Create the perfect staycation!

Posted September 6, 2018 in Landscape Design

No reservations needed, no lines to stand in and no crowds to traverse…this sounds like holiday heaven.  Fact is, you don’t always have to travel to another country or go to a magical park to enjoy your downtime.  Yes, it is great to not have to worry about laundry or meals for a full week or two, but hear me out.  With the idea of outdoor living in full swing, more and more homeowners are opting to invest in their own backyard to be able to enjoy a sense of staycation year-round!  For those willing to forego a few plane tickets and private scuba lessons to start their backyard transformation journey, let us share our cheat sheet of feature must-haves to convert your yard into your own slice of property paradise.

3 Zones

If we have said it once, we will say it 100 times…a well-planned outdoor living space contains the essential 3 zones: cooking, dining and lounging.  Creating an open and interactive cooking space outdoors is beneficial on so many levels.  Using your outdoor kitchen in the summer months will relieve the heat build-up inside the home, saving on cooling costs.  An outdoor cooking station also keeps the chef from being confined to a smaller room or completely removed from the party itself!  Whether a simple grill station or an elaborate built-in kitchen with all the bells and whistles fits your lifestyle, your landscape designer can beautifully integrate all essentials to help set the tone of your retreat.

When the meal is prepared, you certainly shouldn’t have to go inside to enjoy it!  Having a designated space for a dining table will make sure that everyone dines together instead of disbursing to find an open seat.  This dining area creates the opportunity to appreciate each other’s company and keep the outdoor entertainment rolling!

Last, but certainly not least, is the section to hang out and relax.  I would say that relaxation is almost everyone’s number one sought-after feeling on vacation.  Whether your ideal lounge spot is a plush outdoor sofa, hanging pod chairs or even a hammock, you can’t go wrong!  If it screams comfort, implement it!


If you have ever had the chance to enjoy a nice ocean or poolside cabana in your travels, you know how amazing a little shade feels after swimming or baking in the sun for a few hours.  Hanging out in the shade but still being in the element is a feeling straight from the resort and can be captured in your very own backyard!  Shade options such as gazebos, pavilions, pergolas, under deck or roof system attached to your home are all possibilities!  The architecture and style of your home, along with what you want to accomplish in this shaded space will be considered when deciding which feature makes the most sense for your space.  Discussing the pros and cons of each feature with your landscape designer will help you to get inside of their mind and understand why certain features are recommended over others.  After all, everyone has the same long-term goal, to provide a backyard haven for you to enjoy for years to come!

2 Elements

While the three zones and a shaded space will create the perfect setting, there must be some type of inclusion that would help set the feeling for the space, right?  Our professional opinion says, yes, there are definitely elements that should be included in your outdoor living space to make it feel like a vacation at home…

Let’s start with water!  A swimming pool definitely screams vacation; it certainly is the first place most go after unpacking their suitcase!  A swimming pool can be large and in charge, fit for laps and leaps off a boulder waterfall or modest and made for an afternoon float.  Whatever the long-term goal is for your space, there is a swimming pool to fit.  Those that don’t consider themselves pool people don’t have to feel left out; they can certainly gain all the soothing benefits from a nearby stand-alone water feature!  The soft, trickling sound of water has been proven to lessen anxieties and regulate breathing.  Highlight this water feature with warm LED lighting and you have yourself a fine focal point within your staycation sanctuary!

The second element that will usher in thoughts and feelings of vacation is, fire!  Pairing a swimming pool and/or a water feature with a fire pit/place or table hits all the senses.   A cozy place to unwind, feel the warmth, smell the firewood and see the dancing flames is virtually hypnotic.  Not into the maintenance of a wood-fueled fire?  No problem!  Natural gas or propane fire features are fully customizable as well, and the fire can be started with the push of a button.  Match a gas fire feature with an automated water feature and you have luxury at your fingertips!


To further set the mood and kick your entertainment up a notch, don’t forget the inclusion of outdoor sights and sounds!  Outdoor audiovisual has come a long way and now is as sleek and as clear as ever.  Gone are the clunky televisions and bulky speaker systems.  Today, outdoor-rated TVs are thin, lightweight and their pictures are as clear as day.  For the sports fanatics or those who love to enjoy their favorite program in the fresh air, an outdoor entertainment system is the epitome of entertainment.

And for every outdoor entertainment system, there should also be a speaker system!   Speakers can now be disguised within the landscape to create surround sound throughout your outdoor living space or recessed above and virtually invisible.  Add the element of Wi-Fi operation, and your favorite music is ready with a swipe, no need to go inside or open cabinets to change the station!  Throw on a little Bob Marley, grab a Red Stripe and close your eyes…


Does your favorite vacation resort shut down once the sun sets?  We think not!  For any outdoor living space, landscape and accent lighting is a must, and is certainly the icing on the cake.  Why invest your time and money into your dream backyard when you can only fully enjoy it in the daylight?  At last check, the real fun starts when the sun sinks low!  Yes, it’s true, you can get the island feel from tiki torches and colorful candles, but those options are only temporary and will not look so hot after a while (pardon that horrible pun).  Instead, talk to your landscape designer about landscape and accent lighting.

LED landscape lighting is warm, soft and creates the perfect atmosphere in the evening; it’s almost enchanting!  Not only does landscape lighting beautify your property and new outdoor living space at night, it also lights up pathways and steps to make sure your family and friends can navigate the space safely.  Additional feature accent lights will also provide the same benefit!  Lighting up backyard features like seating walls, deck railing, planters…etc. will not just look gorgeous, it will guarantee that your company don’t take any unexpected tumbles!  Remember, the party doesn’t need to end just because the sun went down!


And finally, to bring vacation to your own backyard, you will need accoutrements, accessories, decorations, whatever you prefer to call them!  Your backyard will be beautifully pulled together by an underlying color scheme and tasteful adornments.  Outdoor rugs, colorful cushions, throw pillows, and comfy blankets when the weather is right, are all welcomed embellishments to bring the comforts from the inside, out.

You will also find that you have versatility in larger adornments as well.  Planters are a great example of how you can change up the look and feel of a space, per season or taste!  In the warmer months, incorporating tropical trees and flowers will certainly add spice to your staycation.  While tropicals are treated as annuals here in NEPA, consider this an opportunity.  You will not need to worry about overwintering any plants and you can use the same planters for the change of the season.  Planters that once held dwarf palms and Mandeville in the summer can now house your asters and mums.  For the winter, try experimenting with red and yellow dogwood and holly and pine branches!  And no matter what outdoor season is your favorite, accessory lighting is a must!  For example, Edison string lights add that certain je ne sais quoi, bringing out a romantic and dreamy quality to the space to make it look and feel like a complete package.

This all may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that backyard transformations are completely customizable and can be as over-the-top or as intimate as you like.  Not every family and property is the same, so why should every outdoor oasis be?  Creating personalized outdoor living spaces for our clients is our passion and delivering on our promises and seeing smiling faces is our purpose.  We believe that a timeless outdoor living space is all it takes to live your best life outdoors, and we would love to partner with you to accomplish just that!  So, if you would like to explore your personal options for your own backyard to fit your family and your lifestyle, reach out to MasterPLAN Outdoor Living.  Together, we can discover your property’s true potential to create your seamless staycation!

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