“Outdoor rooms” has become quite a buzz phrase. But what does it really mean? You won’t find it in the dictionary, because there is no true definition. An internet search, however, will bring you all sorts of interesting results. An “outdoor room” is really any exterior space that is furnished or outfitted around a specific function. It’s a room with a purpose and a view!
Some outdoor rooms are truly rooms, with walls and ceilings that enclose them. These might be a breezy sunroom with lots of high windows and skylights, a conservatory, screened porch, or veranda. Other designs might include decks or patios with columns, planters, benches, railings, retaining walls, or other architectural and landscape elements.
Outdoor rooms may also be of a less structured nature and integrated into the landscape with open and freeform layouts. These designs create an implied sense of enclosure with use of a more limited palette of design elements. A change of material underfoot, for instance, along with nice furnishings and container plantings can define an area.
For more challenging sites, the landscape can be designed so as to solve complex site issues while integrating outdoor living. On a steep slope for instance, the use of multi-level terracing is a wonderful way of transitioning and navigating a vertical height while assimilating functionality into the design.In any case, a well designed outdoor room brings the best of both worlds together- the comforts of our interior living blended with a wonderful connection to nature.
PLANNING and DESIGN
Did you know- statistically the average person spends in excess of 90% of their time indoors? Responding to this fact, I like to approach the design of outdoor spaces and rooms from the inside out, so to speak. Designs that integrate the features of the interior design with the exterior allow for capitalizing on views, circulation paths, and functional relationships and create a sense of cohesiveness and flow.
Overhead structures give a strong sense of enclosure, whether they are solid construction or an alternative design. Imagine an arbor with the romance of a flowering vine wrapping through it, an architecturally built roof with columns, or a retractable awning for maximum versatility. These all give very different effects. Choosing a particular style or motif for architectural features and accents can set a strong design theme and lend a sense of exotic, faraway places.
If you are considering creating an outdoor room, the first consideration is to evaluate how you will be using the space. Is the main purpose for dining, entertaining, cooking, swimming, soaking in a spa, meditation, just relaxing, or some combination of functions. Once you know how it will be used, you can start choosing the elements to create the look and feel of your room. And this is only the beginning…
FURNITURE and ACCESSORIES
Furniture options for outdoor rooms are continually being updated and expanded. One of my favorites is the double chaise lounge that has separate backs for flexibility so that one person can be sitting and the other lying down. Sophisticated choices in outdoor furnishings and accessories have transformed the design of exterior spaces to a level that rivals the refinement of a well appointed interior. The limitations of outdoor furnishings of the past have given way to new offerings in wrought and cast aluminum, synthetic wicker, teak, and other sustainably harvested natural woods. Twig furniture lends a country and rustic feeling to a scene. As is always the case, the styles you choose will greatly impact the character of the completed design.
Furniture and fabrics have been re-engineered for durability and colorfastness. Exterior rugs now virtually mimic their interior counterparts, and offer a new element in exterior design. The use of color and pattern for visual pop, coordinating seasonal plantings and containers, the addition of statuary or sculpture, the drama of billowing draperies- all of these elements add to the excitement and endless possibilities for creating an outdoor room. Let your imagination roam!
Photos courtesy of Summer Classics.
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