The following article was published in the Tampa edition of the duPont Registry:

Living in Florida offers the perfect opportunity to make our backyards into something more than a big expanse of green grass. Why not create an attractive outdoor living space that invites you to get out and relax for a while?

After a tough day at the office, having a private secluded retreat in the backyard for unwinding while you sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset can be heavenly. And what could be better than early evening al fresco dining by the pool or in the garden. Order a catered picnic from your favorite restaurant.

The type of outdoor space that’s right for you will depend on what you want to accomplish, says David Hetrick, of Exterior Concepts in Tampa, a company specializing in custom outdoor living spaces. Do you need share from the sun or protection from the rain? How are you going to use the space? Will you be installing lighting or overhead fans? Is your style simple or more sophisticated?

Gazebos, pergolas, pavilions, cabanas and arbors are some of the choices to consider as you dress up your backyard to better suit your lifestyle.  Each of these structures offers something different, but their primary goal is to serve as an important architectural design element that draws you outside into the fresh air.

More aesthetic than functional, an arbor placed over a mulch or paver sidewalk can serve as an attractive entryway to your outdoor space or it can stand alone as visually attractive focal point, especially if covered with a flowering vine.

Pergolas have an open-frame structure with slats, latticework or a commercial-grade shade cloth cover and can serve as a walkway to the garden or as a sitting area. They let in filtered light but offer no protection from the rain. For one homeowner, Hetrick designed a pergola shade structure that wrapped around three sides of a pool, and for another he enclosed a spa with a pergola that features a built-in misting system. It’s all about style, vision and purpose.

Gazebos and pavilions are larger structures that serve as outdoor rooms with a cover and flooring. “They provide protection from the elements, give people more usable living space outside and they can add value of the home,” says Daniel Conover, of The Carpentry Hut in Sarasota, which specializes in fine exterior woodworking and design. Gazebos are typically six-sided or eight-sided, which pavilions are more rectangular or square and are very functional when you’re trying to make best use of the space.

Cabanas often have an elevated floor a few feet higher than the pool or sun deck and can be covered with everything from canvas fabric to match the Bimini top or with a metal or shingle roof to match the house, says Conover. Free-flowing sheer curtains can be added for privacy in the style of South Beach Resorts.

So when it’s too hot to cook, or a beautiful, tropical evening beckons, grab a picnic and retreat to your favorite outdoor space right in your own backyard.

Written by Janan Talafer