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Backyard living: 7 smart design trends for 2013

Karl Fendelander | Improvement Center Columnist | September 6, 2013

The snow might not yet be melted where you are, but spring is most definitely in the air. Winter's cabin fever is letting up as surely as the days are getting longer. Time to get your backyard ready for outdoor living -- barbecues, patio parties -- even nightly dining on the deck. After a chilly season of neglect, your deck or patio can benefit from a makeover.

7 budget-friendly deck and patio trends

While many of the more fervent homeowners wax poetic about one day being buried in their backyard, most folks are more concerned about resale value than picking out a favorite fruit tree to fertilize. Either way, a nice deck and patio area puts the fun in functional and can provide a whopping 77.3 percent return on investment -- the highest it's been in years -- for the addition of a wood deck, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report 2013. ROI for decks is trending upward dramatically, but not every design is in style. Check out the latest deck and patio trends for spring 2013:

  1. Harmony and dissonance. Not just for music lovers, harmony and dissonance are concepts that make for beautifully eye-catching exterior design. Think accents. Think mixing and matching. Break up stone with gravel and vice versa. Blend rustic with modern with clean wood lines and iron accents. Use iron-caged river rock for a round-meets-angular look that functions for chairs, stairs and retaining or accent walls.
  2. Reclaimed materials. Like the guest towels in the bathroom that no one, not even guests, feel right using, things that are shiny and new can look too sterile -- not conducive to relaxation. Reclaimed materials, on the other hand, can look more comfortable and well worn. From old hardwood floors and disassembled brick chimneys to hefty iron hardware, salvaged concrete and old porcelain wash tub; you can find -- and put to creative use -- all sorts of materials, many of which come with great stories you can retell to entertain your barbecue buddies.
  3. Spring it up with color. The burst of color from early-blooming flowers against the thawing, fertile soil is a great image of spring. So, too, you can accent your earth-toned deck areas in the same way with colors that pop and starkly contrast the dark wood grain. Liven up a dull space with bright mosaics and tile designs that can wipe clean and withstand any winter. (Hint: old tile is often reclaimable; new, damaged tiles on clearance are great for mosaics.)
  4. Conversational comfort. Aim for a patio and deck design that encourages conversation late into the night. Think round tables and comfy places to sit, built-in benches paired with arm- and wingback chairs. Make your patio a natural extension of your home, creating an outdoor room with similar design themes that seem to flow right out the door. Add rain, wind and sun protection -- and a nice warm fireplace/pit to keep things toasty into the wee hours.
  5. Fancy footing. Your backyard should be easy to walk around, allowing for maximum room to move in case of an impromptu squirt-gun fight or dance party. This means going for easy-to-navigate, more granular gravels and/or allowing for wide walkways throughout. One of the hottest patio trends is to go beyond making things easy on your feet to also making them easy on the eyes. Spice up the design of a new patio slab using molds that create the appearance of brick and stone, or by peppering the concrete mixture with seashells and even bits of smoothed, colored glass. Use a concrete engraver to etch an existing patio and add some really cool looks using stains and finishes.
  6. Light it up. Soft lighting artfully strewn about can banish the backyard claustrophobia that sets in when the sun goes down. Paper lanterns, solar-powered path lights, hidden LED under-lighting, back-lit frosted glass (or milky plastic) paneling -- you want people to be able to see without feeling like they're under a security spotlight.
  7. Au naturel. Make your backyard a functional, natural paradise: classy, but casual. Edible landscaping is all the rage -- and it looks (and tastes) great when done well. If you're worried about your growing medium, permaculture gardening techniques can reclaim even the worst soil and make a luscious display anywhere.

Make your backyard the retreat you've longed for all winter, and design it yourself to save money for the important stuff -- like throwing outdoor parties.

About the Author

Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.