Outdoor Living

Outdoor Rooms

The latest in home and garden fashion

On this page you'll find information on outdoor rooms, including:

Interior decorating is so overrated - exterior decorating is the way to go today. More and more people are discovering the fun of creating an "outdoor home" - and not only that, they're reaping the benefits of having unlimited access to fresh air and sunshine. Outdoor living is slowly becoming the norm - the traditional barbecue area with patio furniture has been transformed into a living and dining area that can rival most indoor rooms.

Whether you're looking for an outdoor kitchen with all the trimmings or a comfortable outdoor bedroom to lounge around in when the sun goes down, outdoor rooms are now stylish, elegant and full of soft fabrics and furniture that seem to look more at home inside than out. Gone are the days when outdoor furniture meant stiff multi-purpose plastic chairs and tables. The fabrics and furniture are made out of weatherproof material that stands up to the worst Mother Nature can throw at us.

Lighting and heating make the room available at any time and in any season. If it's too hot, you can also cool down easily with outdoor cooling accessories. Your outdoor room should be considered as an extension of your house, and when decorating, you should treat it as such.

Determining Zones

When planning your outdoor space, you should think about your backyard as a layout of a home, with different sections representing rooms. For example, most people will go for an outdoor living room. If you want to do that, it should have cooking and lounging zones arranged around a central feature, like an outdoor fireplace. Rooms themselves should have an organic and fluid feel to them, letting people move easily from one area to another.

If you're planning more than one outdoor space, divide your backyard into rooms. You can have an outdoor kitchen, a living room and a bedroom, and you should buy furniture and accessories that are interchangeable with others. For example, if you want to include a daybed in your outdoor living room, it should match the rest of your outdoor furniture . If you want to pull a sofa into the outdoor kitchen, it should look at home there.

Using the Great Outdoors as Inspiration

Your space should reflect the outdoors in which it rests - don't be afraid to pull in elements from your backyard, like plants, trees and sculptures to create a sense of being indoors and outdoors simultaneously. Use flowing materials and bright fabrics to set your mood and make you cheerful even on a rainy day. Make good use of the light in your yard and arrange your furniture so that you can experience nature at all times of the day.

Budgeting for Outdoor Living

Some landscape designers suggest that when making a landscaping plan , the budget for an outdoor space should be up to 10 percent of your home's value, but a lot of people don't have the money or don't feel like spending that much on their backyard. Don't worry - you can still create a great outdoor space without breaking the bank.

  • Try recycling and updating patio furniture found at garage sales - you can spray-paint an old metal chair and table set or refurbish and stain some tired wicker chairs.


  • Sew your own cushion covers, placemats and curtains using weatherproof fabrics found at a big box store.


  • Use found objects to decorate your space. For example, if your family loves the beach, let your children pick out their favorite seashells and rocks to serve as knickknacks on the coffee table.


  • Don't feel like you have to buy everything at once. Buy one piece of furniture and then slowly build on your room from year to year. You can get away with buying discounted outdoor furniture a cheap chiminea and using a barbecue with a few well-chosen outdoor accessories until you can create the space you've been dreaming about.

Outdoor Kitchens

Spicing it up in the open air

We're all familiar with the idea of an outdoor barbecue - it's one of the best ways to enjoy great food and company while soaking up the summer sun. As outdoor rooms become more and more popular, the hub of the household moves outward to become a stylish al fresco dining room.

Outdoor kitchens are becoming one of the most popular options for an outdoor room, and can include anything from a simple built-in barbecue with an elegant dining table or a full outdoor range, including grill and refrigerator, firepit, island and dishwasher. A kitchen of that size can cost up to $20,000, but you'll be guaranteed to cook more outside than you will inside, so it will get a lot of use.

Many people create their outdoor kitchens to be weatherproof replicas of their indoor kitchens, so that means that they'll either build it to be completely open-air or under a shelter. It's best to have some sort of a shelter, like a pergola, so that you and your family can dine in all kinds of weather. A firepit and outdoor heating will allow you to cook and entertain even when the cooler weather comes. Your outdoor kitchen becomes an extension of your house - and a classy one at that.

Outdoor Kitchen Features

Consider what sort of outdoor space you want to create. Do you want your kitchen to be an extension or a part of an outdoor living room? You will need to break your room up into zones - define the seating and cooking areas not only for safety, but also to leave you enough room to cook.

The space where a grill and other appliances will fit into is called a grill island. These also include storage drawers, trash compartments and other spaces for kitchen essentials. You may find that you don't want to buy a grill island, since it can eat up over half your kitchen budget (normally $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the features and space that you want). If you don't, then the appliances themselves will need a space to fit into, which you can build or have built by a general contractor.

To create a basic outdoor kitchen, you will need:

  • A cooking element. This can be a stove, a built-in barbecue, a grill, a pizza oven… whatever you like. The element can include the grill island or simply stand alone.
  • A dining table. You can include this in your cooking area, as a part of the kitchen surface, or have it as a separate item. It can be casual or elegant, depending on your taste.

Other features may include:

  • An outdoor refrigerator - so that you're not running in and out of the house constantly, carrying food or fetching drinks. Most appliances are small and designed to fit in the grill island, but you can find some full-sized fridges.
  • A dishwasher, to circumvent the cycle of carrying dishes to and from the house.
  • Secure cupboards, to store dishes and other non-perishable food.
  • A smoker, rotisserie or oven - if you're truly a gastronome, you might enjoy having other methods to cook food. You don't have to be limited by a grill.
  • Patio heating, lighting and misting - be prepared for all kinds of weather and provide proper heating and cooling for your guests' ultimate comfort using an outdoor heater and mister. The funciton of a mister is to send down a fine sheet of water to cool a hot brow on a humid day. The right sort of patio lighting can set many moods, from energetic to romantic to relaxing.

Outdoor Living Rooms

A place to kick back and enjoy the breeze

Traditional living rooms might bring up thoughts of elegant parlors where furniture was carefully maintained and you weren't allowed to relax. Not so with outdoor living rooms - it's all about comfort, style and relaxation. An outdoor living room should be a space where you and your family can sit and talk after a hard day at work, enjoy a cup of coffee with friends, or take a peaceful nap in the afternoon sunshine. As with outdoor kitchens, the sitting room you create in your backyard should have several key elements in order to match the theme of your yard's decor.

Planning a Room that Rocks

Before, an "outdoor living room" was essentially comprised of a table, perhaps with an umbrella over it, some plastic outdoor chairs and maybe a fold-out chaise by the pool. Now, your outdoor sitting area can go as far as to reflect your indoor living room, with comfortable chairs, sofas, tables, electronics and even a fireplace. The outdoor great room, as it were, is a place to relax and entertain in all seasons, and can really add to the value of your home. The next question is: what features do you want in your outdoor living room?

Heating and Cooling

If you want to entertain year-round, the central point of your room should be some sort of heat source. This can mean a campfire-style firepit, or you can go as far as to install an outdoor fireplace that looks like it belongs inside a comfortable indoor drawing room. Whatever you choose, it should throw enough heat so that the person farthest away from the element can feel warm. If you're interested in cooling techniques for those hot summer nights, you can install a misting system, much like they have at amusement parks, that will send down a fine sheet of mist to cool you and your guests when the weather is sweltering.

Furniture Choices

When choosing furniture for an outdoor living room, you don't have to settle for molded plastic garden furniture that not only looks drab, but feels uncomfortable too. Today's outdoor furniture choices are sumptuous, comfortable and covered in bright, stylish weatherproof fabric that will delight the eyes and repel the elements. Cluster them companionably around your outdoor fireplace or create groups of tables, chairs and sofas that serve different purposes, be it for lounging in front of the TV or chatting with friends.

Lighting

In an indoor living room, lighting is as simple as turning on a lamp when evening gets dim, but when darkness falls outside, your standard porch light isn't quite going to cut it. Luckily, there are many options for outdoor lighting that will set the mood and still keep it bright enough to see your guests. If you're worried about your electric bill you can choose to use outdoor solar lights or use battery-operated lighting. If electricity consumption isn't a problem for you, there are several options that will make your whole room glow.

Many people like recessed or tile lights that create an ambient glow from the floor. Others will buy outdoor light fixtures that actually resemble indoor lamps to set on tables, or use spotlighting on their pergola or shelter, and those who don't want to spend the money may just use candles. The kind of lighting you choose is up to you. Remember, the right lighting can help your outdoor room look just as amazing at night as it does in the daytime.

Outdoor Electronics

What do you use your living room for? If it's a place to listen to music or watch the game, then what you see inside should be replicated outside. Outdoor speakers, TVs and the furniture to contain them are now on the market and ready to be installed in your outdoor room. Speakers are made of heavy-duty aluminum that will stand up to the weather, so you won't have to worry about your sound shorting out in a sudden storm. Wireless TVs allow you to kick back with the guys and enjoy the game in the fresh air. When building your outdoor living room, the sky is literally the limit.

Play Areas

Bringing the playroom outside

We've all heard it said - today's children don't spend enough time outside. With the rise of technology and interactive toys designed to increase our children's knowledge, we've tended to neglect their physical play, which has led to an increase in obesity. Luckily, there's a way to reverse this process while still giving kids a great place to play and learn. Building kids an outdoor play area lets them run around and have fun while still being able to take their more delicate inside toys safely out.

An outdoor play area, like an outdoor room itself, combines the essence of an indoor room with the splendor of a garden. It can run the gamut from a simple swing set to a miniature castle complete with slides, bridges and rock-climbing walls. Kids' play spaces don't just include physical activities - they can incorporate an outdoor theater for puppet shows, a shaded craft area for indulging in art and even a clubhouse for sleepovers.

Creating Outdoor Enchantment

The best way to start planning a child's outdoor play area is to ask the child what he or she would like to play with. Children's play spaces should reflect who they are and what they like to do. Next, consider your budget. You can easily build a child's wonderland for a few thousand dollars, but beware of little embellishments that can drive the price up. Some of the most interesting play spaces look beautiful and are literally a dream come true, but you'll be paying big bucks for that hard-to-find paint color or that Dutch door.

When it comes to decorating, you can:

  • Keep it simple and incorporate special things your child loves. Found objects, like shells, rocks and decorations can really personalize a special place.
  • Create a theme in the play zone, using your child's favorite colors and things to do. Include some surprises, like a secret escape door or a special hiding place.
  • Use non-toxic and edible plants to add organic elements around the play structure and to let your child learn and explore through sight, taste and touch. Create a vegetable garden to teach responsibility and instill a sense of pride in helping to grow food for the family.
  • If you choose to include a formal craft area, also add items like a sandbox or water table so that children can explore and create with natural elements.
  • Add fun paths leading to the zone using stepping stones or other ground decals shaped like animal footprints for an interesting touch, or let your child choose his or her own stepping stones to create a secret path to the "castle."
Safety Concerns

Children's play spaces should be safe places to play, first and foremost. At least 6 to 12 feet of room should be left around the play area so that kids have enough space to swing and jump without bashing into obstacles. If you're building a playhouse, it's best to leave at least half an inch of space around all doors and shutters, so that little fingers don't get pinched, and railings should be properly spaced so that kids won't get caught. For most play structures, there are safety regulations that must be followed. In fact, it might be a good idea to hire a licensed contractor to build your play structures so that you can ensure that the work is done correctly.

There are several options for groundcover underneath the play structures. Some people prefer sand or soft wood chips, like cedar or pine, which will absorb water and create a soft landing for the bottom of the slide or underneath the monkey bars. Other, more expensive options include rubber matting or poured rubber tiles. Remember, no surfacing material is completely safe, but it will help to cushion a fall or a hard landing. Never install loose surfacing material over asphalt or cement.

It goes without saying that when you're building a play structure, non- toxic paint and stain should be used. If you use pressure-treated wood, it should be left to season over a year before painting.

Outdoor Bedrooms

Sleeping stylishly under the stars

Eating and lounging outdoors are recent modern trends, but what about sleeping al fresco as well? We've all experienced the joys of camping, but today's outdoor bedrooms are much more elegant than a pup tent pitched in the mud. Daybeds, fluttering curtains and unobscured views of nature's most beautiful moments make up an outdoor bedroom, and for those who have the space and privacy to pull it off, it also makes for a very romantic interlude.

Outdoor bedrooms haven't really caught on for overnight sleeping; rather, they're another place to lounge informally after a big dinner or during a hot afternoon. One of the reasons for this is the fact that it's hard to be private when you're in an open backyard, fenced or not. People who use their outdoor bedrooms to actually spend the night normally put them on top of roof terraces or in secluded spots in their backyard.

Pros and Cons of Outdoor Sleeping

As the outdoor room trend catches on, the pros and cons of having an outdoor bedroom become more prevalent. Some of the benefits include:

  • An unlimited supply of fresh air, which is known to help a person sleep better, which can lead to stress relief.
  • Another place to lounge more comfortably with friends.
  • An extension of your outdoor kitchen or lounge - another zone of your "outdoor home," thus bringing even more value to your house.
  • A place to relax when life gets busy and tough - many people use their outdoor beds to relax in the hot summer sunshine.

As with any outdoor room, you may have to deal with the weather and other annoyances, which could influence your decision to spend money on potentially expensive accessories for your backyard. These annoyances include:

  • Lack of climate control - when it's sweltering, there really isn't a way to control the temperature so that it's comfortable enough for sleeping, and if you want to use the bedroom in the winter, you'll need some heavy-duty patio heating, and even then it might not be the safest idea to sleep in the cold.
  • Sacrificing comfort for durability - many of the outdoor daybeds on the market are made of fabric and material that will stand up to the weather, which is great for preserving your investment. However, for some products, you are essentially paying for a glorified lawn chaise, since the beds are constructed very much on the level of these types of furniture. You may find that the bed you paid over $1,000 for is not as comfortable as you thought it would be.
  • Expensive - outdoor furniture manufacturers are cashing in, and outdoor bedroom furniture is no exception.

Don't let this stop you from planning an outdoor bedroom, though - it doesn't have to be huge or expensive. Many people get away with setting an outdoor daybed, maybe with billowing mosquito netting curtains, for less than $2,000, and it's a great add-on to an elegant outdoor lounge. Think of it as a sleepover situation - when you're finished with your more formal chatting on your chairs and sofas, you can cuddle up on the daybed with a few candles to relax in a more intimate setting.

Features of an Outdoor Bedroom

Depending on the size and budget for your outdoor sleeping area, you can get anything from a simple daybed resembling a pool chaise or go all out with a daybed, pergola, nightstand, curtains and accessories like wind chimes. The decor will reflect the personality of the owner. If he or she wants to create an island oasis, the room will be airy with lots of mosquito netting. If a cozier mood is desired, then the bed will be sheltered with light wooden or fabric walls and a canopy to protect the sleepers.

Whether you choose to sleep outdoors overnight is up to you, but creating a napping area for somnolent summer afternoons is something everyone will appreciate, from your toddler to your spouse.