Outdoor Living Grows in Popularity
The backyard is at the heart of a trend growing in North America by leaps and bounds: the development of the outdoor room. As interest in this concept continues to grow, hearth, patio and barbecue manufacturers are developing stylish, full-featured products that enhance the comfort, convenience and pleasure of entertaining in the backyard (or front and side yards) no matter the climate. The result is backyard living spaces comparable in design and construction to indoor family rooms or great rooms. The only difference between the outdoor room and the great room are the walls, and the sun and starts overhead. The basic, accessorized backyard patio has now blossomed into fully furnished, and intentionally constructed, living space designed as an extension of a home’s interior spaces.
The Outdoor Room Basics
If you have a yard, a roof top deck or even a small patio, it’s easy to create an outdoor room. Creating an outdoor room is about adding comfort and design to a space within a yard. The general focus of an outdoor room includes cooking and eating areas pulled together by a fireplace or firepit and a common floor. Some outdoor rooms are similar to indoor eat-in kitchens, with expansive counter space and full food preparation areas with amenities such as sinks and plumbing. Others take the concept even further, adding fountains, trellises, firepits, patios, and pools. It’s also possible to add a sink, dishwasher and even a refrigerator to round out the product offerings.
Creating an Outdoor Room
Pulling together this space is less about the volume of product than it is about creating a comfortable and relaxing space. Here are some simple steps you can take to create an outdoor room.
- Determine how you ideally want to use the outdoor space. Think of how you use the space now and fantasize about how you might enjoy the space in the future. Use a notepad to jot down ideas and create a wish list.
- Gather ideas and create a scrapbook. The increase in the number of magazine and newspaper articles and manufacturers’ Web sites has created a plethora of information on the creation of an outdoor room or outdoor living spaces. To help create the ideal place, it’s a good idea to read how others have done it. Clip all the pictures you like and put them into a notebook.
- Research the products. Information about outdoor fireplaces, firepits, barbecues, full-kitchens, patio furniture and much more is available by visiting or contacting outdoor room product manufacturers.
- Review the style of your house. It’s important to know your home’s architectural style when creating an outdoor room space. There are products available for every taste and style.
- Draw a plan. The best way to reach your end result is to sketch out your wish list. Don’t worry about your sketches being perfect, it’s the general idea that counts!
- Consider fire, food and water. These are the key elements to an “official” outdoor room. Add the fireplace as the central focal point and blend in the cooking station and pond or additional water feature as other key features.
- Get a retailer partner. Take your scrapbook and sketch to a specialty retailer that sells hearth, barbecue and patio products. A specialty retailer can help you determine the materials and outdoor room products available in your area and help you formalize your ideas, while helping stay within your budget.
- Build the space. Whether you are working by yourself or with your retailer partner, have fun putting the space together. Start by creating the foundation then adding the fireplace, kitchen and eating area. It’s also a good idea to consider multiple conversation areas.
- Add the furnishings. Select comfortable and lush pieces of patio furniture that calls out for people to lounge for an extended period of time. No matter what your style, there is patio furniture to fit your needs.
- Include the accessories. Landscaping, patio heaters, outdoor speakers, potted plants and pillows are just a few of the elements that are available to decorate the outdoor space. The key to making the details work is to approach the project as if you are accessorizing an indoor room. A wall hanging, side tables and small knick-knacks can make a difference.
- Add landscaping. A little greenery can go along way. Add native plants to accentuate your space and provide the sense of a lush oasis.
- Consider lighting. To enhance the amount of time spent outdoors, consider lighting whether for pathways, around pools, or to accentuate landscaping.
Available Products for an Outdoor Room
|Hearth||Wood burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces, firepits, chimeneas|
|Cooking||Grills, wood fired pizza ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, sinks, cocktail bars, food preparation areas|
|Water||Swimming pools, hot tubs, waterfalls, ponds|
|Flooring||Wood, brick, stone, stamped concrete, pavers|
|Furniture||Wood, wicker, wrought iron, metal|
|Shelters||Pool houses, gazebos, sunrooms, awnings, umbrellas|
|Lighting||Landscape and pathway lighting, candles|
|Decks||Natural woods, vinyl, fiberglass, recycled plastics, pavers|
|Heaters||Freestanding or table-top patio heaters|
Budgeting for an Outdoor Room
The limit to creating an outdoor living space is only one’s imagination. Determining a budget figure is based more on the complexity of the space and the types of products. Prices range generally from basic to $50,000, depending on the project. To maximize an outdoor room plan, it is a good idea to consider the project as a multi-year, phased project. That way you can create the foundation one year, add a few furnishings the next and accessorize the project down the road. The key person to help in this decision making process is the specialty retailer.