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Designing an Outdoor Room

Due to the uncertainty in the real estate market, many clients we work with now choose to expand their current homes, rather than move to a larger house.  Rather than doing a traditional addition, one alternative is to add an outdoor room to your home.  An outdoor room essentially serves two purposes: it is an expansion of living space, and it allows its users to enjoy their outdoors.  This creates a transitional space, one that is part inside, part outside, and that can serve many purposes.

deck3 One of the most common requests we hear in outdoor room design is that clients want a space that will feel comfortable for their immediate family, while also being large enough to entertain.  A great way to fill both these needs is to create a space that is subdivided into various usage zones.  To do this, first decide what usage zones you will need.  Will your outdoor room include an outdoor kitchen?  Then you need a food prep zone.  A fireplace?  Better create a formal sitting area.  Dining table?  Bar counter? Spa?  Water feature?  All of these features will require their own space to enjoy, and should therefore have their own usage zones.

  Next, determine how your zones will interact with each other.  For example, if you are putting in a stone kitchen and want to have an attached bar counter, think about how the bar area will interact with the cooking area.  You may want these areas to have a lot of flow and interaction, so the chef can talk to the guests that have sidled up to the bar.  On the other hand, you may prefer being able to cook in privacy, so your guests won’t steal your grilling secrets.

 Separation between usage zones can take many forms.  If you want a strong separation, that may take the form of a planter or sitting wall that creates an actual physical barrier.  However, if you want to have a clean flow and only minor separation, a purely visual barrier such as a paver or stone inlay could be all that is necessary.

 After arranging your usage zones, the next step in your outdoor room is to define your space.  Some outdoor rooms are very open to the rest of the yard, while others use features such as walls, pergolas, or large plantings to give a stronger boundary definition.   This is where you get the blending of the inside to the outside.  The stronger your boundary definition, the more ‘inside’ it will feel.  Find a mix that makes you feel comfortable, and that compliments the rest of your yard and home.
-Bryan Stolz
Winterberry Gardens Designer