Define The PurposeDeciding on the primary use for space will help with the design and keep the purpose in focus. If a reading nook is the goal, then a small bench hidden between climbing vines may work. If you want an area for outside dining, look for adequate space for a table and chairs to sit.
Where To BeginWalk around your home and find a spot which offers something appealing, such as a shade tree, natural privacy, or a pleasing view of your garden or house. To help the spot feel like an extension of your home, locate an area which can be seen from the house or existing patio.
Look For Existing StructuresThe outside wall of your home or garage can help define the outside room. It can add a backdrop to hang fountains, place a barbecue pit, or add an awning for shade. Also, check out the side yard. Many times this space may be just what one needs to create a quiet hide-away.
Start SmallThinking of this area as something that will grow into it's own in time will help get things started without investing a lot of money. Adding to it over time can become part of the enjoyment of having it.
What's Underfoot?Part of creating a usable outdoor space begins with what you have on the ground. Grass is not going to define the space adequately and chances are if it remains as the floor, you won't use the space. Inexpensive options include shredded bark, pea gravel or self-made concrete blocks which can be intermixed with the grass.
An outside rug over the area could be a quick seasonal solution. Outside rugs can be found relatively inexpensively. Small nylon throw rugs sewn together is an inexpensive solution. Nylon or polyester will hold up for awhile, however any rug outside will have a season's lifespan at the most, making this one area not to invest much money into.
The more expensive outside flooring materials are on sale during the winter months, making it the ideal time to buy materials which offer a longer life. Until then, the lower cost options make a good solution.
Creating PrivacyCreating privacy for an oasis does not have to be an expensive project. Be creative and look for items which can be grouped together to help create a natural screen.
Another option is to build inexpensive screens. Purchase outside treated posts, concrete blocks and quickset cement. Place the concrete blocks in the appropriate place to support the posts, then place the posts into the blocks and use the cement to hold them in place. Before you know it, you will have the basic structure for privacy formed for under $50.
With the posts set, then add outside walls. This can be a piece of outside lattice, which will run around $8 per piece. Long garden posts for supporting tall vegetables can also be used to create an inexpensive trellis. Weaving a fast growing vine through it will provide shade, privacy and ambiance. Consider vines such as Clematis, Sweet Pea, or a Trumpet vine.
Another idea is to find used louver doors and hinge them together to create a screen. Brace them to the posts with door hinges for added support. They can then be decorated with hanging accessories like birdhouses or pottery.
Inexpensive Furniture SolutionsTo use the area as an outside dining spot, shop garage sales for tables and chairs. Remember, the chairs do not have to match, they just have to fit comfortably under the table. Using an outside paint will tie the pieces together and can cover many flaws plus keep the wood protected from moisture.
Cushions are a must for comfort and can also put a dent into the budget. Consider making your own or shop garage sales for used and outdated colored cushions then cover them. Outside fabrics are available, but they are also expensive. Using inexpensive sheeting or plasic tablecloths from the dollar store can be a low-cost solution.
Creating AmbianceThis is where the fun and creativity kicks in. Looking for items, which can be used in unexpected ways, will add individuality to the space.
Terracotta saucers can become large candle holders and grouped on a table. Black plastic throw-away nursery planters can be sprayed painted and filled with mood-enhancing ferns. Wind chimes, pottery and unique sculptures add to the mood and compliment nature.
Wind and water will help keep the oasis cool and comfortable. Running an extension cord instead of paying for an electrician is a good solution for running fans or fountains.
Enjoying Your OasisOnce the main elements of the design are in place, you can begin enjoying your space and adding enhancements bit by bit. However, the best element for any oasis is to have people relaxing within it.