It’s that time of year again! Although the Chicago area had a mild winter, it was too cold to lounge outside. Spring is here and with it comes living in the great outdoors. A hot new trend is creating a backyard oasis and entertainment venue.

A proper design will use the entire backyard keeping a good balance with open area, landscape and hardscape, seating, food prep, play, and storage. Height is important in good design. Vertical structures like pergolas, gazebos, walls, counters, screens, planters, and playhouses lead the eye up and around the backyard filling spaces with a home-like feel. Don’t forget the power of lighting design: ambient, accent, and task.

Consider themed areas, like a yoga garden, kitchen, or bocce field. If relaxation is your goal, design a spa-like mood using the five natural elements in feng shui practice: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The 17th century French writer, Francois de La Rochefounauld, said, “to eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” Food preparation and sharing a meal with family and friends is as important as what is eaten. What better way to burn calories after a satisfying meal than by moving? Are you interested in a game of mini-golf, chess or checkers on an in-ground board, or even volleyball?

Designers report the recent top backyard requests:

Fire pit/fireplace/heaters

Water features, fountains, waterfalls, ponds, and saltwater pools

Tech-savvy, connectivity, Internet and TV

Ambient and overhead lighting, low-voltage solar and LED

Furniture, dining and seating groups

Meal preparation, kitchen with counters, appliances, brick oven, grills, modern conveniences

Décor, planters, sculptures, garden accessories

Stereo

Sustainable landscape, low maintenance, container gardens, rainwater harvest, conserve and recycle water

Hardscapes, patios, pavers