The space outside your home is becoming just as important as the living areas inside. We are designing more outdoor kitchens and living/play areas than ever before. We thought it would be great to share some of the concepts we work with every day when designing an outdoor space.

Space…Lighting Accents…Fire…Water…Shade…
and the paths to get you there.

Make the exterior room a transition to the interior room

We’ve all seen the beautiful doors that fold open all the way and open up to the outside. These are great on the west coast where mosquitos are minimal and weather cooperates, but can you imagine doing that here in Nebraska? You would use it occasionally at best, be miserably hot and bitten by every insect known to mankind. That effect can be achieved in any region by paying attention to how your interior connects to your exterior. Having an exit that is comfortable coming through or that you can leave open for parties or gatherings in cooperative weather is the ticket. Make your outdoor space easily accessible to indoor rooms. When I set up a party in our outdoor space, this slider connects the inside to the outside. If weather permits, the door is left open and it turns into one big gathering.

Create a variety of Spaces

I love having different gathering spots. Some people land where there is a table, others want to lounge, some want to hang at a bar, etc. Think about when you have a party or entertain indoors and all the settings or spaces people land in….go outside and repeat.


Set up intimate spaces for coffee or friends that want quiet conversation. Even at some of my loudest parties, there are people who become acquainted and want to chat (buzz kills).

Everyone loves the bar! I have this right outside my patio door which is directly off my front foyer. When I am entertaining, this is always set up…winter, summer, spring or fall. Welcome them and show them to the bar. When people feel at home they can relax and settle in. For a dinner party the bar is just what you need. However, for a large gathering, add troughs, rolling bar carts etc. and it can service the masses. Bars are easy to find a place for and I would encourage all of you to do that or call me and I’ll find a place and the appropriate material for it.
I just remodeled a patio that had one of those monster hot tubs outside their basement door. We kicked that to the curb because they used it twice a year. In its place, we built a two-level bar with a built-in trough for keeping drinks cool, a mini fridge underneath, cabinets for storage, etc. They are out there every night. Look for opportunities such as this for new spaces.

Create pockets for conversation pits. This area always has 4-8 people hanging there chatting it up. Stools, benches, etc. will be grabbed and added to the seating for a great space.

Areas for dining that are just like inside your home are so useful and fun. I use my more formal spot for dinner parties, while my casual space is bar height on one side and table height on the other. “Business in the front, party in the back”!! I love this space because my mom who is older can feel comfortable in the dining chair while there are people that want to just grab a bar stool for some nash- but they all end up talking and becoming best of friends.


I love creating spaces in the yard. This is not so much for entertaining because people rarely wander there, but let’s face it- it’s for looks. It’s like having great coffee table books for the pictures. These spaces are charming and quiet and add to your outside settings. Here is one of my rules – put settings in places that you would sit and have something beautiful to look at. Don’t put chairs facing the driveway or street. There has to be something you want to look at.




Finally add accessories, outdoor art and punches of color just like you would inside. I have this extremely heavy marble vase outside. When we water (actually when Doug waters), he keeps this full. On the weekends, one of my favorite things to do is grab coffee in the am, wander the yard (or my neighbor’s – thanks Bob and Lisa) and grab great flowers, vines, leaves, branches, etc. I love seeing this vase outside filled and luscious.
Grab accents such as sculpture, indoor/outdoor rugs and pillows, umbrellas, or weatherproof architectural items and add to your settings. This can make a space feel dynamic, interesting and full of texture & color.

Lighting


Lighting can make or break the mood, just like inside. Party starts…..sun goes down…….party over. Fire light, lamp light or overhead light can keep the party goin’. Where there is an overhead opportunity, use overhead lighting.
However, remember if you are having a function- throw a lamp on an end table outside. That can be really cute and make people relax and hang out. You can also choose to do the yard stakes with citronella oil. This can serve as double-duty with mosquitos and bugs. Just don’t neglect lighting in your setting.

Fire


Everyone loves having a fire as the focus of the setting. People settle in, curl up, hang out and sometimes never leave (caution). Fires are getting as easy as pushing the remote. We sell great fire pits that hook to gas, wood burning troughs and we design built-in units that are hard wired and plumbed for easy on and off. We have made them from stone, concrete, steel etc. and they never disappoint.

Water


Water features, ponds and waterfalls = serenity. There is something to be said about having a stress-filled day and coming home to the sound of water. We literally spend time at our pond/waterfall every night. It is essential to our peace of mind. Doug has raised koi fish from babies and they feed from his hand. Having this retreat has saved my life and frankly others’ lives.

Water features can be small and simple or massive with boulders and falls. They can be really modern or rustic in appearance. Let us help you design the one that fits your look and your budget.

Shade

20 degrees cooler in the shade-
Nothing is worse than going to a party, finding out it’s outside and sweat is running down your back as you’re downing that pulled pork sandwich – now that’s a drag. Make sure your spaces have shade, trees, pergolas, drapes, umbrellas, etc. Pay attention to where the light is landing, at what time and have a plan. The drapes on my patio stay open until needed. When people are dining, and the sun starts to set, I can pull them across and it creates a whole new atmosphere and feel.

Patience is not one of my virtues, but doing a pergola, planting vines and ivy to fill in and shade is one of my favorite things. We finished this one last year for a client and it is as functional as beautiful. Our client wanted clotheslines on the structure and you can’t even tell they are there. Combining beauty and function is always a win!

Paths


Paths can lead the way. Just like how lanes are painted on the streets, paths can make you go a direction or make going there easier! They do more than help you find your way however, they encourage you to roam, discover and explore. You can rock a path for that European feel, do structured angular stone or concrete for a more modern look or land somewhere in between. Pavers or mulch work well too. Lay a path down for function and branch off of that in your yard and to other areas of interest.
I hope you are inspired…. inspired to get outside, design some spaces, add more interest and frankly more square footage to your home. An outside done right can be a retreat, a party room and an adventure – let the adventure begin.

– Lorele