The spring thaw seems to be working its way to St. Louis, and this is the perfect time to start thinking about your new outdoor projects. In case you have something more elaborate than a few new flowers in mind for your backyard, we found two fantastic projects to get your creative juices flowing.

Our first project was completed by Poynter Landscape Architecture & Construction. Owner Richard Poynter says the family was looking for a shady area to protect them from the scorching sun by their pool. They also wanted to incorporate a casual seating area, along with outdoor cooking. Here’s what they came up with:

Setting the Scene: “People don’t typically tell you they want something cozy, but that’s what they want,” Poynter says. When you’re working with an expansive space like this, think about breaking it up into smaller, cozier sections, while keeping the flow and functionality in mind, he adds. This project incorporates two separate seating areas and outdoor curtains to up the intimacy level.

Walk the Line: To soften the look, Poynter’s team created a walkway in broken-up sections, with grass between the partitions. The floor was created from stamped and dyed concrete, with a separate pattern for the border.

Cooking Up a Storm: With the rise of upscale outdoor cooking areas, there are lots of options available. This kitchen features a built-in grill with a stone base and cabinetry, along with a buffet-style stone countertop.

The second project, at a residence in Chesterfield, was installed by The Green Guys, with input coming from Amini’s Home, Rugs & Game Room, and pavers from St. Louis Hardscape Material & Supply. The family was looking for comfort, function—and a pop of color—and they got all three.

You Take the High Road: The homeowners wanted an all-inclusive pool, cooking and entertaining area where they could spend lots of time as a family, says landscape architect Eric Ringhofer of Green Guys. That’s a tall order for a yard that originally consisted of a huge hill. The plus-side of having to cut several feet into a slope? “They have a lot of privacy behind them, so we were able to maximize both privacy and space.”

Like a Rock: The pavers for this project were the Cambridge brand, Ringhofer says, which has a couple of unique features—the large size was an ideal aesthetic for a large project, and they’re also UV-resistant to avoid premature fading and wearing.

Get it Right: A major project involving outdoor kitchen components, grills and furniture can require several meetings. But it all pays off when you get the results you want, says Peggy Pond, outdoor furniture manager at Amini’s.

Have a Seat: The family wanted plenty of seating, so Amini’s suggested a crescent sofa, along with swivel rocking club chairs with a comfortable, high back, Pond says. The neutral color of the barstools was chosen to avoid clashing with the bright chartreuse of the sofa, and the combination of seating arrangements lends itself to intimate conversation.

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