Special Section: The Outdoor Room Design Ideas
What is an Outdoor Room? To some it is a grand pavilion with an imposing fireplace, an appliance-packed, custom-masonry outdoor kitchen, distinct areas for dining, entertaining and relaxing, TVs, sound systems and other entertainment amenities, and a fabulous swimming pool or water feature all set against a stunningly landscaped and hardscaped backdrop.
To others, an Outdoor Room is a simple deck with a prefab grilling island, dining table with umbrella and, perhaps, a cozy seating area around a fire table. Whether your customers are dreaming about the former type of outdoor living space, the latter, or something in between, chances are they want a piece of paradise in their backyard.
Hearth & Home created this special section on Outdoor Room Ideas to showcase a variety of well-designed outdoor living spaces, all of which have been created and submitted by our readers. These inviting Outdoor Rooms – from traditional to rustic to contemporary designs, from sky’s-the-limit to super-limited budgets, from zero lot lines to sprawling properties – show what can be done in a variety of settings and situations.
We hope this special section will inspire you and your customers, and spark ideas. We invite you to save it for reference as you create the next wave of beautiful, functional, innovative and, most of all, enjoyable, backyard resorts.
If you would like to submit photos of your Outdoor Room projects for publication in future issues of Hearth & Home, please email email@example.com.
Boring Before; About-face After
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 George Katunich.|
The Before: A barren and uninviting backyard completely covered by a swimming pool and a solid slab of concrete. Landscape designer Michael Bernier softened the look by breaking up the concrete with stone borders and adding drought-tolerant plantings. A new cabana, built at the rear of the garage, is like a grown-up clubhouse, with bar, television and comfortable furnishings.
Though the cabana is open on three sides, it feels cozy thanks to a decorative cedar partition (that also hides the neighbor’s fence) on one side, and a run of fabric curtain panels that can be drawn or left open to maximize breezes, on the other. Space did not allow a full outdoor kitchen, but a built-in grilling station does the job near the gas fire pit seating area. A custom cedar and stone water feature at the opposite end of the pool (not shown) blocks the neighbor’s garage and filters sun glare.
The After: “It’s now a multi-room outdoor living space that’s as fun for entertaining as it is pleasing to look at,” says Bernier.
Landscape Architect: Michael Bernier
Spectacular Sky Barn
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Land Elements.|
Just off the penthouse of a condo building in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, this outdoor space combines modern amenities with native elements from the surrounding Great Plains. The rooftop “Sky Barn” includes a state-of-the-art, modular, stainless-steel outdoor kitchen with grill, double sideburners, sink, refrigerator, exhaust fan and storage, all built into a “shed” structure made of recycled wood from a classic, plains-style red barn.
A steel and ipe-wood pergola defines and shades the dining area, while an adjacent conversation area is centered around a gas fire pit topped with a basalt drink ledge. Custom privacy screens crafted from recycled glass in shades of browns, reds and golds recall the amber color of the Plains, especially when backlit at night by LED lights.
Along the rooftop’s perimeter are railings made from a barbless version of the characteristic barbed-wired fencing around prairie pastures, and throughout the space are plantings of native grasses and flowers.
“Because the existing rooftop structure was not designed to handle the heavy loads of the new outdoor space,” says senior associate and project manager Brian Reinarts, “we had to work closely with an engineer on a structural backing and support system.”
Project Manager & Designer/Senior Associate: Brian Reinarts
From Sun-baked to Shady Haven
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Rebecca Wilhite. www.rtrwphotography.com.|
Once a tiny, six-foot-deep pad in the scorching sun, this Outdoor Room is now a 1,200 sq. ft. retreat befitting the stately brick home it adjoins. The focal point on the bluestone patio is a unique, natural gas fire bowl surrounded by a semi-circular brownstone wall that provides seating while defining the fire pit area.
A cedar pergola – painted black to coordinate with the black trim on the French doors and windows – creates a pretty transition from indoors to the outdoor kitchen and dining area. The grill is built into a custom island using the same brownstone as the fire pit area, while the bluestone counter provides convenient serving space. When desired, the retractable awning comfortably shades the seating area beside the house.
“The client says their Outdoor Room has transformed the way they live,” says landscape architect Dian Barnes. “They are outside all the time, now.”
Landscape Architect: Dian Barnes
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Mike Heacox. www.mikeheacoxphoto.com.|
This Zen-like Outdoor Room, located on the side and rear of the house, doubles as the home’s entry way, so making a welcoming first impression was just as important as function in the design. Since the outdoor kitchen – the first thing guests see when they walk through the metal and frosted-glass-paneled front door – is also visible from the indoor living room, landscape architects Mike and Annette Heacox designed a clever island configuration with a raised partition to hide the unsightly rear of the grill from view. A simple granite counter extends from the outdoor kitchen, offering a place to rest drinks or serve food.
To avoid having to cut the roots of an existing tree to dig a foundation for the cement privacy wall, an ipe wood section of fence was installed near the tree and bolted to the rest of the wall. This creative solution turned out to be an architectural boon to the space, as is the decorative cast-iron channel drain imbedded in the patio that helps create the look of a rug border. A custom-made, welded-steel pergola and a water-powered kinetic sculpture (not shown) add even more visual appeal to the serene setting.
“The small space includes a lot of diverse elements but still feels private and uncluttered,” says Mike Heacox. “The colors, textures and materials harmonize to keep it interesting and rich looking.”
Landscape Architects: Mike and Annette Heacox
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Valerie Borden.|
Creating an outdoor space with year-round color and greenery in the desert climate of Scottsdale, Arizona, is not an easy feat. But that’s exactly what the homeowner wanted and what interior designer Valerie Borden delivered through lush plantings and colorful decorative elements.
“Something is always in bloom in this great space for entertaining,” Borden says. A wall of bamboo lends year-round greenery and, when mature, will hide the neighboring house. Color is also introduced through unique, custom, decorative elements, including backlit glass panels that reflect the colors of the adjacent pool and plantings at night.
A specially commissioned sculpture, created from texturized steel, is painted in purples, oranges and reds, colors that are carried through the flower beds and in the throw pillows in the fire pit seating area. The client’s existing grill was reused in the new outdoor kitchen, but a built-in refrigerator, ice maker, storage drawers and pull-out trash bin were added to bump-up convenience and functionality.
Designer: Valerie Borden, Allied ASID
A Space for all Seasons
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Michelle Derviss..|
Most Outdoor Rooms are designed with summer in mind; this one was designed with thoughts of winter. Located in Squaw Valley with spectacular views of the Olympic ski slopes, this space had to be engineered to withstand harsh winds and heavy snow loads.
Landscape designer Michelle Derviss embedded hydronic heating coils into the granite flagstone patio, bench seating around the propane gas fire pit and outdoor kitchen (not shown) to melt snow, reduce maintenance for the homeowners, and allow the space to be used year-round. Because a traditional lattice screen would not withstand the elements, a sculptural metal screen was created for privacy and wind protection.
A local ironsmith custom-made the screen, as well as the metal sculpture in the fire pit, from Derviss’ sketches of the surrounding scenery. The Outdoor Room also includes a water feature and outdoor kitchen with built-in grill, sink and cabinet storage.
“This space is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, and has stood up very well under harsh weather conditions,” says Derviss. “The family really enjoys the space in all four seasons.”
Landscape Designer: Michelle Derviss
No Detail Forgotten
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Treve Johnson.|
A traditional backyard landscape with a lawn and small patio was transformed into a fantastic outdoor entertainment space for family, friends and visiting grandchildren. A large fireplace finished with stone veneer anchors the outdoor living area, and sits just to the side of the outdoor kitchen and bar. The dining area is covered with a custom pergola that holds eaves-mounted heaters for extra comfort.
A lap-style swimming pool with waterfall features is on axis with the interior living and dining rooms, providing a lovely view from inside the home. White painted trellises frame the perimeter of the outdoor space and are softened by climbing vines and rose bushes.
“Thanks to ample lighting, including hanging lanterns and landscape accent lighting, the outdoor space is as pretty at night as it is during the day,” says landscape architect David Thorne.
Landscape Architect: David Thorne
Terrific Town Square
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Sandy Koepke.|
The homeowners wanted an outdoor living space with the ease and conveniences of a modern luxury resort, but with the rustic, old-world look and feel of some of their favorite travel destinations. Interior and garden designer Sandy Koepke designed a space inspired by the town squares in Mexico, Tuscany and Costa Rica, where friends gather for food and music.
At the heart of the space is a fully-equipped, L-shaped outdoor kitchen created from modular stainless-steel components. An antique candy maker’s work table supplements the counter surface and provides a fun hub for guests to gather around.
A stucco fireplace with raised hearth is the focal point of the inviting living area. Pottery, plantings, artwork and other decorative elements beautify the space and call to mind an open-air market. An added bonus, says Koepke, “A seamless transition extends and expands the interior kitchen and family room into the new Outdoor Room, more than doubling the usable space.”
Interior/Garden Designer: Sandy Koepke
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Meechan Architectural Photography. www.meechan.com.|
This is truly 5-star, resort-style living,” says landscape architect Clay Mooney. “The homeowner really enjoys their outdoor space.” How could they not, given it includes a swim-up pool bar, hot tub bar, outdoor kitchen with premium gas grill, pizza oven, refrigerator, keg-erator, ice maker, dishwasher and bartender station, as well as comfortable living and dining areas, all set against the sweeping vistas of the Smoky Mountains?
Because the project required complex grade changes for the sunken outdoor kitchen to be able to service the hot tub-, pool- and patio-bars – all of which are at different levels – Mooney collaborated closely with architect Amy Connor Murphy in designing the space.
Other superb features include arched pergolas outfitted with custom, curved, retractable awnings; yacht-quality outdoor kitchen cabinetry made of Brazilian sucupira wood; and bar counters made of Fossil Brown granite, a stone naturally imbedded with fossilized mollusks, snails and other ancient sea life and quarried in the Saharan desert.
Landscape Architect: Clay Mooney
Great Things Come in Small Packages
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Matthew Shepard. www.gammonsgroup.com.|
Who says smaller outdoor living spaces can’t have good design? To fix the 15-by-30-by-10-ft.-deep gaping hole left after a built-in pool collapsed in his client’s yard, landscape architect Christopher Gammons created this compact, yet inviting, outdoor space. Anchored by a composite deck that’s partially shaded by an awning, the space features areas for eating, cooking and relaxing. Though the grill is freestanding, Gammons achieved a built-in look and extra counter space with a stacked stone column placed beside it.
Just off the deck is a gravel patio with bench seating around a natural gas fire pit with custom block surround. An intricate decking pattern that mimics the fire pit in size and shape, and a custom pattern on the retaining wall made by cutting and turning the stones, add visual interest.
“Creating these designs took twice the time, but the effort was well worth the final product and how it was received by the client,” says Gammons.
Landscape Architect: Christopher Gammons
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 James Brady Architectural Photography. www.bradyarchitecturalphotography.com.|
The island paradise of Bali was the inspiration behind this resort-like poolside cabana in San Diego. Interior designer Jim Walters combines various stones – polished pebbles on the fireplace, slate on the columns and tiles on the floor – with lush plantings, deep-seating wicker furniture, and island-style decorative elements to evoke the tropics.
Birch ceiling panels with ebony-stained alder trim add a warmth and luxuriousness to the space that’s usually reserved for indoor rooms, while eaves-mounted heaters, flat-screen TV, recessed and ceiling-mounted light fixtures, and an outdoor kitchen and bar (both not pictured) provide other indoor comforts. But, according to Walters, the greatest challenge of the project was behind the scenes.
“We had to work within stringent coastal and environmental requirements,” he says.
Interior Designer: Jim Walters
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Studio D Interior Design.|
The view of the coastal marshes outside this screened porch is lovely, but it’s the attention to detail inside the porch that draws the homeowners to the comfortable space no matter the season or time of day. During the fall and winter, the gas fireplace, strategically positioned to hide an adjacent neighbor, offers warmth, while the overhead fan provides cooling breezes during spring and summer.
The LED candles in the hanging lanterns are remote-controlled so the homeowner does not need to climb a step-stool to light them, and semi-sheer outdoor fabric curtain panels, hung from stainless-steel rods, can be closed to block the sun. For entertaining flexibility, the dining table is actually three tables side-by-side with outdoor fabric runners placed to hide the seams. A floor lamp made from driftwood, and coral- and turquoise-colored accents carry out the coastal theme.
“The porch extends the time the homeowner can enjoy the outdoors,” says interior designer Darcy S. Lindley, ASID. “They even entertain out there comfortably in January.”
Interior Designer: Darcy S. Lindley, ASID
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Leland Gebhardt Photography. www.lelandphotos.com.|
Limited by strict restrictions governing exterior home improvements in this patio-home community, landscape architect James Coffman came up with a creative solution to add visual interest to the cement walls that spanned the perimeter of the yard. He floated cheery, yellow, feature walls in front of the now-dark painted perimeter walls to help establish and unify the three distinct rooms within the outdoor space – living room, dining room and fire pit lounge.
In the fire pit area, the yellow feature wall becomes a canvas for garden art and a backdrop for the oxidized-steel fire feature. The walls also help to frame the deep-seating living area with custom pergola, and the outdoor dining space adjacent to the house. A synthetic turf lawn and native plantings further brighten the space and soften the concrete elements.
“This unique space is no longer defined by the neighbor’s bland walls,” says Coffman.
Landscape Architect: James Coffman
It's All in the Details
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Don Nesmith.|
With only 27 ft. between the back door and property line, landscape architect Don Nesmith created this Tennessee flagstone patio in a terraced design to visually enlarge the space.
“But,” he says, “it’s the details on the patio that make this Outdoor Room so special.” The unique configuration of the stucco and stone-capped retaining walls and raised planters adds architectural detail and frames the basalt-column water sculpture, a focal point of the space. Two granite fire bowls (only one is shown) flank the patio, while a hand-chiseled granite fire table takes center stage in the seating area without taking up too much space.
These natural gas-fueled fire features supplement the well-placed landscape lighting, creating a lovely ambiance for nighttime entertaining. The project’s biggest challenge? A six-week window in which to design, permit and build the space in time for a wedding. “We completed it with three days to spare,” says Nesmith.
Landscape Architect: Don Nesmith, Registered Landscape Architect
Perfect Pool House
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 George Dzahristos.|
A double-sided, natural gas fireplace anchors two distinct “rooms” in this lovely pool house. On one side, a comfortable living and conversation area sits beneath a pavilion with a vaulted, wood-paneled ceiling. Radiant heaters, a ceiling fan and recessed lighting extend the use of the space from spring through fall, while a wet bar and fireplace-mounted television add to its enjoyment.
The other side of the fireplace opens to an outdoor kitchen and dining area below a custom cedar pergola. A second television is mounted above the mantel in this space.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the project is just how dynamic and usable the space is,” says landscape design-builder Patrick Zaremba. “And the location of the pool house on a slightly elevated terrace offers excellent views of the pool, lawn and gardens.”
Landscape Designer-Builder: Patrick Zaremba
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Brian T. Stratton.|
The mission: create a great outdoor space for a family that loves to cook and entertain, that comfortably accommodates at least 40 guests, and has three distinct living areas – outdoor kitchen, dining room and living room. To accomplish the task, landscape architect Brian T. Stratton started with unfinished modular kits to build the fireplace, outdoor kitchen and pizza oven.
“But then we took it to the next level,” he says. “We added custom details like the curved raised hearth, keystones and wood-storage niches on the fireplace and pizza oven, and curved seating-wall extensions.” A well-equipped, U-shaped outdoor kitchen is designed with cooking appliances on two sides, and bar service with refrigerator, sink and raised-counter seating on the other. The cedar pergola sports custom details on the posts and incorporates pliable composite boards to create curved effects. Mission accomplished.
Landscape Architect: Brian T. Stratton
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 George Katunich.|
My clients wanted a space where they could relax, entertain, watch sports on TV and have fun,” says landscape designer Michael Glassman. With that in mind, he designed a stone and rough-sawn Douglas fir pavilion with all the comforts of an indoor man-cave, including a flat-screen television, heaters, ceiling fans, and an L-shaped bar and outdoor kitchen with built-in grill, dishwasher, sink and keg-er-ator.
When there’s a break in the action, guests can kick back in oversized comfy loungers in front of the custom gas fireplace, finished in stone to match the island base. The raised hearth, capped with cast concrete, extends beyond the fireplace as a low wall for additional seating. According to Glassman, the biggest challenge was raising the elevation of the patio to the same level as the residence.
“With the patio at its original lower level, a lot of space was lost in steps,” he says. “Now, it’s an extension of the interior entertainment space.”
Landscape Designer: Michael Glassman
Maximizing Outdoor Living in a Minimal Sace
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 David Kopfmann.|
Given its location on a small city lot with very limited access, landscape designer/builder David Kopfmann says, “This project’s biggest challenge was coming up with a design that included everything on the homeowners’ wish list, without overwhelming the space. We had to keep it functional and proportional.”
Kopfmann used a terrace design to create an intimate setting for the gas fireplace conversation area. The compact space also manages to incorporate a spa, an outdoor kitchen and dining area and an in-ground lap pool. Since the area is so tight, the travertine patio is built on a pervious system for drainage. Brightly colored furniture, decorative accents, and plantings tie all the areas together.
Landscape Designer/Builder: David Kopfmann
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Barbara Ries.|
The entry to this home’s garage was reoriented and the former driveway transformed into a quintessential California Outdoor Room. A rustic stone fireplace built at the rear of the garage gets extra detail from patina-finished, riveted copper panels on the hearth, and custom doors and andirons. To one side of the relaxation space is a spa; on the other side, an outdoor kitchen with plenty of counter space is set against a wood-slatted backdrop and pergola. Overhead string lights add casual whimsy to the outdoor space, while the random flagstone patio offers interest underfoot.
“The homeowners says this is their favorite room in their home,” says landscape architect Pete Pedersen.
Landscape Architect: Pete Pedersen
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 George Katunich.|
The Brooklyn, New York-based client, a musician and producer on a tight budget, wanted an artistic and creative garden that wouldn’t break the bank. This urban oasis checks all the boxes. Reclaimed wood slats in dark and light colors combine to form a visually interesting wall behind the gravel dining platform at the rear of the garden. Overhead, a simple pergola structure filters the view of the surrounding high-rises, and string lights add a warm glow at night.
Bamboo fencing runs the length of the garden, providing a textured backdrop to the plantings in raised beds. The outdoor furniture, made from recycled plastic milk jugs, continues the clean, contemporary lines and adds a pop of color.
“We were able to keep the prices down by integrating custom-designed reclaimed materials with less expensive, off-the-shelf materials,” says landscape and urban designer Tricia Martin.
Landscape Designer: Tricia Martin
Bigger and Better
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 TK Images. www.tkimages.com.|
Everything is bigger in Texas, and this outdoor living space is no exception. A super-sized pavilion with a vaulted, stained, tongue-and-groove pine ceiling has striking beam accents, brick columns and a brick kneewall to coordinate with the home. Drop and directional lighting illuminates the space, and several large ceiling fans keep air circulating.
The large outdoor kitchen is ready for entertaining with a stainless-steel gas grill, charcoal kamado-style grill, refrigerator, ice maker and plenty of bar seating. A dining area and deep-seating conversation area complete the poolside space. Big projects bring big challenges, too, says Steven Schell, project developer.
“It was challenging to figure out how to tie in such a substantial addition while maintaining the traditional style of the original home,” he says.
Project Developer: Steven Schell
Prefab can be Pretty Fab
|Photo Courtesy: ©2014 Bull Outdoor Products.|
With increasing options for customizing, fast turnaround times, and plug-and-play installation, prefab outdoor living elements can be a good solution for retailers just getting into the game and for customers with limited budgets. Case in point: This outdoor space was created exclusively with prefabricated elements for about $15,000.
The 10-ft. outdoor kitchen with built-in grill, refrigerator and storage, circular bars on both ends, and bar ledge along the back, is a gathering hub for both cooks and guests. A fire-water wall adds drama and the soothing sounds of trickling water to the space, while the fire table supplies ambiance and just the right amount of heat during dinner or drinks.
“This entire outdoor living space was set up and ready in less than three hours,” says Frank Mello vice-president of Sales and Marketing of Bull Outdoor Products, manufacturer of all of the elements in the space.
Company: Bull Outdoor Products, Rialto, CT
A Barbecuer's Paradise
|Photos Courtesy: ©2014 Matt Kocourek.|
The homeowner wanted an outdoor kitchen where he could cook anything with any technique, at any time,” says landscape designer Maverick Pickering. No surprise, considering the homeowner is a competitive barbecuer and owner of a string of barbecue restaurants in Kansas City.
To create it, Pickering first had to excavate 17 truckloads of dirt from the hill beside the home and erect a nine-foot concrete retaining wall in its place. Finished in Kansas cottonwood stone, the ranch-style outdoor kitchen is packed with a gas grill, charcoal grill, pizza oven and Tuscan-grill fireplace for cooking, as well as a 24-in. power burner, refrigerator, storage units and other amenities.
A cedar pergola overhead holds lantern-style lighting and a fan for the cook’s comfort. And, because man (or woman) does not live by barbecue alone, the outdoor renovation on the 20-acre horse ranch also includes a deep-seating relaxation area, swimming pool, flower gardens, and a 7-1/2-ft. wide fire pit with a steel sculpture rising from its center.
Landscape Designer: Maverick Pickering