Outdoor living spaces offer so much potential to celebrate our environment, spread out, relax, entertain, and most importantly, unplug. We are constantly bombarded with notifications, screens, and a soundtrack of muffled advertisements, pings, and chirps in our modern age. Our outdoor living spaces provide a retreat from the noise and offer an opportunity to recenter. Don’t we all need to pause the Tweets and emails and relax to the sound of a babbling fountain and songbird from the comfort of our shaded patio? I know I do! When approaching outdoor living areas, my team and I focus on why these spaces are so crucial for homeowners and treat them as an extension of the interior. We review why outdoor spaces are essential for our overall wellbeing and six tips for designing an outdoor living space your family will actually want to use.
Why Outdoor Spaces are Important
Outdoor spaces, quite literally, provide a breath of fresh air for homeowners. The popularity of outdoor gardens and patios for the average homeowner dates back to the Victorian Era when garden parties reigned supreme. Middle-class families started seeing the benefit of integrating outdoor retreats onto their properties and the luxury of manicured gardens for the sake of enjoyment and relaxation. Here are three benefits of adding indoor-outdoor living spaces to your home.
Outdoor living spaces have many health benefits to consider. Spending a little bit of time outside each day has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, balance sleep patterns, and even strengthen relationships. When we give ourselves permission to have a break and leave the distractions indoors, we open up possibilities for discoveries and memories in the backyard. It is relatively easy to create outdoor living spaces that drastically improve our quality of life in many cases.
Especially in smaller homes, outdoor spaces serve the practical purpose of expanding usable space. Patios can be furnished, lit, and connected seamlessly to fit the flow of the property, creating an inviting second living area that will actually get used. Extending the home with outdoor spaces is well worth the investment.
Multigenerational homes where children, parents, and grandparents all live together can quickly result in chaos, tension, and frustration when not properly planned and designed. The interior of a home can face many needs and challenges that can be alleviated by expanding outdoors. Outdoor patios, screened porches, and sunrooms provide areas where family members can break from one another or gather in comfort. Remember when I mentioned that outdoor time could strengthen relationships? Create a retreat where your family can share stories over the firepit and build memories together.
How to Create a Beautiful Outdoor Living Space Your Family Will Actually Use
We know outdoor spaces are important for our health, relationships, and peace of mind. However, so many patios fall flat when not property designed for inviting outdoor living. Our team of interior designers in Austin, Texas, have come together to share six tips for creating beautiful outdoor spaces your family will actually want to use.
1. Establish a Sense of Place
There are thousands of backyard landscaping ideas to look to for inspiration when designing your outdoor patio. The most important consideration, however, is to establish a sense of place. For example, a concrete slab in a patch of grass is not a defined space and is hardly welcoming for gatherings and outdoor living. Similar to interiors, outdoor rooms need to be grounded with a design feature that people can gather around. Fountains, fireplaces, pools, covered patios, and garden walls accented with climbing vines all define outdoor rooms and give them a sense of place on the property.
2. Form Sightlines and Pathways to Get There
Sightlines and pathways are crucial to creating indoor-outdoor connections. Without an exterior focal point that draws the eye or a clear path from the inside to the outside of the home, people will be hesitant to explore the outdoor living spaces. Pay attention to views and access points when designing your backyard. Consider what the interior living spaces look out onto and how to get there. Is there a pretty fountain, natural foliage, or a pool? Does the living room have French doors that open onto an inviting deck? Create a compelling reason to venture outside.
3. Lay the Foundation for an Outdoor Room
To create a welcoming outdoor room, bring interior elements outside. Start by laying a foundation for your outdoor living area. Use pavers or decking to create a floor for furnishings. First, ground the area with an outdoor rug. Then, place furniture, layer in accessories, and add lighting. Treat your outdoor space just as you would an interior room. You can even take the design a step further and form zones like an outdoor kitchen, firepit, and dining area.
4. Furnish Outdoor Spaces for Comfort
Choosing the right patio furniture for your outdoor living area will make or break the space and dictate how much time people will be willing to spend outdoors. Choose your furnishings as you would interior pieces, and do not ignore comfort. Consider adding various seating options, including lounges, hammocks, hanging chairs, dining tables, and rocking chairs. Outdoor cushions and furnishings have come a long way and are expertly engineered to last longer than traditional textiles. Expect to make an investment going into furnishing your outdoor spaces, and know that it will be worth it.
5. Set the Mood with Lighting
A well-suited lighting scheme will set the mood of your outdoor patio, define different living zones, and extend the use of the space into the late evenings. Landscape lighting plans need to be developed for the backyard, just as interior lighting plans need to be designed for the living room. Make sure to add lighting focal points, ambient lighting, and task lighting to get full use of your outdoor living space. Consider stringing cafe lights above an outdoor dining table, illuminating trees, and adding underwater lighting to fountains for a dramatic effect.
6. Be a Little Shady
Incorporating elements like awnings into the backyard is a great way to shade and define your outdoor patio space. Soft shade options like sun sails, curtains, and canopies add texture, color, and even movement to the outdoor space. Architectural shade structures like roof extensions and screened porches offer increased protection from the elements and quaint areas to watch thunderstorms. Consider adding at least one form of shade in your backyard to extend use through warmer seasons.
Want to Learn More About Outdoor Living? Watch Design 101.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.