Outdoor Room Design: Find Refuge With A View

June 19th 2013
Glen Goldberg

Designing the Outdoor Room

Outdoor rooms are becoming more prevalent in the Midwest. What goes into a thriving outdoor space? And what should be considered in the design?

An outdoor room extends your home and should transition to the outside. In a book by Jay Appleton, he coins the concept of “prospect and refuge.” In other words, “people want a sense of shelter but simultaneously want to remain connected to nature. In essence, outdoor rooms create privacy, focal points and refuge and still allow you to experience your surroundings first hand.” This design incorporates walls, ceilings, and floors much differently than our interior rooms.

Outdoor room “walls” may be a fence, a trellis, a drape, a series of masonry walls, plantings, or any combination of these elements. Tree canopies, pergolas, and arbors create ceilings. Floors can be anything from pavers to groundcovers. A good design gives you the essence of privacy and shelter and allows you to connect with the outdoors. 

A well-executed outdoor room design connects your home and landscape and should be a transition point between the two.

A well-executed outdoor room design connects your home and landscape and should be a transition point between the two. This can be accomplished by borrowing and repeating.

For example, if a specific type of stone is used on the face of your home, you could use that same stone on the pergola’s column bases. You could then intersperse this same stone to achieve cohesion throughout the landscape, outdoor room, and home.

The goal is a seamless transition where everything works together, and no element looks like it hasn’t always been there.