Essentials for Creating a Beautiful Outdoor Room

Whether you're entertaining or catching up on some R&R, there are certain aspects of an outdoor room that can make it that much more enjoyable. Check out our must-haves to make your space the most lived-in room outside the house.
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November 25, 2014

Photo By: Sandy Koepke

Bring the Indoors Out

While it's important to make sure your outdoor room is protected from potentially harsh weather conditions, it should ultimately feel like an extension of your home's interior. In her Spanish-inspired outdoor living room, Carole Meyer brought all the coziness of an interior living space onto her patio by incorporating rich wood furnishings, artwork, plush fabrics and accessories. A wood-beamed ceiling and breezy white draperies keep everything protected, while still offering all the comfort and luxury of a living room. She didn't skimp on a single detail either — there's a daybed, fireplace and dining table perfect for intimate gatherings.

Colorful, Culinary Delight

When it's time to entertain outdoors, nothing is more convenient than a kitchen just feet away from your dining space. Fully equipped with sinks, stovetops and plenty of countertop space for cooking, outdoor kitchens are almost as inclusive as your typical indoor kitchen. Designer Ashley Astleford even took it a step further in this Mediterranean kitchen by adding a full-sized Big Chill refrigerator (in a luscious hue of hot pink, I might add). It adds to the colorful, eclectic palette of the room, but ultimately the piece makes a bright and bold statement of its own. Design by Ashley Astleford

Stylish and Private

Depending on how close your home is to your neighbors, privacy screens may be an important investment, especially if you frequently entertain or use your outdoor space often. When updating this spacious back deck, designer John Gidding made the homeowners' privacy a top priority by installing a tall, vertical screen with shelves behind an entertaining lounge area. The screen offers shade and keeps the space open but blocks views from surrounding homes. Plus, its architectural build adds a cool and contemporary design statement to the space.

Incorporate Nature

No outdoor room is complete without a bit of lush landscaping, but designer Jamie Durie took it to the next level when he incorporated a vertical garden full of edible plants onto the sides of this dining pergola. The homeowners wanted an urban garden where they could eat what they grow, along with a sustainable design with a contemporary edge. This outdoor dining area is the perfect space for entertaining guests, but still incorporates the productivity the homeowners desire. Plus, the vertical garden creates a wall of privacy that makes the dining experience even more intimate and secluded from the rest of the yard. A vertical garden also makes outdoor dining more interactive, too — if your food needs a bit more flavor, just pick off a few leaves from one of the many garden offerings.

Weather-Friendly Furnishings

No matter where you live, your outdoor space is going to succumb to harsh weather conditions year round, whether it's rain, direct sunlight or even snow. For HGTV Dream Home 2012's outdoor living room, designer Linda Woodrum furnished the space with a trio of sturdy, solid aluminum loveseats with cushions made of stain-, mold- and mildew-resistant fabric. To break up the neutral palette, Linda used blue-and-white quilted pillows, the same fabric selection from inside the home's great room. They add a touch of color and designer appeal but can easily be brought inside if the weather takes a turn.

Fireside Appeal

It's true: An outdoor room wouldn't be entirely complete without a fireplace or fire pit. It's practical if you like to entertain in the winter, but becomes the perfect accompaniment to summer entertaining, too. You can gather guests around for s'mores in the warmer months or just enjoy the crackle of the fire in the background. Designer Jane Frederick made a traditional brick fireplace the focal point of her outdoor space by centering the seating area around it. With this arrangement it's easy for guests to enjoy the warmth from January to December. Photo courtesy of Jane Frederick

In the Shade

An outdoor room is more enjoyable when it's shaded from those blaring UV rays, particularly during the summer months. In this dining and lounge area, designer Jamie Durie took inspiration from the peaceful Amangiri Resort located in the desert of Southern Utah to create these simple and contemporary canvas shades. The thick blue fabric completely blocks the sun from the sunken dining area but keeps the views unobstructed and the space entirely open. Jamie even took cues from the ultramodern resort to create a framing effect using the patio columns to make the views even more picturesque.

Year-Round Love

If you plan on seriously using your outdoor room year round, then make sure your space has all the seasonal essentials that will keep you and your guests cozy during the winter and summer months. HGTV fan Curly888 made her spacious, covered gazebo ready for multi-seasonal use by offering a fireplace, ceiling fan, two sofas, a mounted TV and surround sound. Now, no matter what time of year it is, people can comfortably stay warm or cool and happily entertained, too.

Whimsical Atmosphere

Candles, potted plants, blooming flowers and a tea-light privacy screen create an atmosphere ideal for summertime dining. Designer Sandy Koepke decorated a rustic iron trellis with hanging flowerpots, a two-tiered iron chandelier and miniature LED string lights woven throughout the trellis and landscaping to create a whimsical outdoor dining experience. Whether guests are being entertained during the day or at night, the surrounding landscape and inspired environment will instantly bring the space to life. To get the look, mix a zinc-topped table, outdoor-friendly antique chairs and set up an eclectic display of potted plants and tea-light candles. Photography by Jennifer Cheung

Soothing Sounds

A water feature is a great enhancement for a relaxing outdoor space environment. If your outdoor room is often used as a tranquil spot, then a pond, waterfall or bubbling fountain can only increase the serenity. "A water element can take many forms and serve many purposes," says Greg Schaumburg of Hursthouse Landscape Architects & Contractors. "In the quiet hours, a sheer water weir transforms this spa into a decorative fountain, providing the gentle sounds of rushing water into the night air." A low-standing pergola, accentuated landscape lighting and lush greenery provide the perfect environment for a spa water feature that all seemingly transform at night into a more romantic and elegant environment. Photo courtesy of Hursthouse Landscape Architects & Contractors

Rooftop Relaxation

If your home allows, double your outdoor living by taking it onto the roof. Designer Sarah Richardson wanted views of the ocean from the master suite at her summer home, so she installed a door leading out to a stunning rooftop deck. Now she has plenty of lounge chairs for her family and guests to soak up the views and catch some rays. This is the perfect amount of space for small, casual gatherings that may extend beyond the larger outdoor space below.

A Space of Its Own

When creating the ultimate outdoor room (his own!), designer Jamie Durie used his home as inspiration by literally flipping it inside-out. His backyard is now complete with an outdoor bedroom, bathroom, dining room and kitchen. Much like a home's interior, though, Jamie made sure each space was clearly defined and followed a working floor plan; the dining room and kitchen are side-by-side, as well as the bathroom and bedroom. This dining room is just as extravagant as an indoor one, too. Jamie added a modern, recessed fireplace, George Nelson bubble lamps and a spacious U-shaped booth and dining table below a wooden pergola that's perfect for poolside entertaining.

Perfect Seating

A spacious sectional is ideal for an outdoor room that will see plenty of guests throughout the year, but nothing is more perfectly suited for a seaside living space than a hand-woven hammock chair made for one. This classic outdoor furnishing is natural, breezy and easy to maintain in the off months. Plus, it adds such a whimsical effect to the space in the company of recycled exotic hardwood floors and a shaded straw covering. It's important to have expansive seating when hosting large groups, but it's always nice to have that one spot that's all your own, too. Design by Luis Caicedo

It's All in the Lighting

Electrical lighting may be necessary at night, but why not add a bit of elegance to your outdoor space with a more natural light source, too? "Floating votive candles add an intimacy in detail and lighting not found in electrical light sources," says Greg Schaumburg of Hursthouse Landscape Architects & Contractors. "Here, floating votive candles in a simple copper basin recirculate water and provide a courtyard centerpiece." This enchanting look is perfect for a summertime soiree or an elegant outdoor dinner party. Photo courtesy of Hursthouse Landscape Architects & Contractors

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