How To Create A Warm, Safe Outdoor Space At Home For Hosting

outdoor space
Photo by Ken Muellers

Though Covid-19 is on the rise, it won’t quash your desire to entertain friends and family. To gather together safely at your home, take a few steps to create a lovely, socially distanced space, protected from the elements and frigid winter temps.

Outdoor living spaces are great in winter when protected under the roof of a covered patio or pergola, says interior decorator Jodi Dell, of Southampton-based Jodi Dell Designs. 

“When your living space is covered, it’s easy to add ceiling-mounted electric patio heaters into your design as they are nonobtrusive, and when paired with a fire pit or fireplace you can quickly create warmth,” says Dell.

For a warm hardscape, Dell uses cozy wood furnishings with soft, weather-resistant upholstery. 

“Using teak outdoor furniture in silhouettes similar to that of indoor furniture, like a sectional sofa or comfy club chairs with custom upholstered cushions and pillows, are great ways to achieve comfort and warmth,” Dell says.  


As you spend more hours outdoors, you’ll want to consider designing your landscape for year-round entertaining, says Ken Muellers, senior landscape designer at Hicks Nurseries of Westbury.

“In the winter, you want to be in a protected spot that’s blocked from the wind, but in the sun, to get that little bit of warmth from the sun,” says Muellers, adding that you’ll want a blend of evergreens for protection as well as deciduous plantings that lose their leaves and allow the sun to shine through.

“A lot of times you want to situate your evergreens more towards the northwest quadrant of the landscape where they’ll block those winter winds better,” says Muellers.

“I also like to incorporate planters filled with plants that thrive in cold weather,” adds Dell.  

If done properly, you can plant well into the winter, though local nurseries might be short on stock in the off-season; the ground is often frozen and some plants, like Skip laurel hedges, which offer year-round screening, won’t survive a winter planting, advises Muellers.

Muellers recommends winter-blooming flowers like witch hazel, and hellebore and holly bushes, which bear beautiful crimson berries. 


Whether you want to cover your patio or deck from the rain or sun or both, retractable awnings can be used all year, notes John Biondo, owner of Long Island Retractable Awnings of Babylon.

“In a light rain or even a medium rain, they could still have a party of 25 people in the backyard underneath the awning,” says Biondo, noting that the awnings are made of acrylic, go up to 40 feet wide and 14 feet deep, and can be attached to any kind of house or roof surface. 

“It’s obviously waterproof and comes with a 10-year warranty, although it holds up for around 20, 25 years,” says Biondo. 

An awning can also come with an optional wind sensor, which, in the event of high winds, will automatically close up the awning.

“It adds a lot of living space to the house. You can put your party outside in the broad sunlight as well as a light rain,” says Biondo, adding that awnings are not recommended for a heavy snow load. 

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