Outdoor living is one of my all time favorite things. Honestly, I would live in a much warmer climate if I could because I prefer being outside to inside. Our whole family is like this, so when it came to designing our home we incorporated outdoor design ideas as much as possible. Having an outdoor living area is a great way to provide additional space as it becomes an extension of your home. Who wouldn’t want more space to enjoy?
We have learned from renovating so many houses what were necessities to accomplish comfortable spaces that we could use for as many months as possible. Some of these necessities are a pool to refresh in, walls or screens to protect from the elements, large covered decks to keep the outdoor furniture dry, in roof heaters, and of course comfortable furniture.
This month on “The Designing Women Tell All” we are covering outdoor living spaces and as you can guess this topic thrills me. I hope you take a moment to jump on over to each of the members’ posts because they are loaded with so much information.
Who else to learn about designing outdoor spaces other than the great Frank Lloyd Wright. Now this architect truly knew how to build homes that seemed to grow right out of nature. My favorite creation of his is Fallingwater which is pictured below.
Did you know that when Jenna was in her first year in University she was chosen as one of 10 students from around the world who got to study and live at Fallingwater? What an experience that was.
So let’s dive head first into everything to do with outdoor design ideas and creating beautiful outdoor living spaces.
First, let’s cover some basics for creating outdoor spaces.
DETERMINE YOUR THEME AND COLOR SCHEME
Just like the inside of your home, it is important to know what your style is. This style should work with the exterior of your home. So if you have a sleek, ultra modern home, it would not be a good idea to design a Victorian style outdoor area. While that may be your heart’s desire, it will always feel off and it just won’t be as relaxing as it should be. The same would be said for colors – if your home siding is a deep orangey wood stain, you should stay away from colors that wouldn’t look good with this stain such as pink.
A great way to get inspired and create a beautiful outdoor space, is to look at the natural elements around your home and the landscaping. Let Mother Nature inspire you and give you clues to design the most beautiful outdoor space. For example, is your home a pretty little cottage surrounded in wildflowers? This would be perfect place to bring in a bistro set along with wicker furniture.
There is a reason you were drawn to your home and the yard, so embrace it and work with it.
DETERMINE WHAT SPACES YOU NEED
Put on your thinking cap – examine your lifestyle – start writing a wish list of all the things you love to do during the summer.
Are you an avid entertainer and love to cook? Then an outdoor kitchen and dining area is a must.
Do you love to exercise outdoors? Then an outdoor gym or yoga studio could be unique spaces for your lifestyle.
Do you work from home and tired of present workspace? Well then how cool and wonderful would an outdoor office be?
Giving this part of the task great thought can result in your outdoor living space enhancing your life in ways you would never have imagined.
DESIGN, DESIGN, DESIGN!
Take an inventory of your yard, deck or patio. Then start allocating your desired living spaces to those areas.
Define the areas and think of them as different rooms. For example, your outdoor dining area could be defined by a large outdoor rug.
Add curtains for privacy to an area that might be used from reading or intimate conversations.
A line of tall planters with similar plants in each is also a good way of dividing up spaces and creating rooms.
Bring in the proper furniture to make the specific area functional and comfortable, but don’t go overboard. A cluttered space will not help you relax.
Consider a focal point such as a water feature or fire pit, or an interesting birdhouse.
If you are working with a small space, a great way to open it up is to use mirrors. They will reflect back your garden and make if feel more expansive.
If you aren’t much of a green thumb and don’t want to invest in garden tools, you should think about using artificial turf as the base. This will give you the feel of the garden without the maintenance.
Lastly, add the personal elements such as pillows and throws matching your color scheme, flowers, candles, etc.
HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE OUTDOOR LIVING SPACES
We have had every yard you can think of – overgrown ones, flat as a pancake yards, mountain goat steep yards, ones with great views, ones with views we wanted to hide, etc. Also having grown up with a mother who took a barren piece of land and turned it into what most would consider a park, I truly just have it in my blood to create outdoor living spaces.
So after all these years and finally getting to our forever home, here are the living spaces that were most important to us.
This may surprise you but where we live in Canada we have extremely warm summers. We easily hit the high 90’s in the summer months but we can even go as high as 113 F as we did a couple of summers ago. Unless you live on the lake, you are either cooped up in an air-conditioned home or you must have a pool. Every home we have lived in here, with the exception of your lakefront home, always had a pool and they all got so much use!
Design details: Given the slope of our land and the view, we designed an infinity edge pool so that the water in the pool blends into the lake and they appear to reach out to each other. The water runs over the edge and is a gorgeous water feature.
I wanted a beach entry to the pool, however, that takes up a lot of space, is hard to keep clean and did not suit the style of our home. I opted for full width deep stairs and am so happy we went with that because it looks modern yet glamourous. We also included a bump out in the deep end and incorporated long steps. In this area, we wanted those in the pool to have a spot to sit and talk with those who are in the fire pit area or in the hot tub which is adjacent to the pool. It is also a lot of fun to pretend that you are walking down steps and then vanish beneath the water because there are only two steps and then it is directly into the deep end of the pool.
Around the pool, we used the closest version of white concrete that we could get. It is harder to get stark white concrete in our area because they do not have that light colored aggregate for the concrete. I am actually very pleased with how it turned out because it looks like a creamy white natural stone.
Our pool is the focal point of our back yard so it was imperative that we took great care with the design.
SUNKEN FIRE PIT
Something we had not planned on but due to the unbelievably strong winds coming down from the mountain above our property, we built a sunken fire pit with a linear gas fireplace in the alcove in front of our living room. This area is sheltered by the house on three sides and allows us to enjoy the view, relax, and stay warm by the fire late into the evening without being blasted by the wind.
Design details: Bentley constructed the built-in seating and stairs out of wood and then used acrylic stucco for the finish coat. The linear fireplace is finished with black granite.
A few things are still missing such as the stones for the fireplace, the cushions for the seating area and the cover for the whole pit. The stones and the cushions are in the works, but the cover will not be happening because we were quoted $5000!!! No way that is going to happen, so we will have to figure something else out.
While the pool is my favorite outdoor feature, my swing bed is my second favorite. Bentley built this swing which fits a twin sized mattress and honestly the second I get into it, I become relaxed. Any time I feel the stresses of the world landing on my shoulders, I curl up on the swing and rock those worries away. It is also the perfect spot to enjoy a good book.
Design details: The diamond design on the sides and back is Hampton style which goes with the exterior of our home. It was a lot of work, but it is so nice to have something unique and also in keeping with our coastal style.
I love changing out the sheet on the mattress and all the throw pillows and blankets throughout the year. I even use it in the winter. Look how cute it looked all Christmassy!
OUTDOOR DINING ROOM
An outdoor dining area is a must for our family. We start using it in April and while it isn’t warm, we wear jackets and still enjoy dining outside.
Design details: One design feature that makes this space much more useable is the wide-covered decks we have. I was worried originally that the wide low pitched rooflines in this area would make the inside of the house dark but it has not. They are 10 feet high so plenty of light gets in and they do not impede the views.
Don’t forget to make sure you get comfortable seating. While some furniture looks trendy and wonderful, it can be so uncomfortable that you and your guests won’t be able to wait to get out of it.
Here are our must-haves for outdoor furniture:
1. A good sized dining table so that you can fit lots of people around it.
2. A sturdy table that can take the elements. For us the most important thing is that it is heavy or else it will blow away in the strong winds that we get.
3. I chose a table with pedestals in the middle because then you aren’t hitting your legs on the table legs and no one is having to be squished or straddle them.
4. A high back on the chair to provide back support and a good cushion on the seat. Lumbar pillows are also nice to have available for those with back issues.
OUTDOOR LOUNGE AREA
An outdoor lounge area is also something we have enjoyed at many of our homes. Warm summer nights are frequent and I love to sit outside, enjoy the fresh air, watch the lights glisten on the lake and listen to night hawks, crickets and frogs.
Design details: Once again, comfortable furniture is a must if you truly want to relax. Pretty pillows, warm throws, an outdoor fireplace and a coffee table or end tables for resting food and drinks on.
For additional warmth, we incorporated overhead heaters into the ceiling above our lounging area. It has been a clever way to extend our time of enjoying this area right into the winter months!
String lights are also a good idea to provide soft lighting but of course, they also look fabulous!
MOVIES UNDER THE STARS
Watching movies outside is such a favorite of my kids. They love as the cool temps surround them as they are bundled up under blankets enjoying a great movie. For this we built a stand to hold the screen and also purchased an inexpensive projector. Add in a couple of speakers and voila you have wonderful outdoor theater!
Outdoor living spaces are truly meant to be your personal outdoor oasis. It will be your place to connect with nature and unwind from the stresses of life.
I hope that I have given you many outdoor design ideas!
NOW IT IS TIME TO CHECK OUT THE OTHER DESIGNING WOMEN
Sheri from Savvy in the Suburbs is also from Texas owned and operated a successful interior design business for most of her adult life. Now she is enjoying fluffing her own nest, spending time with her family – three married children and five grandchildren, and growing in her relationship with the Lord. As she joyfully enters the last season of her life, she relishs family time and believes in the old adage: God first, family second, all else third. She is enjoying the opportunity to share this truth as well as her years of design expertise and love of all things home. This month Sheri is sharing all her tips on how to create an affordable and comfortable outdoor living area with charm!
Lynn from Living Large in a Small House lives in north central US. Lynn has a BA Interior Design and was the owner of a full-service interior design studio for over 10 years. Specializing in high-end residential new build and renovation interior design, working as a team member with architects and contractors. Since 2000 she has consulted exclusively for friends and family. This month Lynn is sharing all her tips on how to create outdoor living spaces.
Kristy from At Home with Kristy is from Texas is a homebody at heart and very passionate about creating a warm & welcoming home environment for family and friends. Kristy has a BS Interior Design and has worked as an Interior Designer for 35 years specializing in Residential Interior Design. She is a planner, perfectionist, & big picture thinker, but also loves getting lost in the weeds perfecting every detail. Kristy loves sharing her knowledge and expertise to inspire, encourage and empower others. This month Kristy is sharing her outdoor living and entertaining.