Now that we are in the home stretch of winter, it's time to starting planning the outdoor oasis! Do you have one yet?
We created one a few years ago and it was the best thing we did here to enjoy our backyard more. Most of our property gets full sun, which is great for growing flower gardens, but not so great on a hot summer day! To me an outdoor oasis includes a pool, but we don’t have room for one here so I have to create relaxing outdoor spaces using what we have.
Our deck’s dining space used to be very simple with just a table, chairs and some container plants. It was easy to care for but we barely used it because there was no shade. The deck receives full sun so it was necessary to shade this area so we could sit outside and enjoy it more.
When we refreshed the dining area, we made a few changes that created a cozy, relaxing and beautiful outdoor oasis that feels like we are hanging out at a country club. We sit out there as much as possible and enjoy it now more than we ever have.
Want to create an outdoor oasis in your backyard? It can be done on any budget. Here are a few tips to get you started.
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How to Create an Outdoor Oasis
Before doing anything, find your design inspiration. What looks are you drawn to? Consider what you want out of the space. Is it for dining, entertaining or do you just want a living area?
When creating an outdoor oasis, it is helpful to define the area. We started with a deck, but a patio or other well-defined space would work just as well.
I found inspiration from my sister-in-law. She used an inexpensive pop-up tent over an outdoor living area and that sparked my desire to change our sun-drenched deck.
Build or Buy a Tent, Gazebo or Pergola
Unless you have some sort of covered area, consider adding a tent, gazebo or pergola to help enclose the space and make it feel more like an outdoor room. There are so many different sizes, shapes and styles to choose from. You can build one yourself or purchase them pre-made. And they can cost as much or as little as you want – so shop around!
Here are a few options to choose from:
For our deck, I chose a gazebo similar to this one and we love it! I love that sides drape down, soften the corners and can be pulled back. It even has a zip mesh lining to keep bugs out. How cool is that?
Since moving to our home, we considered building a pergola over the dining area, but it was always one of those projects that got pushed to the wayside. Once we realized we could buy something pre-made, we moved on it. I am so happy we did because we would probably still be sitting here thinking about building one! Do you do that too?
Add an Outdoor Area Rug
Whether it is a living or dining area, add an outdoor area rug to help make the space feel even more like a room. It is amazing how many styles there are to choose from! I added an outdoor rug that does not look like an outdoor rug at all. I love the vintage vibe on this particular rug from Boutique Rugs. Since adding the outdoor area rug, the dining space is more defined, cozy and inviting.
When selecting a rug, consider what type of living or dining area you want to create. Measure the area and err on the side of going a little larger.
For dining spaces, make sure the area rug is larger than your table and accommodates the chairs. If it’s too small, the table will overpower the rug and not look right.
If you are creating a living area, be sure to pull all of the furniture in close enough so it touches the area rug. Spacing the furniture too far away from an area rug makes it feel less intimate and cozy.
Create a Dining or Seating Area
Once the space is clearly defined, add living or dining room furniture. In our outdoor oasis, we wanted to design a dining area that we would want to hang out in All. The. Time.
We originally wanted to purchase one of those black wrought iron sets with cushions. Pricing that out, a wrought iron set would have cost us well over our budget…like, in the thousands. So, I started searching Pinterest for new inspiration. I found lots of garden-style dining spaces that I knew I could replicate for less.
Ultimately, I decided to go with a wood farmhouse table and natural wicker chairs. The Pinterest inpso looked super cozy and I knew we could find an inexpensive table on Facebook Marketplace for a steal.
When I told Chris my design idea, he questioned how a wood table would hold up in the elements. Since the wood table will be outside, I refinished it with deck stain to help protect it from the elements.
And besides, if I got the table for a really good price, who cares if it started to rot out after a while – I can always go back to the marketplace and find another one.
The Deck Dining Area
I eventually found a wood farmhouse table for $50. Isn’t that a steal?! I lightly sanded the legs and top of the table, then refinished each with white solid and natural outdoor stain respectively.
Sidenote: Three years later, and the table is still in pretty good shape! I will likely resand and apply a natural outdoor stain to the tabletop. Rain water has sat on it and I think it could use a little refresh heading into the spring 2020 season.
Since the table was done, I started looking online for natural outdoor wicker chairs. I found a few that I loved at Pier 1 and went to the store so I could test them out. Since we were planning to spend a lot of time outside, these chairs needed to be super comfortable!
The chairs I loved happened to be on sale for Memorial Day weekend, so I scooped them up pretty quickly. Looking at Pier 1 today, they don’t have the ones I bought anymore, but here are two options alternative one – alternative two that I would choose if looking today! Amazon has some neat options too:
- Rattan Wicker Bistro Chairs
- Wicker Chairs Plus Table (I would use the table somewhere else as a plant stand or something)
- Gray Outdoor Wicker
To keep a light look, I chose ivory cushions. Yes I know ivory cushions are not easy to keep clean but I am still happy I went with them because that is the look I wanted! Why sacrifice the look I want to ultimately not be happy with it wishing I bought the ivory? I throw them in the wash every now and again to keep them looking good and that works for me.
Adding Ambiance to the Outdoor Oasis
To add ambiance, consider adding string lights like these or these. We strung 4 sets of lights around the gazebo and they look so much better than using Christmas lights. Here are a few more options from Amazon:
- Waterproof LED Outdoor String Lights
- Vintage Backyard Patio String Lights
- Fairy Globe Lights with 8 Modes
Candles and battery operated candles also add to the ambiance. I like to use indoor/outdoor battery operated candles on self-timers in lanterns around the deck so I don’t have to think about turning them on and off.
Adding Plants and Flowers
Nothing says outdoor oasis more than tropical plants. Houseplants lend a tropical vibe that we don’t get in suburban New Jersey so they are a must if you do not live in the tropics like me. They also warm up the living space by softening the hard edges and corners of the deck area.
Before shopping for summer annuals, bring any houseplants you have outdoors to summer and then see what you really need. I bring all of my houseplants outside to vacation on the deck. As an aside, I keep most out of direct sunlight so the leaves don’t scorch. Since they live indoors most of the year, direct sunlight is just too much for them.
In addition to bringing houseplants outside, add containers of summer flowers. You can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, but stick with a color scheme to keep a beautiful cohesive look.
I love to plant large containers of annuals to brighten the area. Larger containers dry out far less quickly than smaller ones, so that’s why I prefer to go bigger. This year, I plan to add some hanging planters of blooms. Stay tuned!
Adding the Final Touches
Finally, tuck in some lanterns, watering cans, bird houses and other natural elements to finish off the outdoor oasis. And consider keeping some blankets close by for use on cool summer nights.
What Do You Think?
We love our outdoor oasis and spend as much time out here as possible. It’s such a great space to entertain. At night, it feels so cozy and comfortable with all the mood lighting. Do you have an outdoor oasis yet? If not, I hope this post inspires you to create your own.
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