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Tips for Designing Outdoor Spaces in California 

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Outdoor living spaces have become increasingly popular in California, making it the perfect time to create one for your company’s commercial building. Outdoor living spaces encourage relaxation and exude a welcoming atmosphere, encouraging people, family and friends to connect and relax. They can include outdoor furniture, lighting, hardscape elements, native plants and more.

While being functional, these elements complement each other to create an awe-inspiring landscape and portray the unique qualities of a beautiful California-style environment. An outdoor space can become an oasis from hectic work days or just an area where people can sit back and enjoy their lunch breaks. Outdoor spaces can help your company establish and manage traffic with walkways and provide cover from the sun and rain, too.

Still, there are various considerations to keep in mind, such as the best furniture for outdoor use and harsh weather, California water and sustainability laws, the most suitable lighting and more. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about designing outdoor spaces in California to help you create the most beautiful and functional area possible.

Special Considerations for Outdoor Living Space Designs in California

Before designing your outdoor space in California, you’ll need to consider some key factors first. If you’re planning an outdoor living space, the area and elements you incorporate must abide by specific regulations and be suitable for the weather.

Important Design Considerations

Here are some important aspects to think about as you design the space:

1. Account for the Weather

The first essential consideration is to ensure the outdoor space you design can withstand the weather in your area. Whether it’s rain, sunshine, wind or snow, ensure the furniture and decor your business selects can handle the weather and that staff can maintain these products properly.

Be sure to choose items designed for the outdoors. For example, when choosing lighting for your company’s outdoor space, you might choose a solar outdoor light rather than indoor electric or battery-powered lights that can easily become damaged in the rain or come loose with strong winds.

2. Consider Zero-Emissions Laws

Another important consideration is California’s zero-emissions laws. California has created zero-emissions standards that will apply to all new appliances and equipment used in commercial and residential properties. The goal of these standards is to ensure less greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, helping the state reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

With this in mind, it’s best to select items that comply with these regulations to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.

3. Know Relevant Water Laws

As you may know, California has been experiencing one of its most extreme droughts in 1,200 years over the past few years. As such, there are various water laws you may want to keep in mind when designing your outdoor space. For example, if you plan to include a water fountain, it’s best to use recirculated water.

Water Laws

Similarly, if you’re in a stage three drought, the state government prohibits filling a lake or pond in your outdoor space design unless it’s with a recirculation pump. If you’re looking to add greenery to your outdoor scene, be sure to choose plants that are drought-tolerant or can thrive on limited water.

4. Keep It Environmentally Friendly

It can be helpful to stay environmentally conscious when making decisions about your outdoor design. To minimize your carbon footprint, you’ll need to consider the various ways you can foster sustainability. For example, you might want to create a garden space to plant trees and other plants or include rain catchers.

Additionally, if you plan to add a firepit for the cooler months, you may need to check your city or county laws on whether the government allows people to use firewood. While some California laws prohibit wood and charcoal fires, others prohibit wood and solid fuel burning within 25 feet of combustible structures. A safe practice might be to install a gas fire pit instead.

Defining Your Space

If you want to make your commercial outdoor space look larger or more appealing, you can define your space with various decorative features, structures and barriers that complement each other well.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when defining your outdoor area and developing a comfortable outdoor space:

1. Roof Structures

Outdoor roof structures provide an excellent way to distinguish your company’s various outdoor spaces from one another. Maybe you’re trying to create a space for people to sit under while eating or relaxing that provides protection from the rain or sunlight. Some structures you can install include:

Outdoor Roof Structures

  • Shade structures: These appealing structures provide protection and shade from inclement weather and help to section off one area from another. You can install features like lights, fans, tables or even televisions underneath them to create a unique and functional space.
  • Canopies: Canopies are hard structures that generally stand out more while protecting people from outdoor elements like rain, hail and sun rays.
  • Pergolas: Pergolas are open cross-rafter structures that focus mainly on increasing the visual appeal of your outdoor space rather than providing protection from the weather.

2. Pathways

You can define your company’s outdoor space by paving or creating a pathway to your entrance, leading people to the places they need to go. Similarly, you can specify the different areas of the company’s outdoor commercial space with attractive flooring, paving and tiling.

3. Barriers and Screens

Barriers and screens will also help you establish the area while creating a particular ambiance. For example, a glass screen or barrier might create a more classy and sophisticated atmosphere, especially at night when accessorized with the perfect lighting. You might also make a barrier with large pot plants, hedges, fences, concrete seating or other similar items.

4. Other Outdoor Features

Lastly, it’s important to ensure the styles you choose mesh well with the surroundings and your brand identity and message. For example, you might choose colors that match your company’s brand and styles that complement the commercial building. The external space may also appeal more to users when furniture and decor from different areas match each other in style and color.

Furnishing Your Space

How your company furnishes its outdoor space is important because it acts as an extension of the business. When designing your outdoor space, it can be highly beneficial to include attractive outdoor furniture and items that can gain the admiration of visitors, employees and onlookers and withstand the outdoor elements.

Explore some exciting ways you can spruce up your outdoor space:

1. Add Functional Yet Luxurious Furniture

It’s best to look for outdoor pieces that will survive in the outdoor environment. Fortunately, furniture made for the outdoors can still look and feel great. Try selecting furniture made from premium quality materials like teak, wicker and aluminum. The company’s visitors may find the outdoor space more comfortable when you include comfortable elements like cushions, throws and rugs, too.

Furniture Material

2. Use Attractive Materials

Accessorize permanent features with high-end materials such as brick, stone and concrete. Choose materials that complement the furniture and other decorative features. Your company can use these materials to create attractive structures, fireplaces and water features. Even with a limited budget, using quality materials for paving and flooring is all you need to transform your company’s commercial outdoor space.

3. Install Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting can improve the design and safety of an outdoor commercial space. Your company’s outdoor lighting can include anything from string lights and lanterns to chandeliers and wall sconces. While it enhances the look of the outdoor space, especially in the evenings, outdoor lighting also offers functional benefits. For example, visitors can enjoy a cozy atmosphere and see properly when navigating walkways and stairs.

4. Add Appealing Greenery

Potted plants, trees, hanging baskets and entire garden areas outside your commercial building can create an extremely attractive look and make the space feel more inviting. While greenery will improve the air quality and provide natural shade, plants and flowers will also add a pop of color to your company’s outdoor space design.

5. Install Water Features

Install Water Features

To make the outdoor space more peaceful and reduce noise pollution, your company can add water features such as ponds, fountains and waterfalls if your city laws allow it. This design strategy can create a relaxing and tranquil environment. You may even add some lighting to make the area attractive even in the evening hours.


Different landscaping features and designs can help to create a more inviting environment that encourages people to stay and enjoy the company’s outdoor space. They offer various advantages such as accentuating the corporate building’s architecture and encouraging people to engage with the business.

These are a few landscaping ideas to help your company achieve this outcome:

1. Design Landscaping to Conserve Water and Energy

If you want to save energy, adding a shade structure or green roof can help your company achieve this. A shade structure can offer the company building, people and outdoor space shade during the summer and protection from harsh winds during the winter, helping you save energy. Adding a green roof can also help your organization control water run-off and minimize cooling and heating costs.

Energy Conservation

2. Direct the Flow of Traffic With Plants and Walkways

Another tip is to make bold visual statements that direct people to the places they wish to go on the commercial property. Some fun ways to do this include lining walkways and paths with trees or shrubs, highlighting entrance points with trees or plants, or using stone or brick walls and flooring features. Some drought-tolerant plants your company can use include greenery native to California, hummingbird sage, California buckwheat and lion’s tail.

3. Add Features That Convey Meaningful Messages

There are various elements your company can add to the landscape that speak to your organization’s brand message and translate meaningful messages to visitors. For example, a garden of wildflowers and native plants can convey sustainability while tranquil features and calming messages might convey the soothing or healing message another company is trying to promote through its brand.

4. Create a Space Where People Feel Comfortable Gathering

Design an appealing and welcoming space that makes visitors want to gather and engage with the business. For example, you could achieve this by creating an elaborate outdoor lounge area with benches, tables, fire pits and cozy lights. No matter your goal for the outdoor space, you should ensure it has every component necessary to meet people’s needs and encourage them to stay a little longer.

5. Add Customized LED Lighting

Since you’ll incorporate features that make your company’s property stand out during the day, you may want a few features that make it appealing even in the evenings. Customized LED lighting can add value to your outdoor living space design by highlighting the natural elements surrounding the property. Your company can do this by installing LED lights along walkways, roof structures and pillars.

Design to Extend Your Outdoor Season

Design to Extend Your Outdoor Patio Season

With the right elements, decorations and furnishing, your company’s commercial outdoor space can continually attract new visitors during warmer and colder seasons.

1. Get a Shade Structure

If you want your space to attract people all year round, you’ll want a shade structure that will protect users from rain and sun. By working with a shade structure specialist, you can find an area that makes sense to cover and discuss how you can cover it to protect people from the elements.

2. Add the Right Patio Furniture

Look for comfortable furniture that can withstand the heat in summer and stay in good condition even after it rains or snows, if applicable for your area. This way, people can enjoy the space in most types of weather, whether they’re using it to sit and enjoy a hot beverage or using it as a space for getting some work done.

3. Consider Seasonal Availability

An important factor some people forget to consider is seasonal availability for landscaping. For example, there are certain plants that may only bloom in the summer and there could be times when your company can’t water the greenery, such as during the height of a drought. This means there will be seasons when your company’s outdoor space appears unattractive. Avoid this by planting greenery that lasts through all seasons and adding features that will be functioning and attractive all year.

4. Add a Fire Pit

A fire pit is a great element to add that your company can use during cool summer evenings and chilly winter nights. This will attract people to gather around and enjoy the warm every season and create a comfortable and cozy atmosphere that everyone will want to be a part of.

5. Decorate the Space for Every Holiday

To further attract people, especially on cold winter days, decorate the space for every seasonal celebration. In October, add some themed elements for Halloween and pumpkins. In December, decorate your company’s outdoor space with holiday lights and features. These design features can be a terrific way to celebrate the season and encourage people to stop by.

6. Add Cozy Elements in the Winter

Encourage people to spend time outside, even during cooler weather, by adding pillows and blankets to the outdoor furniture. Add warm yellow lights that create a cozy atmosphere and light up the fire pit. The scene alone will make people want to cozy up outside with a warm beverage.

How Shade Structures Can Solve California Design Challenges

Considering California’s drought crisis and its mission to drastically reduce its carbon footprint, it’s important to find a solution that helps the environment and the people surrounding your company. An excellent way to do this is through shade structures. In many parts of California, the temperature can rise considerably, making it essential to find ways to provide comfort and protection.

Shade Structure Solution

A shade structure solution can keep furniture cool and shield plants from harsh heat, helping your company further protect the environment. Most importantly, you get to protect visitors from the sun, enabling your organization to improve public health issues and prevent heat illness and other heat-related conditions.

Additionally, a shade structure can create a sense of community, allowing people to sit together and enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment. While this encourages people to enjoy the company’s outdoor space, it also portrays the brand in a good light, showing that it cares about protecting the environment, keeping people safe and promoting community.

At the same time, with the right shade structure designers and manufacturers, you’ll be able to install a permanent shade structure that offers aesthetic value and entices more people throughout the season. While attracting new customers, your company can also retain more employees with a comfortable working environment.

Optimize Your Outdoor Spaces With a Shade Structure Today

A shade structure can make your space even more enjoyable. USA SHADE is a full-service shade structure manufacturer that’s been in the business for over 25 years. Our professionals are reliable leaders in the shade structure business who specialize in creating fabric structure designs for various industries, from schools and shopping areas to corporate outdoor venues and aquatic centers.

USA SHADE’s structures will protect your visitors from harsh UV rays and strong winds, providing them with the comfortable experience you want them to have on your commercial property. Our experienced team will assist you with your shade structure, from concept and design to fabrication and construction.

Whether you’re looking for a customized shade structure or a standard option, USA SHADE can help you narrow down the best choice for your outdoor space design in California. We welcome you to browse our range of projects and request a quote with our team for a reliable service you can trust.

Optimize Outdoor Spaces with a Shade Structure Today