your water feature even at night. There are two types of lights, submersible and external. Submersible lights go directly into the water and provide a dramatic effect. External lights installed around the fountain can be spotlights, path lights, and hanging lights.
However, as an alternative, consider a solar-powered fountain, which won’t require hardwiring to your home’s electrical supply, but you will need a water source.
Create a Garden
Landscaping is another important aspect of designing your outdoor entertainment space. Not only does it add colour and more natural elements to your space, but it also allows you to section off different areas for specific functions, like a lounge area, a play area, and a dining area. Divide your backyard into sections by using floral garden beds, trees, bushes, raised beds, and even retaining walls.
Extend the Indoors and the Outdoors with Timber Decking
No matter how simple or elaborate your outdoor entertainment space is, you can make the most of it by making the transition between indoor and outdoor space seamless.
Create the illusion of a larger area by using consistent or complementary flooring throughout the two spaces. Install floor-to-ceiling glass accordion doors to easily allow natural light to become part of your indoor space. Keep your lighting and design themes consistent to allow for a smooth transition.
Set-up a Games/Recreation Area
If you have young kids or grandkids, consider creating an area for some playtime. A pool will provide hours of entertainment during the summer months. Hot tubs are a fun alternative in the winter when the pool is closed for the season.
But what if you don’t have a pool? Many homeowners make space for a jungle gym, trampoline, badminton net, horseshoe pitch, bocce ball, or the life-size chessboard. Get creative and depending on the space available the possibilities are endless.
Electrical Considerations For Your Backyard
Designing an outdoor entertainment area will require you to do some planning. Here are some electrical safety tips to keep in mind:
- Low voltage lighting will require a special isolating transformer
- Protect 120-volt 15- and 20-amp receptacles in your backyard with a Class A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
- A trench will be required to properly run the wires to power your backyard – this includes crossing a driveway
- Contact Ontario One Call to find existing underground wires, natural gas, and water lines before anyone digs in your yard
- A bar fridge will require a dedicated outlet
- For a natural gas grill, a line hook up is required by a professional gas fitter
- Electric grills will require a convenient outlet near your outdoor kitchen
Why It’s Important to Hire A LEC?
I recommend hiring a licensed electrical contracting (LEC) business to do all the electrical work needed for your backyard. This is important to make sure things are done safely to avoid the risk of electrical fires or deadly electric shocks.
LECs will also be able to install any electrical outlets or appliances safely, making sure it’s not close to any water sources that can cause a big problem.
File a Notification with ESA
According to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, most electrical work must be notified to the Electrical Safety Authority by filing a notification of work. When electrical work begins, ESA should be notified within 48 hours.
The individual performing the electrical work is responsible for filing the notification. Never request notification on someone else’s behalf. If you’ve hired a Licensed Electrical Contractor to do the work, as you should, they should be the ones to file the notification. Remember, if they’ve asked you to file it, then that’s a big red flag.
It’s important to note that filing an electrical notification is different from having a building permit. Not all projects that involve a wiring notification will require a building permit.
The start of the year has gone by very quickly and spring is almost here. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but the days are getting a little longer and brighter. This is a good opportunity to start thinking about all the things you could do to create your ultimate outdoor entertainment space.