Create an Outdoor Space at Home This Winter
From virtual weddings to birthday parades to outdoor dining, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to get inventive about how we connect with those we love. We've always believed that outside is better than inside, and that's truer than ever now.
This summer brought record sales of outdoor patio furniture, umbrellas, and picnic tables, and it’s no wonder — according to CDC guidelines, hosting friends and family outside is a way to mitigate the risks associated with the virus. Now that temperatures have dropped, and rain, snow, and wind have rolled in, socializing outdoors brings new challenges. But where there’s a challenge, a solution isn’t far behind. It turns out, all you need is a little creativity and some cold-weather gear. Check out our tips on how to create a cozy outdoor space, so you can embrace open-air living no matter the weather.
No need to let a little (or a lot) of rain or snow keep you from your plans. One of the most important elements of a reliable outdoor area is covering. A porch, a patio, or a pop-up tent are all great options. That heavy-duty camping tarp you’ve got in the garage? That’ll work too. Just be sure that there are enough open sides to ensure plenty of airflow in your outdoor space. The CDC recommends “leaving one or more sides open.” After all, a completely walled off outdoor space is basically just a room outside (and sort of defeats the purpose of being outdoors in the first place!)
Pro tip: If you don’t have much outdoor real estate at your home, scout out public parks near you instead. You can use an existing covered area to meet up with friends and family.
Sit back and relax
Outfit your outdoor zone with comfy seating for a welcoming feel despite the cold. You can easily move your summer patio furniture into your space, grab chairs from inside the house, or pull out those camping chairs you haven’t touched since summer. (Might even be the perfect time to purchase that folding camp rocker you’ve had your eye on.) Have guests BYOB (bring your own blanket) and get snuggly! You can even plug in an outdoor power strip and instruct friends and family (who tend to run extra cold) to bring an electric blanket for added heat.
Pro-parent tip: If you have little kids that struggle with social distancing, consider building in some visual boundaries into your outdoor space. An outdoor rug or chalk borders help kiddos understand where their space ends and your visitor’s space begins.
Add some heat
One way to really bring the cozy to your outdoor space is with a heating source. If you’re lucky enough to have a roomy patio with a high ceiling, having an actual wood firepit or gas fire table is a wonderful (and beautiful) source of heat. If your spot is smaller and it’s not safe to have an open flame, a propane or electric heater will do the trick! Depending on style and budget, you can pick up a freestanding propane heater (like the ones lots of restaurants have on their patios), a hanging heat lamp, or a simple tank-top burner that attaches directly to a propane tank.
Pro tip: On a budget? Go for the tank-top propane burner. Sure, these ones aren’t very glamorous but they are simple to set up and you can even use your existing BBQ propane tank. Plus, they are easy to move around and transport so you can even bring it with you camping or to a friends’ outdoor space.
Light things up
Another great addition to an outdoor space is some mood lighting. Since winter days can be surprisingly short, setting up some lights can extend your outdoor time. Pretty much anything from a camping lantern to a string of outdoor lights will do. For a really fancy setup, score some large ceramic or glass lanterns and some rechargeable LED pillar candles to amp up the ambiance.
Turn your outdoor zone into an event space
Even though you might not be able to head to the movies with a friend or meet up for a latte at your favorite coffee house this winter, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those things at home. Consider some of these additions to your outdoor area and who knows — it might actually be better than going out.
● Outdoor movie theater: At-home projectors are fairly inexpensive these days and can make movie night a real treat. Purchase a projector, a projector screen (or grab a white sheet), choose a movie on the computer, and cuddle up! (You can even set up a wireless speaker for that surround-sound experience.)
● Open-air game room: Charades or Pictionary are great contactless games to play with guests. Plus, the movement helps everyone stay warm!
● Outside coffee shop: Set out some mugs, spoons, coffee and tea, and an electric kettle, and let guests fix themselves a body-warming beverage. Put out some hand sanitizer and a dirty dish bin to keep things clean and organized.
● Outdoor book club: Ask a few friends to join you and host the small group for an outdoor discussion. While you’re reading your book-club book, why not have your kids do some outdoor reading too? Heat up the patio, grab some blankets, and enjoy some family reading time. (Can you tell that open-air reading is one of our favorite down-time activities?)
Pro tip: Regardless of the activity, put your guests (and yourself!) at ease by sharing get-together expectations and implementing a sanitizing routine.
This year has changed the way we socialize, travel, and work. It’s made us rethink what’s important to us, what’s safe, and how best to maintain some semblance of normalcy. The silver lining? It’s made us all get outside more (which it turns out, is super good for you). Now go ahead, bundle up and head outside — to your own little at-home outdoor oasis.