For outdoor living spaces, think high style and low maintenance

It’s the time of the year when spending as much time outdoors as possible becomes everyone’s lifestyle priority. But there’s only so much time that you can spend at the beach or on a restaurant patio – enjoying the season at home, in your own outdoor space, is ideal for so many reasons. You can relax, gather your friends and family, linger as long as you like with no restrictions on kids or pets joining the party.

There’s a difference between the modern outdoor space and what’s been the standard in the past. Today, a few stray folding chairs on the grass and burgers on a beat-up old grill doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Outdoor spaces are increasingly viewed as extensions of a home’s interior – and just as worthy of careful designing and planning. That doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune – one of the best ways to keep costs reasonable is to use materials that don’t require a lot of maintenance.

Your first step is creating the space. Your house has walls to define individual spaces – without them, it would be impossible to decorate and maximize the functionality of an area. Think of your outdoor space in the same way. Though you won’t need walls, you can literally lay the foundation by adding a deck to your property. A deck provides a space for seating, cooking and interaction that’s separate from the garden or the lawn, making it an ideal solution for creating the focal point of your outdoor living space.

Instead of decking that demands care throughout the season, choose a low-maintenance deck material. Earthwood Evolutions, a line of natural hardwood style and authentic, variegated color and graining decking from TimberTech, is one solution for those who want the aesthetic quality of wood, without the maintenance headaches. It resists the scratching that comes along with parties, kids and pets, the staining that may occur with food and drink and the fading to which traditional decking materials are so susceptible. Once you’ve created your space, you’ll want it to be an extension of your home for years to come, so choosing a product like Earthwood Evolutions, which has a 25-year limited fade and stain warranty, will make your investment worthwhile.

To bring some decorative verve to your deck, add color and consistent style elements. Rather than amassing a group of mismatched chairs, choose a suite of outdoor furniture to help create a more cohesive design statement that gives your space the look of a well-designed living room. No matter what price you pay for the furniture, make sure that it’s weather and fade resistant – there are options that even stand up to being outdoors throughout the year. For extra protection, consider purchasing furniture covers that will keep the elements at bay.

Adding color is easy with planters filled with annuals – combine flowers, like vibrant tuberous begonias, and foliage, such as the variegated leaves of many coleus varieties, for interesting texture and color variation. There is an ever-expanding selection of planters that are made of foam, but which have the appearance of stone or pottery. Not only are they easier to move around, but they’re immune to the cracking that sometimes happens with extreme temperature fluctuations in winter.

Having a view from your deck is also important. If you’re not in possession of a green thumb, it’s still possible to create an attractive backdrop that doesn’t demand too much attention from you. Flowering trees, like crabapples or plums, or shrubs, like hydrangeas or lilacs, offer two different looks with one plant. Look for varieties that have form and foliage just as appealing as the flowers, such as sand cherries, which have soft pink blossoms and glossy red leaves, and you’ll have a plant that you can enjoy with minimal maintenance. Choosing perennial plants makes it easier to maintain your garden from year to year, and adding plants of varying heights, colors and textures creates visual interest.

Investing in your yard and outdoor space is something that you’ll enjoy for years to come, but their value goes beyond your own use. The 2011 Husqvarna Global Garden Report showed that for every dollar invested in landscaping, homeowners selling their houses see a $1.80 return. And with long-lasting, low-maintenance amenities, you’ll be able to get that return even if you sell your home years from now. For more information about how Earthwood Evolutions decking can enhance your yard without increasing your workload, go to

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