Updated: Nov 11, 2020
How To Get The Perfect Outdoor Room - 8 Tricks from A Home Designer
Who doesn't love being outdoors in their yard enjoying a meal and a drink when it's nice outside? In Canada, we have such a short window of summer, so you want to take advantage of it as much as you can!
Outdoor rooms can be a great way to achieve this, and also make sure you're taking full advantage of every square inch of your property.
If you're designing a new custom home, an outdoor room should be considered in the early phases of the design process so it can be incorporated into the home's initial design. But don't worry! You can still follow these design principles if you're working with an existing space.
Here are the 8 "must-have" design elements of a perfect outdoor room:
Extend the seasons
Design for privacy and views
Place walls and ceilings strategically
Take advantage of lighting
Consider sight lines and flow
Use the right furniture and decor
Design with sun patterns in mind
Use fire and water
Let's look at these in more detail...
DESIGN ELEMENT #1: EXTEND THE SEASONS
Enjoy outdoor living well into fall and spring. You know those days when you crave being outside... but it's just a little too chilly?! Make this happen by adding heat to your outdoor room design. For example, designing a fireplace or heaters into the outdoor room (more on fireplaces later…). There are many different heaters that are available.
If you're designing a custom home from scratch, I would highly recommend designing the heaters into the outdoor room's structure, so they are concealed.
If you're renovating your existing space, don't worry! There are still a lot of stylish outdoor heaters that can be incorporated, and without having to rip out your existing walls and ceilings.
Another way to extend your outdoor living season is to add an outdoor automated screening system. These systems are like the icing on a cake when it comes to outdoor rooms. They keep in heat and also block out bugs, wind and sun, which all will help in making your outdoor room enjoyable.
As a home designer, I always highly recommending incorporating any screening system into the building's design, making them "disappear" when not in use. But don't worry, if you're working with an existing home, there are still options to install a screen system within an existing space.
DESIGN ELEMENT #2: DESIGN FOR PRIVACY AND VIEWS
Consider what you'll be looking at when in your outdoor room. And consider who can see YOU when you're in the outdoor room. Then determine if you need to block some of these views through the use of privacy walls.
Just be careful that you balance putting up privacy walls with blocking natural light. You want a perfect combination of both so you end up with a space that's both bright and airy, yet still private. You can achieve this by using slat walls, creative feature walls, semi-opaque materials, or just strategically positioning your privacy wall.
Have a great view you want to take advantage of?
You can intentionally "frame" the view you want by adding feature walls. These walls can do double duty by blocking sight lines you don't want, for example, like your neighbors.
Don't have a beautiful view?
Well, consider creating one! This can be done by adding a focal point within your yard's landscaping. It can be very simple. Even just adding a grouping of beautiful shrubs or trees in your yard, landscaping structure placed strategically, can create a whole new ambiance.
DESIGN ELEMENT #3: PLACE WALLS AND CEILINGS STRATEGICALLY
If you're designing a new custom home build, it's easy to incorporate a full outdoor room into the overall home design. Partially enclosing the space with ceilings and walls will create the cozy feeling of a "room". Not only that, but it will help block out the elements such as sun and wind.
If you're working with an existing space, you can potentially add walls and an overhead structure. For example, an overhead pergola can help to define a space.
If you're completing a new custom home design, and also have a sloped lot, you can take advantage of the slope to define a space. Use retaining walls made from natural elements (like boulders, etc.) to define an outdoor room. Get creative with the use of concrete and other ground cover elements like stamped concrete and decorative gravel to further define the space.
DESIGN ELEMENT #4: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LIGHTING
As a home designer, I really believe that lighting can really make or break a space. As with the rest of your home design, consider how your outdoor room will be lit. Incorporate the three "layers" of lighting that make a space pop.
Ambient lighting will light the overall room. We love using dimmers to be able to control the intensity of the lighting, and thus the mood in the room. Outdoor accent lighting can be stunning and dramatic. Consider using accent lighting to highlight certain home design or landscaping features. These creates stunning focal points, especially at night. Task lighting should be considered for dining and cooking areas.
Don't forget to consider integrating your outdoor lighting into a smart home system design, and so you can control your lighting conveniently and remotely (like from your phone or an I-Pad).
DESIGN ELEMENT #5: CONSIDER SIGHT LINES AND FLOW
A well-designed outdoor room should flow seamlessly from your indoor space.
Consider this indoor-outdoor connection. How do you access your outdoor room? Is it through a set of beautiful glass patio doors? Does the access point make sense? Outdoor rooms are typically best if accessed from a main living area such as a kitchen, great room, or dining area.
That being said, we've designed many outdoor rooms that flow from offices, bedrooms, and even the main front entrance! It all depends on how you use your space.
Consider the sight lines from inside to outside. If designed properly, an outdoor room should appear to "flow" seamlessly from your indoor space to your outdoor space. A lot of this is accomplished by having the home designed properly.
Using interior design strategically can also help enhance sight lines for the indoor-outdoor connection. For example, using a similar floor covering (or similarly-colored flooring material) between the indoor and outdoor space so the eye perceives the two rooms as one continuous space.
DESIGN ELEMENT #6: USE THE RIGHT FURNITURE AND DECOR
Outdoor living furnishing has come a long way! Give your outdoor room the same love as you would an indoor room. Select furnishing in the same way as you would an indoor room. Make sure your furniture is scaled properly with your outdoor room. As you would with an indoor space, decide on a color scheme so the room feels cohesive. But don't be afraid to play with color! Outdoor rooms can have a personality of their own, and colorful pops of accessories and greenery can make the space come alive!
Finally, use décor to create layers of texture, which will make the room more visually interesting and pull it all together. Don't forget to use outdoor rugs, throw pillows, and blankets to finish the space. Add pops of greenery to bring some natural elements into the space. Lastly, make sure you're using outdoor grade furniture. There is a ton of beautiful product out there!
DESIGN ELEMENT #7: DESIGN WITH SUN PATTERNS IN MIND
Yes, this one might sound obvious, but it's so important, I'm going to mention it anyway. As home designers, we always consider how the sun pattern affects a custom home design. This will influence the placement of the outdoor room. Consider what activities you'll be doing and what time of day you'll mostly be using the space. Where will the sun be at that time of day, and in relation to your new home? For example, do you love drinking your coffee in the early morning outdoors in full sun? Or do you prefer to relax in a warm but shady spot in the evening, with friends and a glass of wine? The answers to all these questions will influence the design of the outdoor room, and also the final home design.
DESIGN ELEMENT #8: USE FIRE AND WATER
I love utilizing these two elements of mother nature, which I believe can enhance any space. Consider adding a fire feature or a water feature within your outdoor room. It can really take your space to a whole new level. A water feature has the bonus of adding a calming sound to the space, creating a whole new ambiance.
When adding a fire feature, consider whether you'd like it to be wood-burning or gas. A gas fire feature is very convenient, as it can be controlled as easily as the flick of a switch. A wood fire feature is definitely more work. Although you can't deny there is something very nostalgic about the smell and crackling of a real wood fire.
With any sort of fire feature, whether it is gas or wood-burning, this type of design feature must be planned in advance by your home designer. There are venting and safety requirements for both.
An outdoor room is a great design feature that extends the livability of your custom home. In our Vancouver luxury home designs, it's practically a staple for any custom home. In our Calgary home designs, it's becoming an increasingly popular consideration.
Regardless of where you're designing your new luxury home, make sure you consider an outdoor room as a design feature - you won't regret it.
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Phase One Design is a residential design firm specializing in luxury custom home design for busy professionals. We specialize in residential building design and interior design. With design studio locations in Vancouver and Calgary, we accept projects across North America.
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