Homeowners can't pick up a home-decorating magazine or watch an HGTV show without coming across the phrase outdoor living. The Columbus Dispatch Home & Garden Show reminds them as well with its "outdoor living" theme. The show, which ends today, includes 10 outdoor spaces that rival indoor rooms for comfort and amenities. But what exactly is an outdoor living space?
Homeowners can't pick up a home-decorating magazine or watch an HGTV show without coming across the phrase outdoor living.
The Columbus Dispatch Home & Garden Show reminds them as well with its "outdoor living" theme. The show, which ends today, includes 10 outdoor spaces that rival indoor rooms for comfort and amenities.
But what exactly is an outdoor living space?
Definitions vary, but experts agree that an outdoor living room should include a handful of ingredients, each of which can vary enormously in cost.
Central Ohio patio companies say homeowners should plan on spending at least $20,000 on an outdoor living space that has the bare essentials. Something larger and more elaborate could easily run two or three times that price. One industry rule of thumb: Plan on spending 10 to 15 percent of the home's value if you're starting from scratch.
The key to making any outdoor space work is a plan that can be developed in stages, said Bill Leidecker, owner of Five Seasons Landscape Management in Reynoldsburg.
"You've got to define what your plan is over the long haul," he said, "then you can start talking about bits and pieces."
Here are five features that experts agree should be part of every outdoor living room.Hardscape
Every living room has to have a floor - whether it's pavers or something else. Pavers are the top choice of many homeowners, but outdoor living rooms can have brick, concrete, wood or even gravel underfoot.
Besides material, the biggest elements that a homeowner needs to consider are size, shape and design. Experts say size should be determined by the number of regular patio users and the size of the house.
Jason Hackett, a sales manager at Scioto Valley, advises clients to think of their indoor living room to get a sense of how large their outdoor living room should be. But, experts add, the outside room will be more interesting and more functional if it avoids the simple rectangle of its indoor counterpart.
Likewise, a multilevel patio, with dining on one level and a casual seating area on another, adds interest and dimension to an outdoor living space.
"I hate like the dickens to get a 15-by-15-foot square out the back," said Roger Seely, owner of Seely's Landscape Nursery in Hilliard. "That's as creative as a tin can. So what I've been doing lately is putting a 12- or 13-foot-diameter circle and then, off that, a 7-foot-diameter circle that bleeds into it - one for dining and one for casual seating."
A floor might also need to be paired with a ceiling. A pergola or trellis can add shade, but Larry Burchfield, owner of Cedarbrook Landscaping & Garden Center in Powell, warns not to install them next to the house because they can darken the interior.Furniture
Most outdoor living rooms combine the function of three indoor rooms: living space, dining space and kitchen.
While dining areas need a table and chairs, homeowners should also provide a casual seating area if they have the room and budget.
Although a simple dining-room set from a big-box store can cost as little as $500, larger sets can run several thousand dollars. The same range can be found for casual furniture.
Hackett says homeowners should expect to spend at least $1,500 for a durable dining set plus $1,500 for the "living-room" seating arrangement. When buyers point out that outdoor furniture can cost more than their indoor pieces, Hackett reminds them that outdoor pieces must endure a lot more punishment.Kitchen
An outdoor kitchen can range from a $200 grill to an indoor-style kitchen that can quickly cost five figures. Scioto Valley sells outdoor kitchen islands that include built-in grills, counters, cabinets and refrigerators.
Larger ones include a seating counter, sink and trellis top. The islands, which start at $2,499, can be assembled on site.Flora
This might be the most neglected piece of the outdoor-living-room puzzle, but it's what separates an outdoor living room from a slab of pavement with some chairs.
Plants play several crucial roles. They screen neighbors and provide shade, color and fragrance.
Seely likes to place fragrant plants such as lilacs, viburnums and summersweet along the southern or western side of a patio so a breeze sends the scent across the area. He is also careful to design for color well into fall by placing, for example, a ginkgo next to a firebush accented by a spicebush or blue spruce.
Burchfield advises clients to keep variety in the landscape. Not only does variety make the garden more interesting to look at, but it also makes the flora less vulnerable to getting wiped out by disease.Focal point
The most popular gathering spot on many of today's patios is a fire pit, which can cost anywhere from $100 or so for a portable metal bowl to several thousand dollars for a built-in masonry pit with seating.
Leidecker, whose company has installed some massive pits, thinks a portable model for $300 or $400 will serve most families well and has the advantage of being movable.
Water fountains and waterfalls are also popular focal points, although Seely likes streams because they provide a more interesting sound. Keep in mind that water features - especially ponds - require ongoing maintenance.
A third focal point that is growing in popularity is a television. Several companies - including Skyvue, MirageVision and SunBriteTV - manufacture televisions designed specifically for outdoors, though they bear a premium price.
A 32-inch outdoor television will run between $1,100 and $1,700, while a 46- or 47-inch model will cost $2,100 to $2,800.