Great backyards don't just happen, and great outdoor living rooms require intelligent and careful planning. Outdoor projects have a tendency to get done piecemeal, and in too many cases this leads to a "plan" that's actually just a list of unrelated ideas. Shows on cable TV about backyard renovation can provide inspiration; just make sure that the designs that inspire you fit your lifestyle. You don't want the outdoor version of the formal dining room that only gets used when it's your turn to host Thanksgiving. Let function, not form, drive the planning process.Plan Your Outdoor "Rooms" UpfrontThe key to a beautiful and useful space is to start with the most important part of the back yard, the area where you will be spending the most time, and plan it first. If the idea of being your own exterior decorator makes you nervous, don't worry, professional help is widely available. Check out a few garden web sites or home decorating magazines to see what's possible. Professional landscapers and designers are usually willing to provide free estimates and suggestions, although you should expect to pay for a formal set of plans.Outdoor Living Rooms from Simple to SublimeOutdoor living room" can mean a couple of easy chairs and a hibachi or an outdoor great room with kitchen, fireplace, dining, infinity pool and more. When planning your own, start by asking yourself how you expect to spend your outdoor time. If you're an entertainer, an outdoor bar might be your centerpiece. If your backyard is your refuge, a place you go to escape, then a pergola or garden walls to provide shade and privacy could be your starting point. Probably the most important consideration is your climate, the sun and wind. Awnings and umbrellas can protect you from the high-noon heat, but is that when you will be entertaining? Well-positioned trellises and garden walls can provide shade or block prevailing winds in the evening while still allowing you to enjoy the sunset. Outdoor living rooms can even have ceilings.Some other details to consider:Lighting: Candles and torches can provide adequate illumination and ambience where your seating is, but if you have a grill or kitchen area, make sure your cook can see what he's doing. Want high style? Try a chandelier (make sure it's approved for outdoor lighting use). And if you have a step-down deck, LED accent lights around the stairs can ensure no one takes a tumble.Outdoor speakers: A professionally-installed outdoor sound system creates a bubble of sound, subdued for dinner party conversation or cranked for more lively celebrations. Even set to a lower volume, people within the bubble will be able to hear your background music without having to struggle to speak over it, and you can turn things up once the party really gets going without disturbing your neighbors (or letting them know you're having a party and didn't invite them).Fire features: If you're going to invest in an outdoor living room, don't you want to be able enjoy it year-round? Fire features can be dramatic and cozy. However, they can also be smoky fire hazards-outdoor contractors can make sure that you meet local codes and that your outdoor fireplace is well-constructed.Insect control: In warmer parts of the country, you won't be enjoying your outdoor living room alone, you'll have bugs for company! Screen porches solve this problem neatly, allowing you to get the outdoor breezes, smell the flowers and enjoy your views without unwanted company. Alternatively, professional contractors can install mosquito misters, which kill or repel insects.Furniture: Today's furniture for outdoor living rooms looks a lot like furniture for indoor living rooms, but it's designed to stand up to the elements. Cushions and couches will use up the bulk of your outdoor furniture budget, so choose carefully. The best material is solution-dyed acrylic, which resists UV rays, moisture, mildew, and staining. Spun polyester with a UV-protective coating dries quickly and is less expensive, but isn't as resistant to fading.An outdoor living room can enlarge your family's living space without the expense or hassle of building a home addition. You can quickly increase your family's enjoyment and your home's value with a well-planned and executed outdoor living space.Need More ideas? Get started by finding a Landscaping Architectural and Design ProfessionalLandscaping architectural and design projects can span from simple to complex. If you need help with ideas on your landscaping architectural and design project, LendingTree Home Prs can help.The good news is that LendingTree Home Pros maintains a directory of home service professionals and can match you with a home pro in your area. All the home pros listed in the LendingTree Home Pros directory are properly licensed and insured and are backed by a $10,000 money-back guarantee!Let LendingTree Home Pros help you find a Landscaping Professional today.