How to Create Your Own Outdoor Cabana

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The word cabana describes a hut, tent or outdoor shelter area located near a beach or swimming pool. Most people associate cabanas with tropical islands near sandy beaches. But you don't have to live in an exotic location to enjoy one. If you take your decorating skills outside and combine a mix of sun, shade, water, recreation and relaxation, you can enjoy an outdoor cabana every day.

  • Determine what type of cabana suits your needs and budget. The style and features of your backyard cabana rely almost entirely on your outdoor space and budget. Owners of larger properties with bigger home improvement budgets might prefer full-on brick and mortar pool houses complete with running water, electricity and plumbing. Smaller property owners with modest budgets might find simple designs using cloth curtains and screen houses a more economical approach.

  • Check with local authorities on building permits and zoning if you're going to build a more sophisticated cabana, such as those constructed with electricity and plumbing. For simple cabana designs that need no real construction, this is not required.

  • Determine the best location on your property. Traditionally, cabanas are located beside a swimming pool -- if you have one. With major construction projects you may not have much choice of the location due to underground gas pipes and electrical lines. Your zoning department will help you determine the right spot. Consider your landscaping when determining the location, as seasonal foliage can affect the natural lighting and overall appearance of your cabana.

  • Choose a method of shading. One of the main functions of an outdoor cabana is to provide a cool and shaded area to enjoy sunny weather. Choose and create a decorative method of shading the area while enhancing the outdoor atmosphere. Common cabana designs incorporate tents, umbrellas, canopies, curtains, screen enclosures and various combinations of such selections.

  • Incorporate comfortable lounging furniture. The ultimate goal in creating an outdoor cabana is providing a plush and comfortable atmosphere to relax. Furnish your cabana with weatherproof, padded, reclining chairs, chaise lounges and comfortable seating. Choose outdoor versions of furniture similar to what you would use to relax indoors in your living or family room.

  • Make use of natural lighting. Though a main function for cabanas is shade, their traditionally tropical style calls for a fair amount of natural sunlight. No matter what shading method you prefer, make allowances to let the sunshine in. At night, you can still enhance the ambiance with natural light by incorporating candles, tiki torches and small fire pits and amp up the island atmosphere.

  • Include water features. If you don't have a swimming pool, some simple and affordable water features can make for a suitable replacement. Work some coy ponds, waterfalls or free-standing fountains into your landscaping decor. Reflections of the sun and moon and soothing sounds of running water increase the tropical allure to your cabana.

  • Enhance the tropical atmosphere with natural features and exotic plants. A few finishing touches make the entire concept of having an outdoor cabana really pop. Add a few island inspired furnishings and accessories such as bamboo tables and tropical wall hangings. Lining the cabana area with tropical landscaping -- or even a few potted palm trees -- turns an ordinary backyard into a virtual exotic paradise.

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