What is an Outdoor Living Space?

The idea of an outdoor living space is quite vague for many.  The obvious answer would seem to be a conservatory, made of glass and attached to the house in some fashion.  The actual answer is any space that contains the elements necessary to give a person a feeling of safety, security and comfort while providing all the conveniences necessary to spend time in the outdoor living space. 


More specifically, if you look at the elements of living indoors, and consider what it is about being inside that makes a person feel safe, secure and comfortable while providing for convenient living, and then transfer those elements to the outside, then you have what you need for a successful outdoor living space.  The most basic of these elements are floors, walls, ceilings, purpose and conveniences.


All spaces include floors.  Honestly, it is very difficult to create a space without a floor—okay maybe even impossible.  Creating an outdoor room isn’t just about having a floor, but instead about selecting a floor.  Placing different flooring materials by each other gives the impression of dividing spaces into separate areas. 


Consider a wide open floor plan in a house, in which there are no walls between the kitchen and great room.  Frequently, the flooring material in the kitchen will be something more conducive to spills and the great room will be something more comfortable—like carpet.  Where the carpet meets the tile, there is an implied separation and you therefore create two separate spaces. 


The same thing can be done with flooring outside.  Where the edge of your concrete patio or deck meets your lawn, there is an implied separation of areas.  Several other examples could be used to illustrate the point, but basically, it is important to define the flooring material to not only separate the different rooms in your yard, but also to provide convenience for the activities of the room.


The reason that two flooring materials placed next to each other implies a separation is because there is an implied wall there at the intersection of the two materials.  Walls can be used for several different reasons other that just separating spaces, though, one of which is privacy. 


The degree of privacy depends on the material used.  Unfortunately, the more privacy an activity requires, the more separated from outside the room becomes.  These things should always be considered when designing separate rooms.  Once again, you need to consider the activities of the room to determine the amount of privacy or degree of separation required in the landscape.


Along with walls, ceilings tend to provide the core of the safety and security needed to be comfortable outside.  Ceilings do not always have to be solid.  A tree or a lattice-topped pergola provides the feeling of being safe and secure.  In fact, simply by placing an eight foot high four by four post in each of for corners of a space, there is an implied ceiling over head. 


Once again, how solid the ceiling is depends upon the activities in the area.  Some activities require a more solid covering to protect from nature (sun, wind, rain, etc.), while others need less covering (sunbathing).  The overall purpose of the ceiling, however, is to provide the person with a feeling of safety and security—the same as being inside.


As mentioned with the floors, walls and ceilings, the materials used depend first and foremost upon the activity of the area.  Outdoor Living Spaces really start to develop when each space is given purpose. 


Think of the inside of your home.  What do you do in your kitchen?  Bathroom?  Bedroom?  Family room?  Office?  Now what do you do outside?  Maybe grill? 


When you start to be creative about what you want to do outside, and then define spaces accordingly, then you have really caught the dream of Outdoor Living Spaces.  That is when your yard becomes functional and you have a space outside for a kitchen, a great room, an office, an exercise room, a theater, or reading and meditating.  It is only by giving different spaces outside purpose that you will be enticed to spend time outside doing the things you would normally do inside.


The last thing missing from the equation is the conveniences of being inside.  Many things can be added to your yard to make spending time in your outdoor rooms convenient. 


Power can be run to any space in your yard.  Likewise, internet, network and cable connections can be run.  Spaces can be heated and/or cooled with a little creative thinking.  Also, you can add humidity to a space with a misting system. 


Many activities require storage space.  Of course you can’t forget the furniture and appliances that really define a space and its activity.  Be careful, though, because adding these conveniences will give you very little reason to spend your time inside.


Along with the conveniences of inside, to define an outdoor living space, you need to select floor materials and add walls, ceilings and most importantly, give each space a purpose.  Doing so will help you to live, play, enJOY, life outside…

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