Bernardo Grijalva Photography
Creating an Outdoor Space That’s Your Idea of Paradise
Outdoor rooms are pared down and more casual versions of what’s going on indoors, which may explain why many of us are drawn to that more relaxing, uncluttered space outside. If your finances allow it, a designer can plan and create a space that looks as good—if not better—than your living room. Whether it’s the job of a professional or a design-it-yourself project, assess your garden and think about what you’re doing before you buy pillows and patio pouf.
What to Consider
The great thing about an outdoor room is that it’s a place of relaxation that puts you in arm’s reach of nature: shrubs, trees, scented flowers, water features and outdoor accessories. But you can’t just plop a settee and outdoor table randomly in the garden and proclaim it your new “outdoor room.” Think about these things first:
- Location: Is the room convenient to the house, for quick trips to the kitchen or bathroom?
- Size: Does the outdoor room take up the whole garden? Is there space for other activities for other household members, like children’s play equipment, a grill, an herb garden, etc.?
- Shape: While a rectangular shape makes sense, look at the lay of the land in your garden. If it’s long and narrow, maybe a diagonal furniture placement or square room would mix things up a bit.
- Continuity: If your house is contemporary, continue the same or similar materials and architectural features with your outdoor room. Use similar colours and materials as indoors, only more casual. A Victorian tea garden setup will look out of character with your modern one-story home.
- Goals: What do you want in an outdoor room? Maybe a refuge, a place to entertain (LINK- A Guide to Budget Friendly Summer Party Ideas), for privacy or to enjoy your garden?
- Budget: A well-designed outdoor room with carefully chosen vintage and repurposed furnishings can look just as good as a room with an unlimited budget.
We chose 50 diverse outdoor rooms that have at least one thing in common: they all are spaces in which you’d want to kick back and enjoy a drink and good company.
Luke Gibson Photography
Moroccan-style lanterns with shades in assorted colours dazzle above an outdoor seating arrangement in Hermosa Beach, California, designed by interior designer Adrienne Mascaro of Studio Blu. A couch and daybed carry out that Mediterranean vibe with red, brown and turquoise throw pillows, while mustard-yellow ceramic stools also double as occasional tables.
Matthew Millman Photography
Designed by architect Charlie Barnett Associates, Alderson Construction built a beautiful Mediterranean-style home in Piedmont, California, with exquisite architectural details that can be seen in this garden house. Columns and arches frame views of the surrounding property and house. Tucker and Marks Design kept furnishings simple and elegant, which helps create a sense of relaxation.
Built in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, this home, designed by architect Paul Oosthuizen, features curves inspired by the nearby sand dunes. Many rooms of this five-bedroom house have sliding glass doors that offer views and access to the outdoors, providing a seamless indoor-to-outdoor experience.
The homeowners of this 1950s beach cottage in San Clemente, California contacted Living Gardens with a request to modernize the home and create a garden in which they could spend more time. Living Gardens designed a low-maintenance garden, a gravel surface, large square concrete pavers and white outdoor chairs cantered around a fire pit for use at night. Light green pillows pick up the colours of the surrounding plants.
Solairs on the Rooftop
Photo by Tom Arban
When simple, vintage and repurposed all come together in the right way, the result can be fun and exciting, like Kohn Shnier Architects’ rooftop patio design in Toronto. Those wonderful plastic disc-shaped chairs are vintage Solair chairs, which were designed in the 1970s by Fabio Fabiano and Michelange Pazini for L’Industrie Provinciale in Quebec and went on to be sold by retailers like Sears and Eaton’s. Colorful plastic crates become makeshift tables, with a tray on one in the centre serving as a coffee table.
Huettl Landscape Architecture
Horizontal, low-slung outdoor furniture echoes the lines of this modern house and flat patio roof, which offers shelter from the sun. Huettl Landscape Architecture carried out those lines in the concrete fountain, with Equisetum hyemale (horsetail) adding a dramatic backdrop. Its thin, vertical lines make horsetail a popular plant in modern landscape design and also grows in wet ground or water features.
Simple white outdoor curtains soften this outdoor room under a wood pergola and give the owners the option of providing privacy from all sides of the structure. Francesca Morgan Interiors placed the furniture and rug to de-emphasize the long, rectangular shape of the space.
Master Bedroom Escape
Bi-fold doors lead to a private outdoor room. Paul Dyer
A Victorian remodel in the Noe Valley neighbourhood of San Francisco features a spacious-for-the-area back garden that Feldman Architecture connected with rooms on the ground level. The firm, which specializes in acquiring and restoring historical homes with a focus on sustainable solutions and technology, added a second floor with a deck that has a view of the city and a master suite with a private patio.
A lacquered Lutyens bench in soft green is positioned in a Manhattan patio corner with a petal coffee table and Bertoia Diamond Chairs for a Mid-century modern outdoor living space that’s small in size but big in style. Designed by Dufner Heighes, the outdoor room is spare on accessories, save for some potted plants and a concrete garden gnome.
Roofless in Seattle
For a University of Washington professor and his wife, designer Faith Sheridan worked on a 1,500-square-foot penthouse apartment with a 900-square-foot terrace that, not surprisingly, offers stunning views of the Seattle cityscape and a nearby lake. Sheridan used parquet-style decking for a sense of warmth, created zones for cooking, entertaining and relaxing and used a limited colour palette of greens and blues.
Curtains allow diners to eat in privacy. Leland Gebhardt Photography
Separate but connected outdoor rooms at this Arizona patio home show just how much usable space can be created in a back garden. Designed by Coffman Studio with Bouton + Foley interior design, the centrepiece is the living room, with comfortable seating and a pergola. A separate dining space and raised fire circle divide activities, yet everything relates via paths and by using the same materials and colours.
Big Outdoor Family Room
Cathy Morehead & Associates designed this large outdoor living space in Orange County, California, for a busy family of five to really enjoy–from dining outside to kicking back on the comfortable, nap-ready furniture.
This 66.7-acre (27 hectares) clifftop Autonomous House overlooks the ocean and Australian town of Byron Bay. Created by Zaher Architects, the underlying principles of its design were to build a modern, autonomous house that generates its own power, collects its own water and deals with its own waste.
Robert Frith / Acorn Photo for Suzanne Hunt
This award-winning house in Perth, Australia was designed by Suzanne Hunt Architect and inspired by Japanese design. Like many rooms in the energy-efficient house, this one opens on two sides to the outdoors, blending interior and exterior. Materials include raw timber and stonework.
A cosy brick outdoor fireplace is the focal point of a San Diego area outdoor room designed by Christian Rice. Warmth is reflected in the rust-red upholstery and wood furnishings.
A Potrero Hill outdoor room created by Antonio Martins Interior Design features an imaginative and intriguing mix of repurposed and new pieces.
Fergus Garber Young Architects
Bernardo Grijalva Photography
A charming stucco Tudor cottage remodel in Palo Alto, California by Fergus Garber Young Architects takes advantage of the garden to create alluring outdoor rooms accessible from the home’s interior. This one, featuring a fireplace, comfortable cottage-style garden furniture and fun accessories is located directly off the master bedroom.
English Country Garden
Rachael Boling Photography
To create this formal outdoor living room, Linda McDougal of Postcard From Paris included a gazebo that creates the look of an open-air conservatory, along with an antique iron streetlamp. The outdoor area was designed to have the feel of an English country garden.
Inspired by the beautiful villas in Tuscany, this Scottsdale, Arizona, courtyard room by Sam Fratantoni of Fratantoni Luxury Estates includes beautiful architectural features like arches, exposed beams, and stucco surfaces. Josie Fratantoni of Fratantoni Interior Designers continued the Tuscan theme with wood and iron outdoor furnishings, a painting above the outdoor fireplace and symmetrical potted plants that resemble Italian cypress.
Dwell in D.C.
A few miles from the uproar in Washington, D.C. is a back garden oasis designed and built by Anthony Wilder that gives its owners a chance to relax and enjoy their outdoor space in private. Long resin-wicker sofas ensure seating for all guests, and touches like iron lanterns, a fireplace and coordinated pillows tie together everything. The architect on this project was George Bott; production was by George Nobel and John Botkin.
Mill Hill Mid-Century
Anna Carin Design
A long deck joins various outdoor rooms of this Mid-century modern home designed by Anna Carin Design in Sydney, Australia. Colours and outdoor furnishings are similar in style, creating a cohesiveness as the homeowners shift from dining to lounging to gathering around the fire pit.
Dufner Heighes Loft
John Ellis, johnellisphoto.com
Another section of this Manhattan roof terrace designed by Dufner Heighes uses ipe for decking, weather-resistant teak furniture, steel-rimmed windows, along with an outdoor fireplace, modern ceramic containers and white side tables.
Vinyl wicker furniture kept under a roof has the potential to last many years. Highgate House
A simple colour scheme of whites, greys and blues give this outdoor living space designed by Australia’s Highgate House a fresh, coastal appeal.
A plain white wall is a perfect backdrop for potted plants and iron pieces. Coco Cozy
Blogger-turned-designer CocoCozy has attracted high-profile fans like Jonathan Adler and Katy Perry with her lively and eclectic mix of fabrics, textiles and repurposed and refurbished furnishings and accessories. For this Los Angeles outdoor space, Coco turned a rolling wooden slat lounge chair into a settee with the addition of cushions and pillows, while an ordinary vintage coffee table suddenly becomes fascinating with bright turquoise paint.
Carman Bay Cottage
Built by John Kraemer & Sons and designed by Swan Architecture, a Lake Minnetonka beach house features a progression of outdoor seating: from the den through open sliding doors to a covered patio with similar furnishings, and onto a fire pit area. Katie Redpath Constable designed the interiors; Bechler Landscapes designed the landscaping.
Maryland All-Season Outer Room
Sondra Zabroske of Richard Leggin Architects says that clients who look at this particular design are intrigued that it can convert into an all-season room. Accordion retractable screens were designed by Solar Innovations. “It’s a great flexible space for entertaining and seems to be a natural gathering space,” says Zabroske.
Greenwich Village Brownstone
Adriana Bufi / Andrew Garn / Annie Schlecter
Axis Mundi Interior Design teamed with John Beckmann and Richard Rosenbloom to renovate an 1840s Greek Revival brownstone in New York City. The small outdoor space gets a new horizontal-slat wall, large containers of trees, shrubs, perennials and red and orange modern outdoor chairs–ideal for a home owned by an art collector.
Levels of expertly trimmed hedges offer privacy. Maree Homer
For this classical modern house in Sydney, Australia, designer Marylou Sobel extended the luxuriously furnished interior outdoors with a living space that uses fine materials in jewel tones with cream.
Iron lighting fixtures are appropriate choices for rustic decor. Roger Wade / Locati Architects
When in Bozeman, Montana, it makes sense to go rustic. Locati Architects designed a lodge-style outdoor room with high ceilings, exposed beams, a stone fireplace and additional seating along a low wall to enjoy the scenery.
By the Bay
A piece of driftwood appropriately adorns the outdoor fireplace. Eric Fenmore
Eric Fenmore of Garden Studio Design used soft grey with yellow accents for a beautiful outdoor seating arrangement in the Bay Shores community of Newport Beach, California.
Clinton and Associates
A Bethesda, Maryland home’s elegance is reflected in its garden room, which was designed by Sandra Clinton of Clinton & Associates. Other outdoor areas on the eight-acre property include a swimming pool and terraces, putting green and walking trails.
Garden With a View
Abran Rubiner Photography
A multi-level wood deck draws the homeowners and visitors outdoors to dine, relax in the outdoor living room furniture or take in the spectacular view of the Los Angeles area, especially at night. Gregory Davis & Associates are responsible for the landscape design and installation.
Merrick Ales Photography
A modern, minimalistic home in the hill country of Austin, Texas was designed to evoke a coastal design without an ocean in view. This was achieved with an open floor plan that extends to outdoor rooms, light stucco walls, geometric forms, and modern details like frameless glass and linear railings. The home is a joint effort of architect Rodney Palmer of Cornerstone Architects, Builder Rick Margiotta of Olympia Homes and interior designer Joy King.
Forrest Hill Village City Courtyard
Brandon Barré Architectural Interior Photographer
A living or green wall is softened with vines for a lush hideaway designed by the Canadian firm, Terra Firma. Black resin wicker furniture and black and white printed cushions and pillows make a striking, exotic contrast to the surrounding plants–some of which are faux.
Art Gray Photography
A modern home in Newport Beach, California designed by Paul Davis Architects features an uncluttered outdoor room with lightweight white contemporary outdoor furnishings.
Merrick Ales Photography
A C-shaped home near Austin, Texas features an attractive courtyard that makes smart use of its narrow lot while giving the homeowners privacy. While not large, the outdoor room includes a kitchen, bar seating, dining area, and living room–all with views of the pool and TV. The home was designed by Janet L. Hobbs of Hobbs’ Ink and Triton Homes.
Belle and Cosy
Alexandra Eude of London design firm Belle & Cosy creates stylish living spaces for clients on a budget. This creative outdoor room employs modified palettes as the bases of outdoor sofas and as tables.
Hong Kong Hangout
Designed by Lexi Powell of Alexandra Lauren Interiors, this Moroccan style rooftop garden in Hong Kong (Pok Fo Lam) provides additional living space for a small apartment, along with overhead protection and outdoor privacy. Powell designed rooftop gardens in Hong Kong for 12 years before relocating her business to Tennessee.
Outdoor ceiling fans are necessary in some regions. Amanda Kirkpatrick Photography
An East Coast beach residence designed by Z+ Interiors includes an adjustable “wall” for a quick change in temperature. Off-white and grey is used throughout the interior and exterior.
If you have a view of water, make it a focal point. Carmel Brantley
A coastal Miami home gets a stunning makeover by JMA Interior Design that uses blues, whites and greys with touches of yellow (like those sunflowers) indoors and out.
Structured Creations turned a back porch into a covered outdoor room that is arranged for conversation and comfort.
The Grand Palapa acts as the main outdoor entertainment space. Who wouldn’t like to relax under this spectacular structure and experience the tropics surrounding you? Integrated seating and planters surround this space and multiple ceiling fans overhead keep the tropical breeze circulating. Designed by Lori Gilder Interior Makeovers in San Jose del Cabo.
Lanterns centred in the middle of the gazebo create a festive touch. Gregg Hodson
Gregg Hodson Design used a gazebo as a designated outdoor room, which doesn’t leave any doubt where the garden seating is located. Everything is done in greens and white for a fresh, clean look.
Modern Deck Space
Modern wood benches with metal bases go well with this updated modern home. Lisa Hallett Taylor
Accessible from the master bedroom’s French doors, this minimalist seating arrangement is the perfect spot for morning coffee or a drink before bedtime.
Pacific Northwest Paradise
Be Burk Photography
An ordinary newer tract home in the Pacific Northwest gets outdoor activity areas by designers Paradise Restored, including a cosy resin wicker deep seating set.
John Loper Photography
Sander Design proves you don’t have to live in a Mediterranean climate to enjoy the look and feel of an outdoor room. A pergola, vines and warm accent colours used with modern outdoor furniture give this patio in Toronto a distinct look.
Cosy Outdoor Living Room
Lars Remodelling & Design used tumbled brick and stone to continue this San Diego area home’s architectural surfaces to the outdoor room, which is rustic, cosy and a true living room with all the conveniences: TV, lamps, comfortable seating, fireplace, and even an indoor/outdoor clock.
A porch provides ample space for an outdoor living room and gathering place. Andrew Howard Interior Design used accessories and details like lamps, stylish furniture, and a big mirror to update this Jacksonville, Florida Victorian.
Vintage Outdoor Furniture
Lisa Hallett Taylor
Being on a budget often gets those creative juices flowing. A vintage hand-me-down wrought iron settee and table get updated with new patio cushions and pillows, while an old tea crate becomes a one-of-a-kind side table.
By Lisa Hallett Taylor