In most cultures, indoors and outdoors are considered separate spaces — almost even separate worlds. (Just think about how we tell kids to use their inside and outside voices!) For a lot of homeowners, however, the two worlds are intersecting more often as demand increases for homes with comfortable and convenient outdoor areas.
From so-called “California rooms” to outdoor kitchen kits, indoor-outdoor spaces are quickly becoming popular home additions. If you’re considering adding outdoor living areas to your home, here are five design strategies that will help you create a flowing and functional space.
1. Design your indoor-outdoor space with a purpose in mind.
From the beginning of the planning process, think carefully about the purpose of your indoor-outdoor space. You want a solid framework of ideas about how you’ll use the room because these will determine big decisions like choosing the room’s location and buying furniture. These are some key questions to consider:
- How much interior area does the space need?
- Will the space be part of your main house, or detached from it?
- What type of activities will you use the space for?
- Should it be built for entertaining, or more secluded?
- How will you set the space apart from the rest of your yard or home?
- How will different types of weather affect the people in the space?
When you are designing your outdoor space, it is important to think about the function of the area. For example, if you plan to have a pool in your backyard, you should consider investing in an automatic pool cover or automatic pool enclosure to ensure that the pool remains pristine. This will keep the harsh sunlight out of your space and make it more comfortable.
2. Consider how your indoor-outdoor space interacts with the rest of your home.
Think about your indoor-outdoor space as a part of your home, not just as a singular unit. How do you want it to interact with other rooms? On both a functional and visual level, what’s your strategy for integrating it with the rest of your spaces? Start with a plan for how the spaces will function physically. For example:
- An outdoor dining area needs a clear path to and from the kitchen.
- An area built around a pool needs access to a changing area, whether it’s a pool house or indoor bathroom.
- A quiet outdoor space for reading or working is best placed away from noisy areas like a garage or workshop.
Visual consistency is another key aspect to keep in mind. Matching interior and exterior decor offers a great way to create a more unified home, and this concept can easily extend into your sunroom or other dual space. However, if you have outside motifs, such as statuary of a particular animal or large numbers of a certain flower, try working those in as well!
3. Think about light — at all times of day.
Light is an essential part of creating a comfortable indoor-outdoor space. Plan for not only how you’ll let sunlight in, but how you’ll keep it out when it’s excessive. Additionally, since you’ll probably want to use the space after dark, include ideas for how you’ll keep it lit at night. If you’re designing something like a sunroom or screened porch, try to place the room somewhere that will get plenty of light. Many homeowners like to build these rooms facing south, if possible, to maximize the amount of daylight that they get. (However, in hot climates, the opposite may be a better choice.) An outdoor space will probably get plenty of sun already, so make sure it includes shade features like a pergola, awning or shade tree to keep it cool on hot days.
Night lighting is also important for using your space after dark. If you’re building an attached space like a porch or sunroom, you’ll have your pick of lighting options, including fun choices like sconces and even outdoor chandeliers. For detached spaces, homeowners often save money and effort by using temporary lights wired to the house, but a true custom outdoor lighting solution can give your space a really impressive look. Whatever type of lights you choose, a soft, warm lighting color will usually give you the best results.
4. Give your indoor-outdoor space privacy features.
Your home is your private sanctuary, and your indoor-outdoor spaces should be no exception. Unfortunately, indoor-outdoor spaces can transmit more sound to your neighbors than you might realize — the less your space has in the way of walls and ceilings, the more pronounced that problem can be. That’s why privacy features are important for enjoying private moments and conversation. Actively plan for visual and sound mitigation as you design your space. Think about how you might use any or all of the following tools to lock down your privacy:
- Privacy fences
- Water features (to muffle sound)
- Walls and fences
- Vine trellises
Learn more about the benefits of having good privacy fence designs at Timber Ridge Fence Company.
5. Consider the technologies you’ll be using in your space.
It’s the 21st century, and we love our devices. Lots of people now want to enjoy the same technological comforts indoors and outdoors, so give careful thought to what kind of tech you’ll want to use in your indoor-outdoor room. Outdoor electrical outlets are a basic must-have for many designs. This is especially true if you want to use media devices like outdoor TVs and Bluetooth speakers in your new space, or if you want to use the latest outdoor cooking tech such as a pellet grill. Make sure your outlets are properly rated for weather conditions they might encounter.
Give some thought to whether you might need outdoor WiFi as well. Plan on streaming media to an outdoor TV or working from home in your outdoor space? You might need a WiFi signal extender to boost your signal and make it usable outside. Even outdoor kitchens can benefit from WiFi, especially if you have a WiFi pellet grill or another smart grill that offers remote control features.
Indoor-outdoor areas are among the trendiest features in American home building — but more importantly, they’re a fantastic place to enjoy the good life with family and friends. In other words, the best ones are built to add value to your life, not just your property, so design accordingly!