Recently I toured some model homes in a large master-planned community near where I live. The big selling feature touted in the builder’s ads was “revolutionary disappearing walls,” so I figured I would check them out. The disappearing walls were the same type often seen in upscale custom homes here in Arizona, but I guess it’s a ‘revolutionary’ idea to have the option of such walls in a tract home. At any rate, the model homes did a wonderful job of presenting a lifestyle of seamless indoor-outdoor living. However, I couldn’t help but think about all the insects and reptiles I’ve seen in our backyard that would have access to our house if we didn’t have screens. Such is the conundrum of seamlessly melding safety, functionality and design.
All the delights of outdoor living come with safety concerns that need to be addressed. Here are some outdoor safety and design considerations that should be reckoned with so you can fully enjoy your outdoor living space:
- Outdoor lighting is crucial to your outdoor living space, both for safety and design. Whether you have a tiny patio or a sprawling back yard spread, good lighting appropriate to how you use your outdoor space is crucial. Lights should be rated for outdoor use. My patio lights and outdoor ceiling fan are on a remote control that can regulate brightness of the lights and fan speed. It’s especially useful when entertaining. (Think lights up for last call.)
- Grills should be at least ten feet from your home and any other structures. Lighted grills should be supervised at all times.
- Outdoor patio surfaces should be even enough to avoid trips and falls. It sounds obvious, but many natural stone surfaces can be uneven and hazardous. I traded out a bumpy flagstone surface on my patio for pavers, as I was always stumbling on the uneven flagstone. If you have stepping stones in your yard, they should be level enough with the ground so no one could get hurt stepping off them.
- Use fire carefully outdoors. Fire pits are a wonderful outdoor feature and are very popular here in the southwest, but they can be a source of burns and fires. Tiki torches and outdoor candles can also cause fires, so use them with caution.
- Place container plants carefully, especially thorny plants such as cactus. I backed into a cactus on my patio strategically placed so I could see it from my kitchen. Dumb idea. You can bet that cactus got moved, and fast.
- Finally, pool owners, don’t neglect pool safety. If you have small children, you need a pool fence with a self-closing gate that latches. Never put any furniture near the fence that a child could use to climb over the fence or unlatch the gate.
Now that we’ve covered our outdoor living safety and design tips, grab the sunscreen and insect repellent and let’s go outside! Time spent outdoors is time to be cherished.