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Gift Guide: How to turn your outdoor space into a year-round living room

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Winter came especially early this year to Chicago—the first snowflakes were spotted on October 26th, to be exact. In this part of the country people are already used to braving the elements, but with COVID still running rampant, having an outdoor space that is usable (no matter what the temperature) has become the best way to ensure you can keep socializing with other humans during the darkest and coldest months of the year. Here, we tracked down six essentials for making your outdoor space feel like your favorite indoor space this winter.

Solo Stove Bonfire, $284

You may have thought most of society’s great leaps forward in terms of innovation recently have been in gene editing, or perhaps app design. But don’t underestimate fire pits, particularly the Solo Stove’s “smokeless” model. As the company explains it, “Strategically placed holes in the double-wall structure suck the air from the bottom and feed the heated oxygen to the top resulting in a spectacular flame with intense heat.” Though you use regular firewood, there is “nearly no smoke and minimal ash left over.” The Solo comes in three sizes: Campfire, Bonfire and Yukon, with a range of covers and cooking accessories sold separately (we recommend the double-pronged marshmallow roaster). Botton line: The perfect gift for anyone who loves sitting around a campfire, but doesn’t love smelling like one.  

Nebula Capsule Max Projector, $470

If you haven’t already heard about the Nebula (or seen one in action) prepare to be amazed. At little more than the size of a soda can, this powerful wireless projector makes everything else on the market seem like something from your 7th grade science classroom. Set it on a table and stream your favorite shows or movies using your phone as a remote. The app supports Netflix, Amazon Prime and most other streaming services. We’ve seen the Nebula projected on a foldable screen, sheet, or even just the side of a house. Bonus: Technically you can also use it inside as well.

Cozy Wrap, $68

Is it a blanket? Is it a coat? Do we even care when it’s 24 degrees out? This cozy fall coverup not only looks like you just stepped off the Scottish moors, it’s flexible enough to keep you warm in almost any scenario. Tuck it around your next on a chilly evening or use it as a blanket during outdoor movie night. Perhaps Braveheart?

Nottingham Faux Fur Plaid Throw, $149

As the Swedish saying goes, “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder,” which translates roughly as “there is no bad weatherthere are only bad clothes.” We’d take that a step further and say that as long as you are covered by blanket that’s made of wool on one side/faux fur on the other, you’ll forget about the weather entirely. This unbelievably cozy throw from Pottery Barn will work equally well outside by the fire pit, or inside by the TV.

Mr. Heater ‘Tank Top’ Outdoor Heater, $107

While there has been a run on those tall restaurant-style patio heaters this fall (they are sold out in many locales), they actually aren’t always the most practical choice for home use. For starters, you really need several of them to actually warm up a group of people, and it’s a bit awkward to congregate around a hot pole. A better choice may come in a slightly smaller package. This well-reviewed model sticks to the top of any size propane tank and effectively disperses heat around a screen porch, an outdoor seating area, or even a garage (aka your ‘outdoor living room.’) True, it’s not as ‘sleek’ as some models on the market, but hey: if it’s good enough for ice-fishing, it’ll definitely do the trick for backyard cocktails.

Cottage Lantern, $28

Pros know that taking your backyard from dull and lifeless to magical is largely a matter of creative lighting. A few lanterns arranged around a seating area, balcony or on a screen porch will lead to a magical effect. Combined with all the other elements above, you may find that even after the pandemic has passed, you may never want to entertain indoors again.

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Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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