Welcome to my home…………my second home. No, it’s not in a second location, it’s just right outside my back door! 

Who doesn’t want more living space?  If you have maxed out your space inside, make a room outside. 

This blog will walk you through what I think are the essentials for creating spaces – outside.    

Your outdoor spaces, or rooms, should be an extension of your indoor living spaces. Walking out the back door into a totally different style can make your overall design feel disjointed as a whole. So, when you are designing an outdoor room, start on the inside and make your way out. When you are entertaining, and you leave the doors open, if people naturally flow into your outdoor spaces, we’ve done our job correctly. 

Doug and I reside on an acreage, so we have room to create spaces, and we have done this over the years for a couple reasons. 

  1. We entertain a lot, and;
  2. We are getting lazier as we get older and it’s less to mow and maintain.

However, the smallest of spaces can be amazing if done right and designed well. There is nothing magical about the size of the space, it is what you do with it.  

Just as if you were creating a room inside, the same fundamentals apply outdoors. 

  • Lay Your Ground and Define the Floor
  • Add Walls
  • Add a Ceiling
  • Furnish
  • Light It Up
  • Accessorize

Lay Your Ground and Define the Floor

Decide what you want to do with the space, how you want to live or entertain in it. For example, is this a spot for you to sit and relax with a cup of coffee, celebrate with a glass of champagne…

…or do you want to have a sit-down dinner for 20. 

Obviously, the latter will require some additional space. Once you have decided what the space is used for, define the floor. There are so many materials available to do this with: concrete, stone, pea gravel, or even an outdoor rug on grass can ground the room as long as your base is level. 

Add Walls

Next, frame in your space by adding “walls.” There must be something that says, “this is where the room ends” to create a sense of enclosure. So, funny story………. a long time ago, we added shorter brick pillars and a fence all the way around our patio primarily for the dogs. We anxiously awaited the pillars to be done and the fence to go up, so when it happened, we let the pup out to give it a try, and with no effort, he leaped over the fence and took off. All we could do is think – “well that was money well spent!”  We finally succumbed to the fact that we needed a property fence all the way around our property that was a “no joke” iron fence, but what would we do with the pillars? Well, we ripped out the fence and planted hedges – guess what this turned into- walls! This happy mistake turned into one of my favorite spots.

Walls are just barriers that help define spaces, they can be many things – think beyond the stand idea of wall and there are endless possibilities. They can be low which can draw the eye up, or tall to conceal what’s behind. 

I have a client that we enclosed a small space with trellis grid panels and planted vines. In no time she created a space for a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine, without having to share it with the neighbors. When you define your floor and shift to the walls, think outside the box just as long you have some vertical component. Examples of this are: 

  • A railing
  • A hedge
  • Metal sculpture
  • Shrubs
  • Knee wall of stone or brick
  • Tree line
  • Wood fence or segment of a fence
  • A series of brick columns that your dog laughed at and jumped over

Add a Ceiling

Now for topping things off. In areas where possible, add a ceiling. A pergola with vines is a great way to shade an outdoor space.  It will filter light from above, but also adds the structure to add light or fixtures underneath.  If a pergola is not an option, you can do an awning or something as simple as an outdoor umbrella to cap off a small space – or all of the above in different areas. 

           

         

Furnish

Furnish as you would Indoors. Most well-done outdoor rooms have as much furniture as their indoor siblings. Add a fire table, fireplace or fire pit, get enough comfortable seating and add additional places to sit like stools, poufs, etc. Place enough tables for landing spots for drinks and food. A buffet or console table can act as the perfect serving center.  

If you have a spot, build in a bar top. I use mine for every party we have, spring, summer, winter or fall. 

Most importantly mix it up. Mix textures, concrete, wood, metal, fabric, even rocks.

 

Don’t buy a room full of lightweight matching furniture from a big-box store. First of all, it will blow away, and second, it’s boring – and life is too short for boring. Mix up materials and fabric patterns for interest. 

 

 

Light It Up

Lighting is crucial no matter inside or out. Lighting can kill the design or impact it. Would you design a room inside and not include lighting? Nope – then don’t do it outside. It provides both function and ambiance.

Here are some tips:

I found a metal chandelier shell and I placed it over my outdoor dining table.  If I am going more formal for a dinner I can wrap it with lights, if we are doing a more picnic style I can hang mason jars with candles inside, and if we are hosting a more intimate party we can just add lamps for ambiance and skip overhead lighting. 

Under my pergola, however, I strung outdoor bulbs.

With a flip of the switch my patio is lit up and ready for guests at any time (please call first 😊).

In another area, we bought some fun lights and converted them to plug ins. When we want the space lit for the night, we simply hang them from the awning and run a hidden extension cord up to them. No one knows they are not permanent (well… now they do). 

     No lights in the ceiling – Poof…lights in the ceiling 

 

So, don’t over think it and have fun with it. We have great options for outdoor lamps such as rechargeable torch lights that can go directly in the ground or in a pot and battery charged candles that never blow out in the wind. 

Accessorize

Last but certainly not least – finish the space off and show the world who you are and what you love. You wouldn’t leave an indoor room with no personality, so why would you leave an outdoor room wanting more?  Add these-

Outdoor Art

       

Mirrors

Sculptures

         

Whimsical Accents

Outdoor Pillows…

…or throws for chilly fireside nights (or to shield summer mosquitoes), and planters. We just happen to have all these great outdoor options available at Lee Douglas Interiors. Some are even in-stock and ready to take home today. Finishing a space right can make it interesting and dynamic.

So, there are my thoughts, and if all this sounds like way more than you want to take on or deal with, call us.  We would love to create a space that you love, hang out in, and makes all your neighbors envious!

If you are ready to make changes to your outdoor rooms, I have created a list of outdoor room questions you can download  (Outdoor Rooms Questions) and answer. Fill it out and bring into any of our stores and allow us to help you create the outdoor rooms of your dreams.

Read more from this series: 

An Interior Designer’s Home – Entryways

An Interior Designer’s Home – Dining Room

An Interior Designer’s Home – Laundry Room/Closet 

An Interior Designer’s Home – Bathroom 

An Interior Designer’s Home – Bedroom