Bringing the indoors out

Outdoor rooms are a wonderful way of extending your living space. Here is how – with a little bit of planning – you can turn your garden or deck into a luxurious outside lounge.

Bringing the indoors out - Renovate Magazine
ARTICLE Persephone Nicholas

Outdoor rooms are a wonderful way of extending your living space. Here is how – with a little bit of planning – you can turn your garden or deck into a luxurious outside lounge.The humble backyard has come a long way. A decade ago most people didn’t ask much more from their outdoor space than somewhere to hang the laundry and room for a weekend game of cricket or barbecue.
How times have changed. These days we want to embrace our backyards and create  ‘outdoor rooms’  that are an extension of our living space, where we can relax and entertain for much of the year.Love the idea but not sure how to go about creating an outdoor room of your own?  Read on.

Grand designs

The key to creating the outdoor room of your dreams – no matter how simple or sophisticated – is a little planning. Questions to consider include:
- What is the main purpose of your outdoor room? Is relaxation, entertaining or creating a fun area for the kids most important?
- How much space do you have and where is it situated? Balconies, terraces and even narrow spaces at the sides of homes can all be enhanced with creative planting and stylish furniture and accessories.
- What is the aspect of your outdoor room? This will determine whether or not you need to incorporate elements such as windbreaks, sunshades or sails. 
- What is your budget? Deciding how much you can afford to spend and where your priorities lie should help with decision-making.
- What is your time frame? You may want to carry out bigger projects in phases to suit the time and budget you have available.

Defining the space

The first step to creating your outdoor room is defining the space and planning its layout. Think about structural elements such as decking, steps, walls, awnings and shelters, planting areas and other built-in features needed to create your room.  If you are planning on building, your choice of materials can have a big impact on the success of your project says Ross Hynard, a landscape architect with Sydney’s Green Rooms Gardens and Landscapes.  He recommends investing in sustainable choices that will keep your outdoor room looking good for longer.  “Splurge on using hardwood instead of treated pine and natural stone pavers instead of concrete,”  he says. Consider building in storage or adding seating along existing walls to make the most of snug spaces. Think about the positioning of troughs and planters, furniture and decorative elements such as water features, garden mirrors, sculptures and other outdoor artworks.

Water works

Even the smallest outdoor room benefits from a water feature. A compact wall-mounted fountain uses a relatively small amount of energy and water to deliver the magical cooling and therapeutic qualities we love. Position uplighters to illuminate it to best effect and remember that water features can be noisy so choose accordingly.

Let there be light

Clever lighting enhances any outdoor room. Michael Downie of Philips Lighting suggests creating a romantic mood with weatherproof lanterns or adding drama by creating pools of light at the base of feature plants. Downie advises that lights should always be certified for outdoor use and recommends placing switches indoors wherever possible.

Keeping warm

Extend the year-round usability of your outdoor room with heating. Gas heaters are a space-efficient way of heating larger areas and some models will warm spaces of up to 5 cubic metres. Alternatively, fire pits are becoming increasingly popular.

Perfect planting

Creating a space that’s easy to maintain means choosing plants wisely. Hardy native shrubs, palms and grasses can help create a luxurious resort feel, add drama when uplit and should thrive if sited appropriately. Tubs, troughs and planters can be used to define your outdoor room and moved around as necessary. Keep them low maintenance by using generously sized containers – the more soil or compost surrounding a plant’s roots, the less vulnerable it is to cold, heat and dehydration. 

Edible planting schemes are becoming increasingly popular with city dwellers; herbs, low growing veggies and dwarf citrus varieties can all do well in an urban setting. Forget old-fashioned vegetable beds – edible planting can be incorporated into your outdoor room in beds sunk into decking, tubs or vertical,  ‘green wall’  gardens. Ross Hynard says it’s a trend that satisfies the soul.  “There’s a feeling in the world that people want to live more sustainably and be more self-sufficient. One way to do that is to grow your own produce,”  he explains.

Take your seats

Outdoor furniture now takes its lead from interior pieces. Dining settings are perennially popular but modular settings that include lounges, ottomans and footrests can be the perfect choice for a more casual outdoor room. Daybeds or hammocks up the relaxation factor. Short of space? Look for benches that tuck under tables or have built-in storage. Choose quality pieces designed to last as exposure to the elements can weather cheap materials all too quickly.

Plump it up

Indulge your sense of style with seasonal soft furnishings. Cushions, throws and rugs in hues that complement your plants or add a surprise pop of colour to a subtle scheme, can really make a difference. Choose quick-drying, anti-microbial materials that will resist mould and mildew wherever possible.

Make it child-friendly

An outdoor room can be a perfect extension to the family living area – but be sure to create a space as safe as it is stylish. Ross Hynard suggests avoiding large drops in the design of the outdoor room and excluding spiky or toxic plants from your planting scheme.

What’s hot for spring and summer

Outdoor rooms give people the opportunity to enjoy almost all their creature comforts in the fresh air. It’s now becoming possible – and increasingly popular – not just to eat and drink outside but to enjoy a spa, music or even a movie via a wall-mounted (undercover) television and DVD player. Appliance manufacturers are wising up to the fact that we love to be outside. If you have the space and the budget, consider building an outdoor kitchen or bar. Sinks, fridges and pizza ovens are widely available and now Scandinavian appliance company Asko has introduced an outdoor dishwasher. 

You might be interested in reading: Choosing the right windows and doors for indoor-outdoor flow.

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This article by Persephone Nicholas featured in Issue 002 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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