Everyone needs their own spot in the sun (or under the stars). It doesn’t have to be big—sometimes, a space that’s just enough for a chair, a book, and a cup of coffee will do. Other times, a space that acts as an extension of your living room or kitchen is the goal; a place for a sofa, a fireplace, and a nightcap. Today, Mike Dunn, president of Dunn Lumber, is talking with our friend Ben Middlemiss, president of London Design Build, and Jason Cameron, contractor and DIY TV host, about how people can integrate technology into their outdoor living space.

What are the options when it comes to outdoor technology?

Picture your inside, outside. All of the cool, futuristic automation options you have in your home apply to the outdoors, too. From infrared heaters to warm the space all winter long to TVs, fireplaces, and lighting, the options are endless. Lighting in particular—which is a staple of any outdoor living space—has come a long way. Full-color changing lights, zonable lights, themed lights to match the season or holiday or your favorite sports teams—there are many patio decorating ideas and possibilities to create a customized solution for your outdoor living space with the touch of a button. Using outdoor technology such as a TV wall is a great way to create separation from you and your neighbors, too, if you’re looking for patio privacy ideas.

How can I up my cooking game with outdoor technology?

A grill is most people’s first outdoor cooking purchase, and it’s one of our favorite small outdoor patio ideas. Like most things, you get what you pay for. If you want to invest, you can purchase a high-quality, marine-grade, stainless steel grill that’ll take all the rain and saltwater you can throw at it. Today, a number of people are going beyond the grill and creating full kitchens, with a sink for easy hand and food washing and a fridge for storing meat. You could essentially design your outdoor living space so it’d have everything you need to dine and host as comfortably outside as you would inside.

How do I protect outdoor technology such as TVs from the elements?

The thought of Seattle’s rain deters some people from creating the outdoor living room of their dreams. But as much as water can cause issues, so can sun—one of the worst things for materials is bleaching from the sun. The key is in the material choice. If you’re going to put a TV outside, you can get a regular TV from a big-box store if the TV will be under cover and won’t have any moisture hitting it. If you plan on putting your TV in an exposed area, you can purchase an outdoor TV in a casing that’s designed specifically to protect the TV. Choose products and materials that best suit your home and your needs.

How do I supply my outdoor living space with enough power?

The first thing to do is plan. Winging it is a bad idea—don’t start a project and then think about the electric later; think about the electric ahead of time. If you have a plan for what’s going where, you can then make an informed decision about how much power you’ll need. If you’re working with a professional, they’ll create a master plan with full outdoor patio designs and 3D renderings so you can get a sense of the space. Then, it’s easier to see what you do and don’t like and move forward from there—doing it in this stage is much easier than doing it once you’ve already stuck a shovel in the ground.

To supply adequate power, work with an electrician to run it to the right places before you start putting groundcover down. The amount of power you’ll need will be informed by what you plan to do—a few infrared heaters will likely require more power than a small kitchen, for instance, which should run off your existing panel most of the time. If you’re going to power an entire expansive living area, you may need to put in a subpanel.

Check out the first installment of our outdoor living series for more outdoor living inspiration and stay tuned for the rest of this series as Mike, Ben, and Jason continue to discuss how people can create, enjoy, and make the most of their outdoor living spaces.

Looking for more backyard patio ideas or to get started on an outdoor living project? Come visit your local Dunn Lumber for expert advice and friendly assistance to bring your project to life.