Goldilocks is no longer the little girl you remember from the story. Gone are the days of her barging into complete strangers’ homes to eat their porridge, break their little rocking chairs, and nap in their beds. She’s matured into a very polite young woman who loves to make her famous sour cream banana bread and bring it over to share on the perfect patio, deck, or outdoor kitchen.

But, while she might have grown up a little, she is still very picky and needs things “just right.” But, trust me, you will want some of this banana bread. How can you create an outdoor space that is just right for banana bread and picky friends? We are here to help. There are a few key elements you will want to consider as you plan out your just right outdoor living space.

Lighting

You want lighting and plenty of it! Who wants to end the party because you can’t see well enough to eat your banana bread? Lighting is a wonderful way to add your unique stamp to your living area. There are so many options, ranging from fun and whimsical to classic and refined. String lights, lanterns, chandeliers, or hanging basket fixtures—the creative options are practically endless. Pick the style that suits you, just make sure you pick enough!

Decor

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to set up decor in the outdoor living space. It has to match your style, not anyone else’s, but make sure that you do make it a definite choice. If your choice is bold and mismatched, go for it! But go for it all the way. Outdoor living spaces are an extension of the indoor living spaces. They don’t need to match in colors or fabrics, but the overall vibe of the style should mesh as much as possible.

Appliances

There are differences between outdoor and indoor appliances, so doing your research is helpful! Again, this is where planning comes in. Take time to think about when and how you’ll be using your outdoor living space. Are appliances in your budget? Are they necessary? Consider where the sun will be as you make your plans (more on that later). If, for instance, you will be using your appliances in the hottest part of the day, black appliances that will sizzle guests’ hands might not be the best choice. That would definitely ruin your relationship with Goldilocks.

Materials

Talk to experts about materials that will look great and hold up long-term. If you are building a deck, for example, you may want to incorporate traditional cedar or redwood decking or composite materials to include Trex, Fortress, TimberTech or Fiberon. A decking professional can help you make the best decision based on your budget, desired look, and how much energy you want to invest in the deck’s upkeep.

Firepit

Creating an outdoor living space means, most likely, also creating a fire pit plan. Having one without the other is like banana bread without. . . bananas. Fire pits invite gathering, comfort, and friendship. There are a variety of ways to add this element to the space. Go big or small, there are options for all types of budgets and designs. If chopping and hauling firewood spoils all the fun, then gas burning logs are a simple option. It can be in the ground or above the ground, circle, square, or rectangle. As long as it crackles and burns and sets off a cheery glow, then it will be just right.

Seating

There are a few things to consider when it comes to seating. In the planning stages of your outdoor living space, consider how many people will be gathering. No one wants to stand around for hours, balancing their plates of food. There can be a variety of options and sizes in the seating arrangements: benches, hammocks, stools, cushions, etc. If there are cushions, make sure they are durable and washable. Weather takes its toll.

Size

Goldilocks knows a thing about finding something that is just right. So, take a page from her book and explore your options. Measure your space and walk around it at different times of the day. Do you want your deck to be a sprawling focal point or simply a small sanctuary that can fit a couple of chairs and the above- mentioned fire pit? Remember that a bigger deck will take more time, energy, and money—both to build and maintain. If the future is unclear, map it out in a place where it has the option to expand if it becomes too small or limiting. Don’t worry, there are plenty of experts that can help you find the right balance. You just might have to share the banana bread with them.

Accessibility and Location

Besides getting the size just right, the location of your outdoor space should be your top concern. Pay attention to the sun as you map out your outdoor living spaces. Will it be used most during mornings, afternoons, or evenings? Which way will the sun be hitting the space? This will affect your shade, seating, and more. Unfortunately, the sun won’t always be shining and so it is always valuable to give thought to how rain will affect the space as well, paying attention to drainage and gutters.

Gutters aren’t very glamorous to think about in planning, but they become pretty important when dribbling water on guests or the foundation of your house or when your meticulously crafted outdoor space is crumbling because the rainwater is draining in an inconvenient place. Also, consider the traffic flow to and from the space, taking into consideration the location of the kitchen if you will be entertaining for meals regularly. And, of course, bathrooms must be considered! Spend some time outside, imagining how you will use it and what will be convenient for both host and guest. Take time to plan the space that is just right for you, your friends, and your home.

Creating an outdoor living space is a joyful project so have fun with it! There are elements to consider in the process, but that doesn’t need to be intimidating. Enjoy learning, trimming pictures of what you like, exploring all you want to do in the space, and checking in with the experts. Creating a deck and outdoor living space that suits your needs will add a space to create new memories, enjoy friends, and, if you get it right, might even land you a loaf of banana bread that is absolutely just right.

If you can’t wait long enough for Goldilocks to swing by, here is her amazing sour cream banana bread for you to make yourself.

Sour Cream Banana Bread

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup mashed bananas
½ cup nuts (optional)
½ cup sour cream (NOT optional!)

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients; mix well. Add the mashed bananas, nuts and sour cream; blend well. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350° for one hour.