Ariel sent in a good question: I have a back patio that is quite large (the prior homeowner - pre-remodel) poured this concrete so he wouldn't have to maintain the grass. It is nice for our toddler to play on and may be a great place for an impromptu roller hockey game but it is not very inviting for entertaining or just hanging out. It is east facing so is in the sun (which is strong) from about 9 am to 1 pm. We have interviewed a couple of landscape architects but have yet to feel inspired....
...I think we could put in a shade structure (a square minimalist covered pergola) where the grill is now with a seating area and maybe move the grill to the left of the backdoor. Staining the concrete might be nice but cutting it up and planting is out of the question as there might be big rocks within a few inches of the base. The retaining wall is likely to stay as we do not want to spend multiple thousands of dollars shoring up and replacing with stones. What do you think? Any suggestions you or your readers have would be very appreciated.
We really like the look of shade sail type covers and think the swooping, curving triangular shape would suit your space, giving it some more architectural interest and interesting new forms to look at, as well as providing relief from the sun. Anytime you enclose an outdoor area by providing some overhead structure, it makes it more room-like and welcoming.
We'd also suggest laying down some of the durable floor coverings like wooden slat tiles or outdoor rugs that are very popular now, it would break up the expanse of concrete and, along with some seating, would create an much warmer feeling outdoor entertaining space.
Please add your suggestions for Ariel to the comments...thanks!