Ask the Expert 9

Creating Outdoor Living Spaces with John Herron of RSL Outdoor |

For the Entertainer


A Backyard Retreat


Fun and Family


A homeowner’s goals for their property’s outdoor spaces can be some of the most varied and individualized across the home design spectrum. Malleable spaces, a home’s yards require purposeful design to create areas that are functional, utilized and in harmony with how the homeowner hopes to use them.

“A great outdoor living space is one that gets used and appreciated,” says John Herron, general manager of RSL Outdoor. “I love designing outdoor spaces that completely transform someone’s previously under-utilized yard.”

Since its 2001 inception, RSL Outdoor has grown to become a premiere high-end landscape design build company in Boulder County, uniquely and creatively taking the ideas of clients and turning them into their own personal outdoor havens. Whether a backyard is meant for entertaining large groups, finding a pocket of privacy and quiet, or bringing the family together over a batch of s’mores, we chatted with Herron about some of his tips for bringing these outdoor living spaces to life.

The Entertainer

300 days of Colorado sunshine call for outdoor cookouts and get-togethers galore. When planning an outdoor space for those who love to entertain, Herron thinks about dividing the space into sections or rooms just as you would inside your home.

“A functional space is key,” says Herron. “The flow has to make sense, be usable, and be beautiful at the same time.”

Creating areas designated by a specific interest or activity, such as an outdoor kitchen area, a fireplace, bocce court, pool, hot tub, or a large, inviting patio gives guests room for exploration, movement and conversation all within one cohesive space.

The Oasis

“The backyard oasis is a common goal of many homeowners,” says Herron. “To most, that means creating a space of tranquility.”

When designing a space to promote relaxation and peace, Herron says two things to consider are privacy and maintenance. Layered plantings that provide color and visual interest provide that added privacy while being strategic about using low maintenance plants lessens the stressors of upkeep.

Details like choosing a patio surface that will be most relaxing and aesthetically pleasing to you (and your bare feet!) are also key. Lastly, adding a water feature will contribute a pleasant sound and touch of reprieve from the dry Colorado climate and truly transform the space and transport those within it.

The Family

When creating an outdoor space for the family to unplug, come together and connect, Herron says a focal gathering spot is the most important element.

“A fire pit is a family favorite, as it really brings people together,” says Herron. “Younger kids can roast marshmallows and make s’mores, while older kids are more inclined to stay home and invite friends over to hang out in a space that is cool and comfortable for them as well.”

This gathering point can also come in the form of a large outdoor patio equipped with a big table and enough comfortable seating to accommodate the group and foster conversation, relaxation and comfort.