It seems that in 2020, numerous families re-discovered that there are outdoor spaces.

People barbecued more. People gardened more. The children’s playground set was used more. More of us sat around the fire pit when the weather accommodated.

The idea of a garden room can be an elaborate endeavor requiring architects and contractors, or it can be a simply smart and down-to-earth concept for our spaces just outside our back door.

Joe Mac and Virginia Welch live just south of Lufkin in Bald Hill and have a beautiful outdoor room. Theirs is a seating area under an arbor covered with wisteria. The wrought iron table with four matching chairs has been used for countless morning coffee dates and afternoon tea conversations with family and friends.

Virginia says she loves the wisteria because of the abundance of blooms in the spring, which is followed by the wonderful shade in the summer. As wisteria is a deciduous vine, she can have the warm sunlight during the winter months when the leaves have fallen off.

Surrounding this wisteria-covered arbor is an abundance of green shrubbery. The “walls” of this outdoor room are various shrubs and ferns. Virginia laughed that she has no less than five birdbaths scattered throughout the beautiful backyard space.

Many times, garden spaces are often a table and some chairs. You can go to any gardening center and buy a table and chairs that will seat six to eight people, and it may even include an umbrella. These large outside seating areas are perfect for meals with family and friends.

More recently, in newer, pricier homes, outdoor kitchens have become quite popular. You can have your kitchen inside the house like everybody else does, and then you can have another kitchen outside. Outdoor kitchens can include a grill, a sink, a small under-the-counter refrigerator, seating space at a bar and more.

True garden rooms can simply be a decorated deck located just outside the back door. However, the best ones that I’ve seen are a separate space, frequently down a path, that leads to an often-secluded spot.

Imagine walking around a bend and finding a bench located next to a water feature, with native shrubs around it. Now that is my kind of perfect space to enjoy my morning coffee or just get away from it all.

A designated outdoor room may solve one of the most common questions I get. One of the challenges that I see in many local landscapes is that they have is too many trees for a proper lawn. One homeowner that I have been working with was told by a local landscaper to “Cut down most of these trees and then call me back to make a proper backyard.”

Rather than fuss over grass not growing under a full canopy of trees, utilize these perennially shaded areas and create your own outdoor garden room.

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, I simply hung a hammock for my wife between two trees in an unused portion of the backyard. It was almost hidden, and had just enough of a breeze to create a sanctuary for her to relax in.

Fire pits are another common option. I don’t remember when having a campfire in your backyard became known as the trendy term “fire pit,” but I’m a huge fan and have one in my yard. Just envision a short path through your garden beds that leads you to an area lit up by strings of outdoor lights surrounding some chairs and a fire pit.

A budget-friendly option could be to install a heavily mulched area in a location that you cannot get grass to grow. Relocate some outdoor seating and finish it off with a small table that can withstand the elements. That’s it. You’ve got an outdoor space to which you can retreat.

Virginia Welch says she bought the iron table and chairs with a friend in either 1975 or 1976. Over the years, it has hosted numerous friend and family visits, it recently has provided a safer, socially distanced gathering place for them.

The Welch’s outdoor room is certainly functional and looks beautiful as well. We should strive to follow their example and create our own alluring place to enjoy.