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Create a Backyard Oasis This Winter—and Beyond

Add a fire pit, put down an outdoor rug and other ways to make the most of the great outdoors this season.

Mother and daughter enjoying a backyard fire pit; Getty Images

I never used to go into my backyard in the winter. Never ever. Somehow, after the leaf raking was completed and the patio furniture brought inside, it was simply as though the backyard ceased to exist. Occasionally, my daughter and I would look out the window and note some fresh animal tracks in the snow, but It wasn’t until the first signs of spring showed up, that I would venture ‘back there,’ cautiously, but giddily, greeting the space like old friends on the first day of school.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Like people everywhere, I’ve had to figure out new ways to socialize. Luckily, there are some simple ways to spruce up your backyard which can make it more enjoyable for your family—or even transform it into the neighborhood hot spot. Another plus: most of these additions to your yard can continue to be enjoyed all year long.  

• Add a fire pit. In November 2020 True Value Hardware reported that sales of their fire-pits were up more than 300 percent over the previous year. No wonder—the fire pit, which provides warmth and makes for an ideal place to chat and share a hot drink with friends and neighbors, has emerged as a central hangout spot during these days of social distancing; There are multiple styles and materials to choose from—aluminum is less likely to rust than some other options. Don’t forget to check local laws regarding placement of a fire pit, as well as any restrictions on burning wood.

• Get an outdoor rug. Just like inside, a good rug in the backyard helps define your socializing space—and make it more inviting and cozy. The most popular material for an outdoor rug is polypropylene—it’s stain resistant and stands up well to moisture—they won’t grow mold and heavy foot traffic.

• Invest in Weatherproof Furniture. The key is looking for resilient materials that you also like. Synthetic wicker is made to be outside all year, but I’m not a big fan of wicker. Treated woods, particularly pine, are more up my alley and can resist water and rot. Metal is also a good choice. Some furniture comes coated with extra protectants to protect them from weather damage.

• Light it Up. The right lighting not only expands your socializing space and keeps you safe after the sun goes down, but goes a long way in setting a certain mood. So get creative—choose string lights, deck-stair lighting, lanterns—on tables or in trees—or my personal favorite: the always dramatic Tiki Torch!

• Install a hot-tub. Granted, this is a much bigger investment than the other tips, but installing a backyard hot-tub can do more than boost your popularity with the neighbors. Soaking for at least 15 minutes on a regular basis can promote better sleep, reduce joint inflammation and help relieve stress, tension and pain. It’s also an ideal spot to have deep conversations with loved ones—or to enjoy a little meditative or prayerful time for yourself.

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