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4 Best Outdoor Living Space Design Ideas for Lake Michigan Homeowners

June 23rd, 2023 | 5 min read

By Christine Gauthier

best outdoor living space design ideas for Lake Michigan homeowners backyard Custom Built

Owning a home on Lake Michigan has its perks: year-round views of the lake and making lifelong memories next to one of the nation’s most beautiful bodies of water through exciting outdoor spaces.

As the weather changes, however, not updating your outdoor living space appropriately could mean damaged foliage and structures - wasting extra money and leaving you feeling embarrassed by your torn-up yard.

As a premier home remodeling company in the Mid to Northern Michigan area, we have years of experience designing and building beautiful home and outdoor spaces that leave a visually-striking impression and last for years to come.

In this article, you will learn more about the 4 best outdoor living space design ideas for Lake Michigan homeowners:

1. Plants and Trees Perfect for Lake Michigan Homeowners

lake michigan outdoor living space native plant ideas custom built

PC: Michigan State University

One of the main issues many Lake Michigan homeowners run into is soil erosion. 

The nutrient-rich topsoil, which is essential for plant growth and productivity, is lost due to erosion. As a result, plant health may suffer from topsoil depletion. Due to your home’s location near a large body of water, the atmosphere is naturally more humid compared to other Michigan regions, contributing to potential soil erosion.

This is why choosing the right foliage for your landscaping redesign is so important.

In order to thrive in this climate, we recommend planting vegetation that is native to the Lake Michigan area. Thanks to their deeper root systems, many native Michigan plants are able to withstand winds and moisture.

On the other hand, non-native plants with shallow roots won’t last as long when the weather inevitably picks up. Without a deeper system, non-native plants can uproot in the case of gusty winds, or not develop properly via the nutrient-less topsoil it is limited to.

Here are the types of native trees and bushes perfect for your landscaping design:

  • Red maple
  • Arrowwood
  • Winterberry
  • Nannyberry
  • Yellow birch
  • Coneflowers
  • Swamp white oak
  • Common ninebark
  • American elderberry (Once cooked, makes amazing jams, sauces, and wine!)

2. Build or Upgrade a Deck to Enhance Lake Views

Best Outdoor Living Space Design deck custom built Ideas for Lake Michigan Homeowners deck build custom built

Everyone loves a good lake view. This is why many Lake Michigan homeowners design their outdoor spaces to include a clear line of sight to the nearby shoreline.

One of the more popular solutions is to build a deck that withstands the elements and provides stellar views of the lake. But if you’re thinking of adding another design feature to enhance your view, try thinking about projects closer to the water.

Depending on the size of your property, you can build a seating area right on the banks. This eliminates the need for you to clear out large trees that are crucial to the area’s ecosystem.

Here are a few other ways you can enhance your lake views:

Elevate your Current Deck

elevated deck remodel Lake Michigan outdoor living space custom built design and remodeling

Raising your deck level will let you gain better vantage points of Lake Michigan and its surrounding areas. Elevating your deck also encourages privacy, lifting you out of your neighbors’ lines of sight. Additionally, your heightened vantage point allows for better air circulation and ventilation, making a comfortable deck experience for your family during the summer.

Frame the Lake with Foliage and Other Landscaping Features

lake michigan deck with foliage and potted plants custom built

Strategic placement of shrubs, trees, and other landscaping features will frame and accentuate your lake views. This will naturally enrich your landscape design with native plants and add an additional layer of customization to your outdoor living space. Along with our above list of Northern Michigan trees, we recommend:

  • Serviceberry
  • Shrubby cinquefoil
  • American hazelnut

Layer your Plantings

lake michigan plant layers for outdoor living space custom built

While designing your outdoor space, keep in mind that you can use your plants’ varying heights to your advantage. For example, planting a canopy layer of trees with mid-sized shrubbery in the foreground creates depth and perspective in your view while maintaining the visibility of the lake.

3. Landscaping Water Features

Lake Michigan backyard with waterfall hot tub dining area native plants

Why not incorporate the lake into every aspect of your landscaping redesign? With water features, you can bring the essence of Lake Michigan into your backyard and enforce it to adapt to the elements.

Built with your space’s natural characteristics in mind, water features are easy to install, requiring minimal maintenance and materials. Let’s take a look at what kind of water features you can include in your landscaping redesign:

Add a waterfall

Lake Michigan backyard with waterfall native plants outdoor living space idea

Many Lake Michigan homeowners have built waterfall systems that cascade into the lake. Visually stunning and highly customizable, waterfalls can mirror the aesthetic of potential pavers (concrete or stone installed in the ground in an outdoor setting), elevating your living space.

Build a rain garden 

Lake Michigan outdoor living space backyard rain garden custom built

A professionally designed and manicured area known as a rain garden is used to collect, absorb, and filter rainwater runoff from driveways, roofs, and other impervious surfaces. By utilizing vegetation and soil to locally collect and process rainfall, it is intended to simulate the processes that occur naturally in a forest or meadow.

This lessens the chance of flooding, prevents erosion, and enhances the general quality of the water - saving you money on potential maintenance. Additionally, rain gardens are essential habitats for the area’s wildlife such as pollinators, encouraging the health of your native plants for years to come.

Install a natural pool or pond

Lake Michigan backyard outdoor living space idea natural pond pool

Natural ponds and pools produce a diversity of water habitats that are home to several native plant species. In the shallow areas or at the pond's margins, aquatic plants like water lilies (Nymphaea spp. ), water irises (Iris spp.), and cattails (Typha spp.) can flourish. The diversity of the area's species, including insects, birds, amphibians, and aquatic organisms, depends on the habitat, food, and shelter that these plants provide.

4. Outdoor Living Spaces and Functional Design

Lake Michigan deck with bbq grill and dining area with view

No matter the occasion, your outdoor living space should act as a focal point of relaxation for you, your family, and your friends. Whether or not you build a deck, various design options are available to leverage and enhance your lake-view sanctuary.

As you read the following list, keep in mind that you don’t have to build an outdoor deck to upgrade your landscaping design. Take a look at some popular design ideas that fellow Lake Michigan homeowners have pursued during their remodel:

BBQ Grill Area

Lake Michigan deck bbq dining area custom built design and remodeling

Using innovative deck designs like a grill pocket, you can transform your outdoor living space into the barbecue capital of your neighborhood. We recommend setting it up along the side facing the lake, so you can take in extraordinary panoramas while flipping burgers.

Patio or Fire Pit with Built-In Seating

Lake Michigan backyard outdoor living space with fire pit next to water

Whether you’re looking to install communal seating or one of the hottest s’mores stations in Michigan, patios and fire pits are incredible design options that’ll get your family excited about spending time outdoors. Build longer benches that line the sides of your deck, patio, or backyard, or set them up in a round table around your fire pit for optimal roasting access.

Outdoor Kitchen with Food Storage Capabilities

Lake Michigan outdoor living space ideas outdoor kitchen family dinner

Thinking of adding an outdoor kitchen? A popular choice among Lake Michigan homeowners, your outdoor kitchen can come in many shapes and sizes depending on how much you plan on cooking on your deck or in your backyard.

From minifridges and grills to countertops and freezers, there is an outdoor kitchen for every type of homeowner/chef.

Next steps to redesigning and landscaping your outdoor space

You deserve a long-lasting outdoor space that enhances memories with your loved ones. Whether you don’t know where to start or you’re unsure of what you’re looking for, it can be overwhelming trying to find the best outdoor living space options for your home.

With over 15+ years of design-build experience, we have managed hundreds of outdoor design projects, all with our clients’ goals and surrounding climate in mind.

Through this article, you have discovered design options that accentuate your lake views and naturally fortify your outdoor space.

If you’re planning to remodel or redesign your outdoor living space and are interested in learning more about our services, reach out to our team of professional remodelers. We’d be happy to discuss if we’re the right fit for you and your design-build needs.

For more landscaping and outdoor design inspiration, read the following articles:

Christine Gauthier