Before you call up everyone you know and tell them to come over, be sure your backyard is ready to entertain guests.

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Q: We want to be the cool house on our block this summer. How do we transform our backyard into the ultimate party place?

A: What is more fun in the summer than a backyard party? The gardens are growing, the birds are singing and the sun is shining! We are entering the season for outdoor living in the Pacific Northwest, and a great way to do just that is through relaxation and entertainment in your own backyard with family and friends. But before you call up everyone you know and tell them to come over, are you sure your backyard is ready to entertain guests?

Here are two foundational elements of an outdoor living space to impress your guest and enjoy the backyard party season:

1. You need to have an outdoor space in which to entertain.

Before you can even begin to plan that party, you must have an area in your backyard designated for entertaining. In other words, you need a great outdoor space.

Why is this important? While you may like to be outdoors, you only want to feel like you are outdoors to a certain point. Sure, you enjoy looking up at the sun gleaming through the clouds and feeling the fresh air on your face. But do you want to stand around on dirt or patchy grass? Probably not. And neither do your guests. So, you need an inviting area where you can create backyard memories.

Think of hardscape as the foundation of your entertaining space. Pavers, cobblestones, architectural slabs and bricks are all products that can be used to create walkways, patios and stone flooring for outdoor kitchen or dining areas in your backyard. And the beauty of building a great outdoor space is that you can continue using it long in the future, too. Especially if you choose a hardscape made of stone or clay brick that is durable, long-lasting and low-maintenance.

Hardscape also acts as a framing platform to showcase your natural surroundings. The beauty and colors of garden flowers or grass are stunning next to stone features like planters, walkways, and patios. Make hardscape a framework to showcase your gardening and landscape achievements in your outdoor living space.

2. You need to have a comfortable place for guests to sit.

Once your outdoor space is created, you next need to have seating for your guests.

If you want to keep the party going outside, you need a place for people to sit. Standing is fine for a while, but at some point, people get tired. And if there is nowhere to sit outside, your guests will eventually move indoors.

Head out to your backyard and assess your current seating situation. Are your furnishings broken or wobbly? Did you leave the seat cushions and pillows outside all winter? If you answered yes to these questions, it might be time to replace a few things before you throw that party.

For a nice outdoor dining area, set up a table and chairs. Decorate the table with colorful place settings and flowers to create a warm and welcoming dining room outside. To create comfortable seating, you can design a living room space using outdoor furniture. Place bright, outdoor pillows on benches for extra comfort and a splash of color. And if you don’t already have a bench, you can create a custom stone bench using retaining wall blocks paired with wooden boards. And don’t forget to lay down a large, colorful rug to define the “room” space.

By designing a great space for outdoor entertaining, you can make a backyard feel like an extension of your home with comfortable places for your guests to sit, dine and relax.

So, do you have a great outdoor entertaining space yet? One that allows you to extend the home comforts into your backyard? As you make plans for backyard party season, think about what you can do to improve or create something fantastic in your backyard to enjoy with friends and family.


Laura Hoffman works for Mutual Materials and is a member of Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to