Outdoor Rooms Add Livable Space

Spend less money on vacations and more time with friends and family on your deck or patio.


Photo courtesy of Marrokal Design and Remodeling

Photo courtesy of Marrokal Design and Remodeling
By: Jeannie Matteucci

Sometimes you need to get away from everything. And if the thought of one more rushed trip to the airport has you tied up in knots, consider a wonderful alternative: adding an outdoor room to your yard. Whether you want a fun playspace, an outdoor kitchen where you can channel your inner chef, an open-air living room made for entertaining or just need a quiet spot to chat or read, outdoor rooms can change the way you use your home and give you a user-friendly spot for the perfect staycation.

"I find these spaces are utilized a lot," reports Steven Mark, CGBP, CAPS, a designer with Marrokal Design & Remodeling. "The feedback from my clients is: 'Wow, I can't believe we didn't do this sooner. And now we spend so much time outdoors.'"

Now is the time to create your fantasy fresh-air destination. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, the entire outdoor "leisure lifestyle" category is now a $6.2 billion industry.

There are all kinds of new products devoted to outdoor living. The simple barbecue grill is no longer just about gas or charcoal; you can now feature high-end appliances that include a cast-iron wok, griddle, pizza oven or rotisserie system.

There are stylish umbrellas and awnings for providing shade, energy efficient lighting solutions for illumination, hearth products that allow you to live outdoors more often, and waterproof TVs and wireless speakers that bring indoor leisure activities outside.

Livable Outdoor Spaces
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The growing interest in outdoor living just makes sense. Outdoor rooms make your home feel more spacious and create designated areas that enhance the enjoyment of your property. An outdoor room can be an extension of your house or an inviting spot off in a quiet corner of your yard.

15 Outdoor Rooms for Entertaining

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You can add a series of outdoor rooms, each with a specific purpose and unique feel. Consider what you want to create and how you plan to use your outdoor room. Like rooms inside, you want to give thought to things like circulation, picking the right furniture, incorporating accessories to add color and personality to the space, and important basics like lighting needs.

Unlike the indoors, you also need to consider issues like sun and wind exposure, as well as how you can integrate your outdoor room with your landscaping. Think about all your options and dream big. Put away the passport and get busy creating the perfect outdoor room that makes your home feel like a resort destination.


Photo courtesy of Napoleon

Photo courtesy of Napoleon

Outdoor Rooms for Gathering and Entertaining

Having an outdoor space where you can socialize is a wonderful addition to any property. When you move the party outdoors, everyone tends to relax and you don't have to worry about spilled drinks or plates of food ending up on your floor and furniture inside.

For many, a grill is the essential component for entertaining outdoors. You can choose a portable, pedestal, drop-in or custom site-built grill. You can go with gas, charcoal or a hybrid grill that offers the best of both worlds.

There are other options, including pellet grills and smokers, or you can combine your grill with a pizza oven. Increasingly popular, pizza ovens are now used for much more than pizza: think cedar plank salmon, braised vegetables or bananas Foster. When choosing a pizza oven for your outdoor kitchen, Jeff Dunkin, a residential sales representative for Wood Stone Home, says look for an oven with a single cast floor and dome roof that is easy to assemble, durable and conducts heat well.

But think beyond the grill or oven. A well-appointed outdoor kitchen allows you to create a full meal outside, eliminating trips inside for supplies. Surround your grill or oven with weather-resistant concrete, stainless steel or stone counters. Choose a durable flooring, like concrete or slate, that complements your home.

Include good task lighting above cooking and prep areas, and add an outdoor bar with comfy stools. Make the bar self-sufficient with a built-in sink, wine chillers, keg taps and ice maker. Wireless stereo speakers and a waterproof outdoor TV with anti-glare screen lets guests enjoy their favorite music or catch the big game.

Create a Space for Outdoor Dinning

An adjacent outdoor dining room is perfect for enjoying food prepared outside. Ideally you want a location that is upwind from the smoke and fumes from the grill.

Outdoor Dining Essentials

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Include a large single table or multiple smaller tables that give you flexibility for extra guests. Use outdoor cushions and pillows to make dining chairs or benches comfortable. Illuminate the space with a beautiful chandelier, a string of lights added to a shade umbrella, lanterns or protected candles on the table. Place your outdoor dining table inside a cabana with drapes you can open or close or include patio heaters to keep guests warm on chilly nights.

Design an Outdoor Living Room

After dinner, move the party to your outdoor living room. Set up a seating area with an outdoor sofa and chairs on a deck, patio or even an area of grass.

Create a focal point by including a two-sided fireplace or seating around a built-in firepit. Use hedges, fences and the outside walls of your home to help define the space and provide privacy. Create a "ceiling" by including an overhead structure, like a pergola, shade arbor or solid roof. An overhead structure allows for extras like ceiling fans that make the space comfortable.

Outdoor Spaces: Max Livability
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Consider These Design Ideas for Entertaining

  • If you lack the space for a fireplace or large fire pit, a portable chiminea can keep guests warm on cool nights.
  • Low retaining walls and built-in planters can provide extra seating for large gatherings.
  • Market umbrellas and retractable awnings provide shade but also offer flexibility when you or your guests want to enjoy the sun.
  • Use accessories like flowers and throws to add color and personality to your fresh-air living space.


Photo courtesy of Cedarworks

Photo by: Sean Carnell

Sean Carnell

Photo courtesy of Cedarworks

Outdoor Rooms for Playing

There was a time when "backyard recreation" meant turning on sprinklers and letting the kids go wild. But the concept of outdoor playrooms has evolved, and now some yards are virtual amusement parks designed to offer something for all members of the family. From putting greens and playhouses to game courts and sandboxes, homeowners are creating outdoor spaces to play, relax and engage imaginations.

Play structures now come in all kinds of configurations. Swings, slides and ladders are the most popular components. Bridges, rock walls and rope ladders are a few of the other options. There is also a wide variety of forts, treehouses and magical playhouses that give kids their own space to play.

Make your child feel special by including a personalized mailbox. Flagpoles, flower boxes and personalized signs are other nice additions.

If your kids love soccer and want to practice at home, choose a grassy location a bit of distance from the house to avoid errant balls breaking windows.

Durable turf grasses like Perennial Ryegrass and Bermuda grass are good choices for recreational lawns. Inflatable kiddie pools are an old standby that help beat the heat, and now you can find them shaped as castles and pirate ships.

For the adults, a bocce ball court surrounded by plantings can be an attractive addition to a formal backyard. A patio or terrace is a great location for table tennis or a waterproof outdoor pool table. If you have a large lawn free of tree roots or holes, you can use the space for croquet or quick pickup games of flag football. When you host large parties, use the same grass playroom as a spot for extra tables and chairs.

Consider These Tips for Creating a Playspace

  • Use play-grade shredded bark or rubber mulch to create a soft floor for outdoor play structures.
  • Fill sandboxes with filtered and cleaned fine-grain play sand that is easy on the skin and won't stain clothes.
  • A butterfly or organic veggie garden planted next to a child's play structure gives little ones a chance to learn about nature.
  • Outdoor dining tables can do double duty as game tables on a porch or patio.
  • Combine a grassy area for games with a concrete patio for riding bikes.
  • A removable teepee is great for outdoor sleepovers or reading time, while kid-size tables and chairs with an umbrella for shade are ideal for doing art projects or playing table games outside.

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