Picture yourself in a beautiful outdoor space, sitting comfortably with a glass of wine and perhaps nibbling on cheese. You’re engaged in conversation or simply savoring a peaceful moment. The stresses of everyday life are melting away. Are you at a posh boutique inn? Possibly. But you could also be at home, once you learn how to create a luxury outdoor living space for yourself.
Read on to discover how you can enjoy all the riches of an outdoor vacation retreat just a few steps from your back door.
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Create a Vacation Space at Home
Today’s homeowner spends more time enjoying the outdoors at home, doing things like dining, relaxing, and gardening, as part of a trend called “nesting.” In this home-centered focus, the outdoors have become an extended living space. Outdoor “rooms” as inviting and comfortable as those at chic hotels will provide you many happy returns.
CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn how to create an inviting and comfortable luxury outdoor living space:
- What is an Outdoor Room?
- 3 Popular Types of Outdoor Rooms
- Al Fresco Dining & Drinks
- An Outdoor Kitchen
- Outdoor Living Room
- 3 Unique Outdoor Room Concepts
- An Outdoor Movie Theatre
- A Private Beach
- Sleeping Space
- How to Choose Furniture for A Luxury Outdoor Living Space
- 10 Essential Design Tips for an Outdoor Decor
- 5 Ways to Create Ambiance in An Outdoor Room
- Fire Elements
- Water Elements
- Flowers & Landscaping
- How to Accessorize An Outdoor Room
- What does it mean “to accessorize”?
- Reducing Uninvited Guests
- Final Thoughts
What is an Outdoor Room?
An outdoor room is defined by structures, such as a deck, fence, or hedgerow, or it may simply be an open space in your yard that you use for outdoor living.
Like the interior of your home, you might have different floor plans for different functions. It’s important to decide how you’ll use each.
For instance, a large open deck is ideal for cooking and family dining, whereas you might designate more intimate spaces, like a multi-level deck or smaller corners of the yard, for reading or sharing morning coffee.
3 Popular Types of Outdoor Rooms
Let’s begin with traditionally common uses for outdoor spaces: dining, cooking, and relaxing with family.
1. Al Fresco Dining & Drinks Space
On a hot summer evening, there’s nothing like enjoying an afternoon drink or an entire meal outdoors. The term al fresco is derived from the Italian phrases meaning “fresh,” as in the fresh air.
If you’ve ever been to Italy, you’ll know what I mean. Outdoor dining is a mainstay of dining in Italy. There, you’ll find plenty of cafe tables lining the streets or overlooking the view.
Even in Boston’s “Little Italy,” you’ll find the tradition of outdoor dining in the North End carries over. It’s a lovely experience to eat outside!
Creating a luxury outdoor living space of your own in which to eat and drink could be as simple as putting a picnic table with a colorful cloth under a shaded tree.
Alternatively, you might choose an elaborate dining set with an umbrella and a fully stocked outdoor bar set on the patio.
Or, how about if you tuck a little bistro table in the corner of a secret garden?
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one space. You could choose several spaces in your yard to enjoy food and drink in a way that coincides with your lifestyle.
2. Outdoor Kitchen Space
Who wants to light the oven during the hottest months of the year? An outdoor kitchen in some form can help keep the house–and the cook– from overheating.
Traditionally, the outdoor cook is relegated to a remote corner away from dinner guests. Instead, you could provide bar-height stools and tables by the grill so it’s easier to enjoy the cook’s company over cocktails and appetizers while he or she prepares the meal.
If you love that smokey BBQ flavor as we do, you might opt for a waist-high charcoal grill. This durable Weber Kettle Grill (the one we use) even has a thermometer and it’s available in cheery colors to compliment your decor.
You might even indulge in a larger, more elaborate, commercial quality grill or a built-in grill for your luxury outdoor living space. Savvy cooks will enjoy high-end gas grills that offer three burners, char-less cooking, and granite look cutting surfaces. You can also find rotisserie cookers and smokers for specialized cooking techniques.
Finally, a no-frills timeless way to cook outdoors is a fire pit outfitted with a cooking grate. That’s about as close to campfire cooking in the great outdoors as you can get in your backyard!
3. Outdoor Living Room Space
Finally, you’ll want to include a space where you can relax before or after dinner, with family or alone.
Nowadays, it’s easy to find comfortable outdoor sectionals, couches, and love seats, as well as accent chairs and rockers to design a chic outdoor living room.
For the ultimate hotel-style luxury, consider deep cushion recliners, gliders, and loveseats that allow you to relax in stylish comfort. Colorful weather-resistant pillows complete the ensemble.
Be sure not to overlook functionally: You’ll want side- and coffee tables where you can put your drink down, and ottomans so you can put your feet up.
Consider the times of day that your living area will be in the sun or shade.
If you need to create more shade, you might consider installing an automatic awning or a building a pergola overhead.
A gazebo tent or screened-in porch area also provides the ultimate respite from the hot sun.
You could even add an overhead fan for the Casablanca experience!
3 Unique Ideas for Outdoor Luxury Living Spaces
Maybe you’re looking for something more on the unusual side for your luxury outdoor living space. You might consider these unique ideas:
- An Outdoor Movie Theatre
- A Beach Area (complete with sand and a fire pit)
- Outdoor Sleeping Space
1. An Outdoor Movie Theater
How to Create A Makeshift Outdoor Movie Theater
For a cinematic experience at home, it’s easy to create a basic outdoor movie theatre, as follows:
- Simply hang a white sheet or expandable screen like this one on your deck.
- Get an old-school reel-to-reel movie projector and some old-fashion reel tape–even break out the old home movies for some nostalgia.
- Set up a few chairs or get cozy on the outdoor loveseat.
Creating A Seasonal Outdoor Movie Theatre
Or, you can go for the big-time with a little technology investment:
- Invest in an outdoor movie screen or large-screen TV protected from the elements.
- If it’s a smart TV, stream movies from the internet; Otherwise, mirror your Netflix movie from a mobile phone using Apple TV.
- Comfortably enjoy the big screen in your outdoor living space.
Make A Drive-In at Home
The third option for an outdoor movie space recreates a drive-in experience at home.
- Using an outdoor movie projector, show a movie on your garage door.
- Invite a few friends over to sit in their cars and watch along.
How fun is that, in this age of social distancing?
Now, pop some popcorn for any of these three outdoor spaces and voila! You’ve got an old-fashioned movie theatre at home.
2. A Private Beach Space
Wish you had a beach in your back yard but you don’t live on the water? No problem! Here’s what you do:
- Choose a sunny space in your yard.
- Cover grass and other growth with landscaping fabric.
- Truck in some sand.
- Add some beach chairs or a circle of Adirondack chairs.
If you are lucky enough to have a water feature on your property, such as a natural pond, stream, or freshwater spring, consider locating your private beach nearby.
You could also install a water garden, man-made pond, or a fountain to enhance the space with a water element.
To maximize the use of this space for evenings, create a ring of large stones for a campfire, or even get a firepit like this one, and you’re good to go.
Just be sure any outdoor fires meet the fire codes in your town and are safely away from your home, trees and other flammable structures.
3. Outdoor Sleeping or Resting Space
Some of the best island getaways I’ve visited are outfitted with colorful two-person hammocks for a cozy afternoon nap. This is a very easy option to incorporate into your own outdoor spaces.
The most exotic island destinations go as far as offering full-size beds under a canopy or suspended from porch ceilings. They are the ultimate luxury!
Part of enjoying the boutique hotel experience at home means finding time to relax. Make sure you take time for an afternoon nap or to stretch out, relax, and lose yourself in a good book. A special outdoor space is a good incentive!
How to Choose Furniture for Your Outdoor Room
Once you decide how each space will be used, comfort and function are key considerations when choosing furniture. The options can be overwhelming, so here are 10 tips to help you design your outdoor room.
10 Essential Tips for The Best Outdoor Decor
Here are 10 Essential Tips to help you design your outdoor room:
- Match the style of furnishings to the formality of your home for a more integrated look. For more formal settings, select frame designs such as ornate wrought iron, or sleek classic lines in teak. For a more casual feel, opt for the New England charm of chunky cedar furniture or Adirondack chairs.
- Inject some whimsy with a brightly painted chair, outdoor rug, or weathered flea market find. Or perhaps a sundial becomes a side table.
- Remember that outdoor furniture blends best with surroundings when it matches or compliments the color of your home.
- Fabric choices for outdoor furniture are as varied as for indoor furniture, with dozens of striped, floral, solid, and geometric patterns from which to choose.
- Don’t be afraid to buck the design trend. Rattan sectionals in bright Caribbean colors may be popular, but you might prefer teak and more earthy tones like sandstone, taupe, and new shades of green. Allow the outdoor space to reflect your own personal style with confidence!
- Rather than just one fabric color, select a matching ensemble, or mix and match complimenting fabrics for a designer look. If you will have several outdoor spaces, seek complementary fabric designs, so a chair in one area may be borrowed for another when family visits.
- Consider that an outdoor room in full sun will be subjected to conditions quite different from one in damp shade, or near wind and sea. Consider frames and fabrics that will endure the elements of your outdoor living space.
- Arrange furnishings in groupings that encourage conversation or promote solitude, depending on how you plan to use the space.
- Remember to capitalize on a spectacular view, detract from any eyesores, or provide a clear view of children’s play areas, if you’ll be supervising little visitors.
5 Ways to Create A Luxury Ambiance
Ambiance is all about the atmosphere or mood of a space. The right furnishings and colors set the stage, but the right ambiance can take things to the next level. But ambiance can be elusive.
Here are four things that influence the ambiance of an outdoor space.
1. Create Special Lighting Effects Outdoors
Lighting is a significant factor in creating ambiance, indoors or out. To create a luxury outdoor space, you’ll want to include a variety of lighting options.
This option can generally illuminate an outdoor space. Opt for warmer toned bulbs over harsh halogens. We use dusk-to-dawn lights that automatically turn on as nightfalls. (It’s almost like having an innkeeper orchestrating the outdoor lighting.)
A sprinkling of tiny tea lights along your deck rail, around trees, or in shrubs at the property line can add magic to the outdoor space. Choose warm-toned bulbs for a gentle effect.
Some fairy light strings can be set to twinkle or flash, depending on the mood you’d like to create.
- Tea lights that glow steady and are wrapped around the rails of raised deck feel a bit as though you are on a cruise deck.
- Set in the distance and twinkling, tea lights may achieve the appearance of fireflies in a cozy outdoor retreat.
- Flashing tealights help set a fun-filled or party vibe for a special occasion.
I recommend getting solar-powered fairy lights whenever possible, as they will go on automatically and you can avoid too many unsightly wires and outdoor extension cords.
A cascade of vintage-style lightbulbs strung overhead and about an outdoor space gives the impression of an enclosure and really dresses things up. Keep in mind that in most cases, you’ll need to plug these into a power source.
Lights in Traffic Areas
Highlight walking paths and outdoor stairs with solar-powered lighting so you can safely enjoy your outside spaces.
Whether you set out lantern with wax candles or opt for inexpensive battery-operated candles that won’t melt in the sun, accent lighting plays an important role in outdoor ambiance.
Strategically display a few candles (citronella optional) out on coffee and side tables. You might also consider illuminating a water fountain, potted plants, or garden features with solar-powered uplighting.
2. Include A Fire Feature
There are a number of ways you can incorporate a fire feature into your outdoor room, including:
- A Gas- or Wood-fueled Firepit
- A Chiminea
- A Fire Bowl
- A Spanish-style Open Fireplace
- A Gas Fireplace
- Tiki Torches
- Outdoor Heat Lamps
As always, when considering fire, work within local fire codes be sure to keep any open flames a safe distance from you home, furnishings, trees and other flammable structures.
3. Incorporate A Water Feature in Your Outdoor Space
Water features add another dimension to a backyard spaces. Losing yourself in the flow (and sound) of moving water can be such a soothing experience. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider:
- A Potted Bubble Fountain
- A Fountain, big or small
- A Birdbath
- A Trickling Waterfall Basin
- A Wishing Well
- A Waterfall Wall or Chain
- A Landscape Water Feature, such as a water pond, water garden or waterfall
4. Bring Music into Your Outside Spaces
There are more than a few ways to add the sound of music to an outside space. Years ago, you might need to have invest in a hardwired sound system.
Of course, you can still do that. But it’s a lot easier now to invest in a quality bluetooth speaker and direct your playlist from your mobile phone or computer to it.
You’ll find many boutique hotels and fine restaurants pipe in a symphony of classical music or smooth jazz with the aim of creating a relaxed setting. If that’s your jam, by all means.
You might also enjoy more natural sounds from a water feature, birds at a bird feeder, or the gentle tones of a wind-chime or subtle bells.
5. Flowers & Landscaping Features
Outdoor ambiance is enhanced by a pristine landscape, beautiful gardens, and potted plants.
Look for opportunities to minimize the maintenance required so you can more thoroughly enjoy your outdoor space. Here are some suggestions to make it more easy on you:
- Incorporate drought-tolerant planting throughout your landscape
- Opt for self-watering pots for thirsty annuals.
- Add lovely native perennials that are best suited to your climate.
- Choose potting soils and mulches that retain moisture.
- Automate watering with an efficient irrigation system, where possible.
In addition to selecting plants that compliment the style of your home, look to fragrant varieties to add an element of aromatherapy.
Color is important to design consideration, too. A white-themed garden can almost glow when enjoyed by night!
How to Accessorize An Outdoor Room
Like indoors, you can personalize outdoor rooms with accessories that reflect your taste. For instance:
- Place an elegant statue that provides a sculptural focal point.
- Group a cluster of antique watering cans on the coffee table to reflect your love of gardening.
- Set a mishmash of painted ceramic tiles at the bar as coasters, reminiscent of a trip to a Tuscan Hill Town in Italy
- How about an old teapot brimming with the herb, Chamomile?
If you’re feeling crafty, you might even try your hand at creating one-of-a-kind accessories, like terra cotta pots painted with festive designs; or a trellis of flexible twigs, woven together.
What’s important is to accessories your outdoor space in a way that reflects your unique tastes and interests.
Avoiding Uninvited Guests
Finally, let’s talk about uninvited guests.
You’ve spent your time and energy creating a perfect retreat in your backyard, but uninvited guests can ruin a good time.
I’m talking about unwanted pests, such as ants, wasps, mosquitos, and other nuisances that can have a negative influence on your outdoor experience.
You might look into one or more natural pest solutions, like these:
- Put out wasp or yellow jacket traps.
- Light a citronella candle or two.
- Plant a Citronella plant (yes, there is such a thing!) to discourage mosquitoes.
- Plant Lavender, Mint, and Sage to discourage deer ticks.
- Sprinkle key areas with diatomaceous earth or essential oils, such as patchouli, peppermint, cedar oil, or extracts of pepper, to discourage ants and other unwanted insects.
- Build houses for birds and bats on your property to reduce mosquitos.
- Eliminate any standing water where mosquitos might breed.
- Opt for screened-in spaces during dusk or dawn, when mosquitos are most active.
And lastly, you might have to lower your expectations. Remember, a certain amount of creatures outside is unavoidable because–well, we’re outside.
Final Thoughts On How to Create A Luxury Outdoor Living Space
By including one or more of these ideas into your backyard, you are taking steps to create a luxury outdoor living space that rivals the best boutique inns.
And with a vacation oasis of your own, chances are, you might just rather stay home.
Which of these ideas resonates with you the most? What features do you love about outdoor spaces at boutique inns we may have overlooked? Please tell us in the comments below!
A version of this article previously appeared in the HomeFront section of The Country Gazette as “Linger Longer in Outdoor Rooms” by Jackie Gately.