It’s common for people to “bring the outside in” when it comes to their homes. From plants, to fresh flowers, reclaimed wood furniture, and natural stone, there are many ways to create an indoor space with a natural feel.
But have you considered bringing the inside out? The same way you bring a little bit of nature to your interior rooms, you can bring a little bit of the “inside” out to create an outdoor room that is as natural an extension of your home and lifestyle as the finest living room.
Look around your home. Are there certain characteristics you especially enjoy? Aspects of your interior that make it feel… well, “homey”? Parts that most reflect your personality and how you use and enjoy the space?
You can take all of those things and translate them to the outdoors so that the only thing missing will be the actual walls around you. And you won’t miss those at all, as you relax, enjoy and entertain in your new living space!
Bring The Living Outdoors
As you dream of your new outdoor living area, consider first how you plan to use the space. You wouldn’t begin construction on a new room in your home without knowing what the purpose was – whether a bedroom, TV viewing area or breakfast nook. The same is true for your outdoor space.
Decide first the type of room that you want to create. Will it be a space for entertaining guests? A private area for you to relax, nap or curl up with a good book? Or a poolside summer retreat?
Depending on your lifestyle and the activities you plan for the space, you can design and build accordingly. Entertaining may require adding in the functionality of an outdoor kitchen, complete with grill, sink and cocktail bar. If you plan to host pool parties, an outdoor shower is a good choice for keeping lotions and perfumes out of the water, and letting swimmers rinse off chlorine after a dip.
Your outdoor room can be just as functional as any indoor one – from electricity to running water and plumbing. Deciding on its use will help you plan for appropriate lighting, seating and more.
If you want a space with multiple uses, then it’s important to design in some separation, whether by dividing areas using walkways or retaining walls, or installing an arch or trellis as a doorway between two adjoining outdoor rooms.
Besides what you want to do in your new space, decide how you want to feel there. When you walk into your outdoor room, do you want to feel bright and expansive? Or cozy and sheltered? That will help determine whether your room is best suited for a pergola – perhaps screened by curtains or a natural bamboo border – or an open patio or expanse of lawn.
Let’s talk more about some of the fun “indoor” things that you can bring outside!
Outdoor furniture anchors your living space and comes in many shapes, styles and varieties. The furniture you choose depends in part on your design preferences and largely on your intended use for the space.
Seating is arguably the most important furniture that you can include. Benches, chairs and stools can be intermingled or combined with tables to create a dining space, cozy seating nook around a fire pit, conversation corner in a quiet spot away from the main house or even a solitary spot for sunning or browsing a good magazine.
You can group sofas and sectionals into permanent spaces, or incorporate smaller chairs to offer flexibility for guests who may want to drag them into a cluster with friends.
Other types of seating suit other purposes – hammocks, swings and recliners can go from relaxing to romantic, creating an enjoyable place to spend time with a book, or with your favorite person.
Furniture can do double duty, too. Benches with storage beneath make it convenient to house supplies or chair cushions, and glass table tops can be poised above container gardens full of succulents or cascading perennials.
If you’re an entertainer, consider installing an enclosure for an outdoor television. Big, flat screens come in weatherproof and waterproof options that can really redefine the man-cave! While you may not want your guests zoning in front of the TV on a beautiful summer’s day, it can make a perfect gathering spot for friends during football season or even a romantic evening movie under the stars.
When planning the layout of outdoor furniture, consider aesthetics as well as function. Indoor design typically builds off a central element, like an amazing sofa or beloved piece of art. The same is true for your outdoor space. Find a focal point like a stunning koi pond, an aged and gnarled tree, or a waterfall pool. Then arrange furniture to draw the eye, orient the view and gather people around it.
If you can install a TV outside, you can certainly bring artwork outside! From weatherproof canvases to wall and garden sculptures, you can create a veritable art gallery right in your back yard.
Wall sculptures come in myriad shapes and sizes, in materials that include brass, copper, woods, wrought iron or composites. And there are plenty of styles to make you smile, whether you love sunbursts or butterflies, lighthouses or dragons.
Wondering where to hang your art? You’ve got options for that, too. The exterior walls of your home are a perfect place to hang a focal piece and a great way to dress up an otherwise wide expanse of boring wall. But even if you’re not keen on poking holes in your brand new vinyl siding, you can always create a wall wherever you want one. Build one of stone, latticework or fencing, even design one out of bamboo. These all make great places to display artwork while adding a unique natural touch.
Not all artwork must be hung. You can enjoy it in your garden, too. From stately sculptures to whimsical statues, stone pillars to rustic wreaths, all of these become art when used intentionally in your landscape. Stake artwork into the ground. Rest it atop a bench. Pose it against a wall. Your imagination has free reign.
Even the humble accessory can become art – bold rugs, striking containers, columns or bubblers – all of these can be chosen to make a statement, whether through color, texture or height.
Much like its cousin the television, your stereo system can join the outdoor fun, too. For everything from background music to party fare, you’re better served by choosing speakers that are specifically designed for the outdoors than by dragging your old stereo out to the patio. Sound is affected in significantly different ways in a curtained and enclosed living room than in an open outdoor space. Outdoor speakers are designed for the way sound travels in open air, which will diminish distortion and control loudness.
That’s not to say you can’t turn the volume up – if you’ve got understanding neighbors or many private acres, then your outdoor speakers will allow you to do so more effectively and with a less blaring result than that old indoor stereo.
But more typically, outdoor music sets the scene rather than overwhelms it. As the backdrop for dinner, or an accompaniment to meditative koi-gazing, music supports the mood you want to create.
In a large yard, or one with multiple rooms, speakers can be placed at intervals so that no one speaker is responsible for reaching every area. With speakers placed strategically throughout the landscape, you, your family and your guests can enjoy the music without it being either too loud or too low in any given spot.
Weatherproof and waterproof speakers can be installed in planters, tree stumps or behind rocks to disguise them so they blend seamlessly with your landscape and make music appear like magic from the very earth itself. Speakers that double as faux rocks can pass as the real thing and are a good choice for ambient sound.
Whatever the mood and wherever you are in your space, music is just another way of enhancing your sensory experience.
Luminous, warm, inviting, welcoming – lighting not only makes your outdoor space functional during evening hours but it can also set the stage and add to the sensory experience. And you can’t do that if you’re relying on the porch light or the backyard floods.
Landscape lighting is an art unto itself, helping to create effects ranging from moonlight to shadow-play. And it’s versatile enough to be installed just about anywhere – up in tree branches, along pathways and patios, atop retaining walls, within flowerbeds, even under water in pools and ponds. From LED bulbs to glowing lanterns, you can choose a lighting style that reflects your personal style.
While landscape lighting can add function and visual appeal, it is not the only way to incorporate light into your space. A fire source is another great option, adding not only light, but heat for cooler seasons, and the perfect focal point for cozy conversations or quiet time with a good book and a glass of wine. As an added bonus, the smoke emitted by a wood-burning fireplace or fire pit will help to deter mosquitos and other pesky insects.
Are you dreaming of the perfect outdoor room to relax, entertain, rejuvenate, and enjoy? We hope these ideas have given you inspiration to imagine how you can bring your indoor lifestyle outdoors. If you’d like to talk about how to design and build your outdoor dream space, contact us for a consultation and let’s talk about how we can help you achieve your vision.