Creating Outdoor Living Spaces

Creating Outdoor Living Spaces

A long used approach for enlarging the overall feel of a house is to make rooms look larger by visually extending them into the lawn or garden. Using the same wall material inside as for a wall that continues on the terrace and using the same material for the inside ceiling as on the extended terrace eaves, and using glass walls all help to do this. In addition your living room, dining room or even bedrooms can flow right outdoors on to “floating” decks, bricked terraces or lattice-roofed loggias.

With the aid of vines, fences, shrubbery, shade trees and flowers you can make a terrace a delightful place for entertaining, sun-bathing and relaxing. Another dimension is added with a barbecue, for with your own fireplace or barbecue any terrace, lawn or garden spot can offer the enchantments of dining under sun and stars.

Barbecues that are located at a distance from the house should be designed to include protected compartments for tinder, fuel storage, and possibly even barbecuing utensils. The more self-sufficient an outdoor area is the more pleasure it can provide. A barbecue that has working space, built-in ovens and a wide grill, makes outdoor dining enjoyable even for the cook.

While planning your terrace, you should consider installing electric outlets for lighting, music, an electric barbecue spit, etc. You may want to use vines to create a lattice roof (for example, grape vines leaf out late in the summer when shade is wanted and drop their leaves early as cooler weather sets in). Rapid growing vines like grape, hyacinth or the gourd vine work best.

For a terrace where the family gets together, have play spaces for young children. You could add a sand box which can later be filled with plants, or a small pool for sailing boats (creating a sense of luxury long after the children are grown).

Rather than relying on trees alone for shade you may want to construct a self-bracing terrace roof, using the side of your house or pillars. The “parasol” roof is coming into more and more architectural use – particularly in hot climates – extending from the walls of the house for several feet to give pleasant shade to the surrounding area. A carpet of shaded grass under the parasol roof will help to keep the house cool.

Often an outdoor living space will get twice as much use if it is made more easily accessible. A window in the house could be converted to a French door, making it more convenient to step right out onto the terrace instead of having to walk around the house to reach it.

A terrace that is an extension of a narrow porch will make the porch that much more livable. A path leading to a terrace that is away from the house will increase the usefulness of the terrace.

Having some kind of hard flooring such as brick, crushed rock, cement, wood block, or flagstone makes it much easier to move furniture around and eliminates problems with torn-up grass. In fact, it is a good idea to locate a terrace in a spot where you are having trouble with the lawn.

You can relate your terrace to the rest of your landscape with flowers and vines grown in pots, baskets and tubs. If a wall next to your terrace seems bare or the profile of your paving seems too sharp in contrast with the grass, soften the line with pots of plants. Use dwarf trees on your terrace and flowering shrubs in terrace-retaining walls. You can also create interest with changes of level; building up flower beds around trees, steps and walls.

A louvered board fence, a basket-weave fence, a modern wall, or the traditional brick wall are all pleasant backgrounds for planting and good screens against wind and other disturbing elements.

Outdoor living space is successful, too, when it is sheltered from street noises, traffic, neighbors and from the wind. An unused corner of the house or garage, with the aid of fences and walls, can turn into a private sun trap that will lengthen the season for outdoor living both in spring and fall.