mailThe trees and grass are turning green and the days are getting longer; it’s time to turn your attention to beautifying the outside of your cozy home. Just like a messy yard will hurt your home value, an above-average yard can increase your property value. That, coupled with the enjoyment you’ll get from a fantastic yard, is worth getting your hands dirty for. A functional outdoor living area can make your tiny house seem bigger without adding the long-term costs of adding interior square footage. Here are seven ideas to inspire you as you contemplate how to upgrade your outdoor areas:

1. Landscape Like a King

A well-manicured lawn can make all the difference between your yard looking “okay” and “gorgeous.” Fortunately, it’s not difficult, or expensive, to make it look like you have a full-time gardener. By putting in some sweat equity during the evenings and weekends, you can create beautiful flower beds, install a stone pathway and build a pergola over the patio adding both beauty and value to your property.

2. Water the Grass for Less

An inefficient sprinkler system can waste the equivalent of a bathtub full of water an hour, according to If that’s the case, now’s the time to invest in a system that will conserve resources. Take advantage of nature by catching rainwater in a barrel that you can make, like the one featured here at Green Building Elements, to catch falling raindrops and runoff from the gutters.

3. Add a Pool or Water Fountain

Stay cool and save time commuting to the local municipal swimming pool by installing your own above ground pool. Significantly less expensive (and time consuming) to install than in-ground pools, you’ll add functionality and fun to your yard and have less lawn to mow. If a pool doesn’t appeal to you and your family, a fountain makes a great focal point in your front or back yard. Add a string of white lights to showcase the fountain after dark.

4. Rock Out with a Rock Garden

For folks too busy to cut and water grass, a rock garden may be the right addition to the yard. It’s inexpensive, easy to do and low-maintenance. Surround the area around the pool with rocks or put it up near the house to make mowing the remaining grass easier.

5. Grow Edible Plants

Imagine stepping outside every morning and picking fresh berries to for the fruit and granola parfaits you’re making for your family’s breakfast–when you have berry bushes this can be a reality. You can also plant tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and herbs to create a backyard that multi-tasks for you.

6. Add Multi-purpose Seating

If you don’t have enough storage space in your garage and don’t want to build a small shed to house your landscaping tools, put your building skills to work by creating a couple of benches that double as storage boxes. Get some thick foam from your local home building store and heavy-duty decorative fabric to create custom seat cushions to place atop the boxes, and no one will ever know that the garden hose is hidden underneath.

7. Entertain in Your Outdoor Kitchen

If you’re eating out–meaning, in your backyard–a few times a week or more, then this little addition will be well worth the time and investment. Adding a counter top and sink will make food prep easy, and a fridge will keep meat at a safe temperature until it’s ready to cook, and the cold beverages will be ready at a moments notice.

Before you begin, decide which of these would make the best improvement to your home and start with one project, rather than jumping into multiple projects all at once. Not only will you be less stressed, it will be easier on your pocketbook as well.

Guest Post for Cozy Home Plans by Joe LaPaglia

Joe is the tech-savviest grandpa he knows, but his first love is his garden. Joe is a retired history professor who loves imparting his wisdom to new generations.