Get ready to enjoy enjoy everything from summer barbecues to a New Year's Eve celebration around the fire pit.

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Your backyard has the potential to be so much more than just a pretty landscape. And even though Seattle weather presents challenges, you can easily enjoy the outdoor lifestyle from the summer barbecues to a New Year’s Eve celebration around the fire pit. Here are some ideas from Seattle-area experts for ways to enjoy your piece of the great outdoors.

From the ground up

You’ll probably want to start your backyard renovation with some hardscaping. There are plenty of ways to keep your feet dry and elevate your outdoor experience. Patios of stamped concrete or pavers are a popular option. So are raised decks, especially ones made of weather-resistant materials.

The big things today are low maintenance and having an outdoor space that’s usable all year round,” Ben Middlemiss, president of London Design Build, says. His Newcastle company specializes in outdoor living areas. “We’re being asked to do a lot of roof structures and infrared heating.”

If you have the space, a deck is a beautiful way to add a warm, natural feel — in part because it brings you up off the ground. If you have access to a water or territorial view, a deck is the perfect way to enhance a dramatic view.

Middlemiss is an advocate for outdoor living with a minimum of maintenance chores. “With the new PVC decking, you can have a deck that looks just like wood but is maintenance free,” he says. “More and more people are asking us for artificial turf — it’s not just maintenance-free, it’s better for the environment, with no watering and no need for chemicals.

Now you’re cooking

Once you have your patio or deck, the next step is cooking for friends and family.

Just as Texas is the home of barbecue, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of outdoor grilling and smoking — so much so that some major brands of outdoor cooking equipment have their roots here. One of those is Green Mountain Grills, a Portland company with electric-powered wood-pellet grills ranging from the compact Davy Crockett for the small backyard to the Big Pig Trailer Rig that attaches to a vehicle.

(London Design Build)
(London Design Build)

John Antilla, vice president and general manager of Aqua Quip, gets to try out these and other types of grilling equipment at his company’s area stores. The options include traditional charcoal grills and smokers (including the iconic Green Egg), sleek gas grills, plus the newer pellet-fueled grills and powerful infrared outdoor cooking stations.

“There are a lot of choices, so try to see them in action, and talk with people who have them,” Antilla says. “Pellet grills are new. With indirect heating, and smoke, it doesn’t dry your food out. And you have a lot of control over temperature.”

High-end equipment can put an entire professional kitchen out on your back patio. But don’t worry if your condo or in-city home has limited yard space; Antilla says the major grill manufacturers offer small units that handle salmon fillets for a family dinner. “Just make sure your condo allows grilling,” he says.

Doorways to adventure

Don’t let cramped or crowded access to the backyard cramp your style. There are traffic solutions in all price ranges. Many retractable screen doors have speed reducers that make getting in and out a breeze (even while carrying a tray full of steaks). You can enjoy a bug-free breeze in your house all summer and come winter, there’s no need to wrestle with taking down a screen door and finding a place to store it. The retractable screen disappears into its slim housing.

“This is also a real benefit if you’re short on porch space,” Jens Wegner, owner of Clearview Cascades on Mercer Island, says. “No one needs to back up to swing a screen door open.”

If you are thinking about building a new home or doing a major remodel, consider the new retractable bifold patio doors and similar wall systems. These allow you to open an entire wall to your patio or deck for entertaining.

(Clearview Cascades)
(Clearview Cascades)

Furniture and fire pits

When it comes to furnishing your outdoor space, you have a wide range of choices in styles and materials. You’ll find rustic cedar, sleek hardwoods, cast iron, resins, steel, and aluminum. Each type of furniture has its own advantages in terms of appearance, maintenance, and durability. You can also work with one of the regions many artisans to decorate your yard with one-of-a-kind pieces, ranging from cedar benches to metal sculptures and firepots.

“Fire pits give you the ability to enjoy the outdoors, even on a gray day,” Bryce Pollan, president of Pacific Fire Tables in Gig Harbor, says. His company makes its portable fire pits of durable marine grade aluminum, available in thousands of colors to blend or contrast with any patio décor. “We encourage people to go for some color and really have fun with it,” Pollan says.

The Seattle Home Show October 19–21 at Century Field features grilling competitions and demonstrations of charcoal, gas, pellet and infrared grills hosted by Aqua Quip.