First things first. How should the space function?

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Before we sketch a single idea, we start our projects by asking questions. In architecture speak, this is called programming. Whether you work with a design professional or do-it-yourself, answering these questions before you begin will put you on the road to outdoor living success.

This is the exact checklist we review with clients at our project kick-off meetings. So grab a pen and paper and dig in!

Don’t worry about answering everything, just focus on the questions that apply to you. Want to make it even easier? Download our free, printable PDF using the button at the bottom of the page. 

1. Think about the amenities you want and how often you will be using them. As with any indoor space, outdoor areas should be designed with the use in mind.

2. Do you want a grill area or outdoor kitchen?

3. Will you have a swimming pool or smaller water feature?

4. Will you have a patio or terrace?

5. Outdoor sound system?

6. Do you want a fire pit?

7. Do you have a garden hose connection and storage for the hose?

8. Should you plan an irrigation system?

9. Will your outdoor space be a low-maintenance lawn? Do you want ornamental plants and flowers? Or a vegetable garden?

10. Do you want a pergola, arbor, trellis, or gazebo? Think about whether you’re seeking dappled light, full shade, or protection from rain.

11. Do you want game areas or courts?

12. Will your outdoor space be enclosed by a fence or wall? What privacy and security needs do you have?

13. Think about the utilities you may need to extend. Power for lighting or ceiling fans? Water and wastewater for a bar sink?

14. What surface(s) might you want? Break down larger spaces into “rooms” with different surfaces. Grass for play, gravel for paths, decking or stone for dining and seating areas, etc.

15. What problems can your project solve? For example, you could plan a concealed area to stash unsightly trash and recycling bins. Do guests always use the wrong entry door? Use this project as a chance to provide hierarchy so visitors know the paths they should take. Building a gazebo? Integrate a some storage benches where you can keep gardening supplies.


If you’re ready to take on a home renovation, click below to get our whole-house, room-by-room checklist PDF printable.

It includes this full outdoor spaces list as well as questions for living spaces, kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, closets & storage, and garages & utility rooms.  Print the sections you need and fill them out for a solid start to your project.


Send me the checklist!