There’s a lot of excitement around indoor outdoor living spaces right now. From outdoor fireplaces to kitchen islands and beyond there’s a whole lot that homeowners can do to extend their living spaces into the great outdoors. Of course, we’ve all seen tacky back patios that don’t look like they belong on the property. And we’ve all seen ones that really, really do. So, while it may not be tough to see why outdoor living spaces are the hottest trend in building today, what is it that makes a great one? 

Outdoor brick oven and patio.

3 Keys to Designing an Outdoor Living Space

Whether it’s a sunroom, outdoor patio, kitchen, fireplace, or a pool that you have in mind, we salute you. These are the three build considerations that make for stunning outdoor living experiences — the kind that homeowners end up enjoying for decades to come.

Integration

Eight years ago, outdoor kitchen islands, patios, or fireplaces would typically come as an afterthought once the design was largely solidified. Not so today! Gone are the days of tacking on an outdoor living space onto a finished home. Good builders want indoor outdoor living spaces to be included in the initial design phase of the home building process. So, why is that?

The phrase that answers this question — “architectural integration” — may be a mouthful, but it’s actually pretty easy to understand. We would never think of a second indoor kitchen as an “extra” room to be tacked on at will. Likewise, when we consider adding an indoor outdoor living space, we should also consider that it must be properly planned for within the context of the whole home design — just like any other feature or space.

Integrating an outdoor living space requires design and aesthetic decisions that may, for instance, affect what flooring you choose in the great room. The need for weather-resistant material may impact your material choices should you want to use the same trim throughout the home. You have to think about windows and doors and acknowledge the established parameters of your overall architectural style. Solid integration helps a builder check the second box in any good outdoor living design: connectivity.

Connectivity

For there to be structure, there must be flow. And to achieve good flow, a home’s various areas need to be connected with intent. As design and material integration matters, so does navigational optimization. Homeowners who build instead of buying a home may understand this better, but your home builders spend a significant amount of time anticipating and plotting the flow of day-to-day life inside your home. That’s why builders want to work with you from the beginning to to understand your lifestyle and needs. This is the only way they can set a living room up, for instance, to flow directly into your patio or outdoor kitchen.

This dovetails nicely into the final key to crafting a high-quality outdoor living space… functionality!

Grand white farmhouse with large pool and fenced in yard

Functionality

Let’s take an extreme example of what poor functionality planning might look like. Say it’s a couple’s ten-year anniversary. They decide to add an outdoor kitchen island to their home in celebration. Originally, they had an in-ground pool installed. The size of this pool in their relatively small backyard leaves no extra room for an outdoor kitchen island and seating, but say they do have a little extra room on the side of the house. “Great!” they might say. “Let’s add it on the side.” Well… that might not be so simple.

Besides looking a bit odd on the side of a home, how are folks going to access the space? Where is the gas line going to run? In our imaginary scenario, it may quickly become clear that running power to this outdoor kitchen would require extensive work, or that knocking out that wall to add a door would still mean it can only be accessed through the first floor guest bathroom. There are any number of architectural decisions that can make it very difficult to add a fluid indoor outdoor living space.

Seasonal optimization is another aspect of functionality. As we look at integration, connectivity, and functionality, we do so understanding that indoor outdoor living is a lifestyle. This isn’t just “another room.” It isn’t a space to be trotted out for just a couple months out of every year — not if we can help it. No, this is another room of the house. As such, it should be functional as many months out of the year as possible.

Where many builders might settle on a three-season room, for instance, we shoot to make it four. With many types of outdoor living spaces, there are creative ways to extend the amount of days in a year that homeowners can enjoy it (although, features like pools may make things a little trickier). The primary goal here is to make a space so consistently functional within your established lifestyle that it truly feels like part of your home, not an isolated addition.

Designing a functional outdoor living space is crucial, and it generally hinges on good planning. Sure, you could just get really lucky after the fact. It’s possible. But even if your home naturally lends itself to a functional addition, it’s still likely that pre-build planning could have made the space more intentional and efficient. That’s why we suggest that you communicate with your builders.

If you can’t add an outdoor living space initially, but have an inkling that you may want to down the road, let your builders know that. Ask if there’s a way to leave that option open. Good custom builders will work with you, and a little planning up front can save a LOT of heartache in the future.

Interested in Building a Home With an Outdoor Living Space?

When you’re in the market for a custom home that integrates, connects, and functionally optimizes your lifestyle, our team can help. We’ve built some of the most luxurious homes in Central Ohio, and we would love to speak with you about your goals and options. Give us a call any time at (614) 965-9521.