By Kelly Holland

Autumn is prime backyard time in New England. The days have cooled and the colors are dazzling. Don’t put away that patio furniture just yet. There’s still time to socialize in your outdoor living space. Here are a few tips on turning your formerly summer hot spot into an Autumn oasis that’s the envy of the neighborhood.

Add a Kitchen

Make the most of our beautiful fall weather by taking your dining outside. In fact, take the cooking out there, too!  More than 75% of U.S. households have at least a grill or smoker. Take it another step forward by bringing more of the kitchen outside. Add a cooktop or a pizza oven. If there is a prevailing wind, locate cooking areas downwind of dining areas to keep smoke off your guests. Keep it close to your indoor kitchen for when you have to run back in for something. Better yet, install an outdoor fridge and keep everything at your fingertips. Create shade and windbreaks with umbrellas, awnings or a pergola.

Fire pit? Yes, Please

Autumn nights in New England are perfect for gathering around a backyard fire pit. Temperatures can be a little chilly and family and friends will appreciate this cozy area. Make sure you have enough space. The recommendation is 7 feet of space around all areas of the pit and at least 10 feet from any structure. This allows room for comfy chairs and people walking around and also keeps your buildings safe. You can easily build your own fire pit, to keep the cost down.


Add a Deck

If you want to really change the look of your outdoor living space, build a deck over your existing patio. You can go all-out if you want and build it high off the ground. Or you can save money and build a ground-level deck. What better place to gather with your family on a New England fall day than your backyard deck? They’re attractive and are often on a homebuyer’s list (if you plan to sell in the future). In fact, the average return on investment for a wood deck is about 80%, one of the top ROIs of all remodeling projects.

Use Lighting

It’s easy to install. It’s inexpensive. It can transform a space. We’re talking about lighting, and it can completely change the look of your outdoor living space. If your patio or deck is small, use string lights. You won’t have too much area to cross. You can string the lights around the perimeter of the space, across the area or, even, from the top of an umbrella down to the ground. If you’d rather keep the lights down to earth, outline a path or walkway with lanterns or ground lights. You can also bring out the tiki torches and add clusters of them in the corners of your deck or patio.


Photo credit: Leonardo DaSilva

When you’re making over your outdoor living space, don’t forget the landscaping. Use hedges, vertical gardens or trellises to define spaces and windbreaks. Compliment the fall foliage with some cattails, New England goldenrod or witch hazel which bloom in Autumn. Add color with unique and decorative planters. Plants native to New England are your best bet, as they are acclimated to the local environment. Pumpkins will be ripening soon, but these gourds need to be planted in May for an autumn harvest.




These are just a few ideas to get you started, as you makeover your outdoor living space. For even more ideas, be sure to check out the upcoming home shows at