Ask Val: Summer Ready Backyard

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Val Sotillo, Northern Virginia-based Realtor and Falls Church resident. Please submit your questions to her via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What outdoor upgrades do you recommend now that vacation places are very limited and the whole family is home for the summer?

Answer: The summer of 2020 is shaping up to be a long one, especially since many outdoor venues and public pools remain closed due to the pandemic. Now that everyone is spending most of their time at home in the era of coronavirus, our backyards have become our havens, our places to soak up the sun, grill some food and sip some drinks, and where most of us will be celebrating the Fourth of July.

Other than giving some TLC to what you already have, such as power washing your deck, or painting the fence, here are some ideas to make your backyard more enjoyable for the whole summer. I’ve included some DIY links if you’d like to make the most of this time at home and save some money.

  • Consider a large outdoor rug. Not only is this a good way to include a pop of color in your backyard, but it’s also an inexpensive way to change up a space without having to go through the process of painting or staining a deck.
  • Try a gravel patio. You can save a ton of money by adding gravel instead of the more traditional patio materials, which makes this DIY project more appealing. Surrounding the gravel with lumber adds style and dimension to this space and makes it look much more expensive without the expense.
  • A pergola is a fantastic idea for your dream backyard. Clear out an area on a deck or in your yard and build your own. Add curtains for extra shade to create the ultimate outdoor living room.
  • Don’t forget about the outdoor lighting. Drape string lights down from a pergola or across your outdoor living space to give it a starry-night feel. You can also line any patio or garden path with torches and lanterns for soft lighting.
  • Fire pits are a lovely way to add charm, coziness and relaxation to your backyard. You also don’t need a lot of space to create this cozy scene. Whether you want to cook your food over an open fire or cozy up to it with blankets on a cool night, fire pits make a great addition to your backyard. Here are some great DIY ideas.
  • For a nice alfresco dinner, get a patio set that comes complete with table and chairs, or build your own outdoor table out of a few wine barrels and wooden boards for DIY yard decor.
  • Let your backyard be the best spot for entertaining the whole family with a kitchen! There are plenty of ways to build an outdoor kitchen that fit within your budget. Add a charcoal grill and table on a patio for a simple look. You can also build a Grillzebo (A gazebo for your grill).
  • Flowers are ideal for adding a natural pop of color to your landscape. Plant hydrangea bushes or tulip bulbs along the fence if you have a major green thumb. Or go to your local plant nursery and buy a few pots to fill with your favorite blossoms.
  • Now that most public pools are closed, here are some above ground pools you can get on a budget that will be easy to remove once summer is over.
  • You can bring family movie night outside, and try a DIY backyard movie theatre here.
  • If you’re not into outdoor movies, but you’re into music, a simple outdoor Bluetooth speaker will help you set up the summer mood. This speaker is my favorite and it’s the best bang for your buck.
  • If you have a front porch, make it look like an outdoor oasis by installing ceiling fans and hanging a set of sheer curtains.

I hope these backyard ideas inspire you to make your yard your favorite place this summer!

I also want to take a moment to wish a Happy Fourth of July to all! May this day be a symbol of hope, prosperity and happiness in your lives. Be safe, be kind, and take care of your family, friends and community.

If you’d like more information, or would like a question answered in my column, please reach out to [email protected]. I hope to hear from you soon.

Val Sotillo is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite #10C Arlington, VA 22203, 703-390-9460.

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