Helpful Ideas: Designing an Outdoor Living Space

By: Marcia Blake

Approach the design of your outdoor space as you would an indoor space, applying the fundamental principles of interior design on the exterior. One technique is to pinpoint a focal point, which is the spot to which your eyes are drawn. It could be a sweeping vista or a majestic fireplace. Whichever point of interest you choose as the focal point you will create a unique canvas that your family and friends will delight in.

An additional design practice is to construct an “anchor” which acts as a catalyst of what the outdoor space provides. By way of illustration, this entertainment unit set in the middle of a Ramada is one way to utilize objects as an architectural feature.

Many times on covered patios in the Scottsdale & Phoenix metropolitan area, the fireplace is the focal point, however, the view of the desert landscape will catch the eye on either side of a fireplace. Add recessed lighting over the fireplace to make the hearth stand out subtlety against the dusky sky.

Fireplaces and fire pits have distinct characters; a fireplace has a meditative feature, as everybody sits in front of it spellbound by the flames. A fire pit, on the other hand, is extremely conversational, the people surrounding the flames and across from one another.  Both can have significant roles even when not lit.  A fireplace frequently requires you pay attention to its majestic structure, whether made of stone, brick, stucco or concrete. A fire pit is usually less dramatic, but commonly has a ledge or other attributes that permit you to make use of it as a seat or as a spot to prop a book or a drink.

When seating is arranged around a fireplace, consider adding decorative drapes to enclose the outdoor living area and keep the warmth in. The furniture should create an environment conducive to conversing: your guests will fall into dialog comfortably, which produces delightful social gatherings.  Place chairs in a symmetrical arrangement to establish a more formal mood, or consider purposefully positioning the chairs in a random presentation, clustered into sets of two or situated in sizable collections. Think about keeping movable seating on hand, such as fabric ottomans to create a conversation space on the spot.

The choices for patio materials are practically bondless in terms of color and shape. If you like a traditional style a brick patio might look best, while a freeform flagstone patio looks great with the Arizona landscape. An ordinary concrete patio can be embellished with a brick or flagstone border, it can be stained a color to coordinate with your décor. Another style that you may like is a decorated tile in different sections of the patio, set apart by swaths of a more neutral medium; it continues to be a highlight without becoming overpowering. If your home is a Mediterranean style a patterned terra-cotta tile will match subtlety with the outdoor furniture’s fabric not to mention with the house itself, while smaller tiles around the outer edge can intensify visual appeal.

Once your space starts to take shape, add accessories to emulate interior living spaces and you will be on your way to creating the perfect outdoor room.