20 Outdoor Structures That Bring the Indoors Out

Outdoor structures — from pergolas to outdoor kitchens and fireplaces — can completely transform the look of a deck or patio and turn a seldom used space into a stylish outdoor room.

©Copyright 2009 Mathew Borkoski Photography

Extend Your Home

Think of your outdoor space as an extension of your home. This backyard, designed by Juergen Partridge Limited is an excellent example. Here, a Douglas fir pergola provides structure over the back patio, while the composite decking deck connects the entries of the house acting as an outdoor hallway.

Plan for the Seasons

When it comes to creating an outdoor space, designer Heather Lashbrook Jones of a Blade of Grass Landscape Design says, "Design for all seasons, but always include something exciting for early spring, when you'll likely be starved for color." Heather and her team made this patio a year-round destination with beautiful flowers that spill over the fieldstone walls in spring and summer, as well as a built-in fire pit for the cooler months.

Create an Outdoor Haven

Use your outdoor space as a place to get away from it all. Designer Matt Partridge of Juergen Partridge Limited creates a stunning getaway with a pond surrounded by birch trees, which provide the perfect canvas for showing off the aquatic lighting at night. A small waterfall keeps the water moving to prevent mosquitoes and provide ambient noise. The cedar pergola creates a ceiling above the sitting space, tying the cooking, lounging and walkway from the home together.

Prioritize Your Wants

When planning an outdoor space, think about your lifestyle and how you'll use it — whether as a recreational area for a young, active family or as a private, serene spot for relaxing and reading. Designer Matt Partridge of Juergen Partridge Limited covered all the bases here with multiple structures that provide shady, gathering spots on even the hottest days. To enhance the woodwork, he applied multiple stain colors to the cedar structure and decks.

Use Structures to Define Spaces

Before designer Margie Grace of Grace Design Associates Inc. worked her magic, this area was simply a place for parking cars. Mimicking walls around the perimeter of the property, she built a wall to separate the car park area from the now lush interior courtyard. Century-old salvaged doors lead guests straight to the home's entrance through a garden of easy-to-maintain succulents.

Use Locally Sourced Materials

Whenever possible, use local materials so structures better fit into the natural surroundings. Designer Margie Grace of Grace Design Associates Inc. chose native fieldstone to build this 18-foot-long bench. To create the table, she used an eight-foot-long by three-foot-wide stone slab found on the property. Not only does it reflect the area, but locally sourced materials are also a real money saver.

Be True to the Home's Style

To match the hacienda-style architecture of this home, designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene uses four runnels, commonly found in Spanish architecture, to feed water into the pool. The runnels also help to visually tie the pergola into the pool area for a more harmonious feel.

Bring on the Style

Dining alfresco can be as elegant as indoor dinner parties. Designer Brian Thompson of Thompson Custom Homes creates a rustic outdoor kitchen and dining area complete with chandelier. Blue stone tile grounds the space, while distressed Douglas fir beams on the ceiling and knotty cedar cabinets in the adjacent kitchen give the space a true Old World feel.

Introduce Ambiance

Warm up your patio or deck with a dramatic outdoor fireplace. Designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene creates a 12-foot-long fire trough featuring brilliant blue stones for a splash of color. A built-in bench made of concrete with a stucco veneer is the perfect spot for lounging poolside, while throw pillows in navy-and-white fabrics add comfort and mimic the blue from the fire trough.

Add Some Shade

A classic outdoor structure, the pergola, provides a shaded spot for this seating area. Woody vines are trained over the latticework to create an elegant atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Trex

Create the Unexpected

For this barbeque countertop, designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene had it hand-seeded with a variety of colored glass. The countertop comes alive at night when fiber-optic cables attached to glass pieces throughout create a glittering, glowing effect.

Cozy Conversations

When building an outdoor space, include a conversation area in a "U" or "O" shape anchored by a fireplace, suggests designer Brian Thompson of Thompson Custom Homes. For this outdoor living room, he paired distressed wood beams with muted brick walls for a casual, weathered look.

Break It Up

When designing a large outdoor space, designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene says to break the area into different outdoor rooms. Using a variety of structures, like pergolas, an outdoor kitchen and even a built-in bench, allows Scott to create multiple gathering spots for this family, who loves to entertain.

Design for Nature

Keep the elements in mind when designing for the outdoors. A large awning covers the deck to make the southern-exposed backyard more comfortable during the day, while a tall patinated copper water feature provides a soothing sound to block any outside noises. Plantings are layered to blend into the slope, allowing the property to feel larger. Design by Juergen Partridge Limited

It's All About Balance

For a successful outdoor design, it's important to strike a balance between the hardscape and softscape. "Flowers help to visually cool the area and make it more comfortable," says designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene. Here, the custom stacked stone fireplace is flanked with large flower-filled urns. Hedges and and a lush lawn also soften the space.

Rooms With a View

Designer Heather Lashbrook Jones of a Blade of Grass Landscape Design suggests to prioritize the areas that will be seen the most. From their back windows, the homeowners overlook a lovely bluestone patio so Heather chose to bump up this area's wow factor with low stacked stone walls that define the outdoor living and dining areas. To cozy up the seating area, she added a custom outdoor fireplace constructed of American and Corinthian granite.

Find the Right Materials

Constant exposure to the elements means outdoor structures must be durable as well as beautiful. Here, designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene chose concrete, cast to resemble wood planks, for a sturdy bridge. "Concrete is a terrific material for outdoor design because it needs little maintenance and will look better with age," says Cohen.

Get Creative With Seating

Perfect for entertaining large parties, a built-in bench curves around the entire lower section of the deck. Planter boxes are integrated into the bench, bringing lushness to the deck. A band of composite decking in a different shade visually separates the stacked stone fire pit area. Photo courtesy of Trex

Work With the Strengths

Maximize a property's strongest asset, says designer Margie Grace of Grace Design Associates Inc. like the panoramic vista of this garden. Terracing allows for a low perimeter wall, creating an uninterrupted view.

Imaginative Decking

Leave the standard deck behind, and create a one-of-a-kind design with two-toned boards and circular inlays. Not only do they add visual interest, but they also create defined spots for gathering. Photo courtesy of Trex