Design lesson: Outdoor rooms
Many Canadians, me included, spend a great deal of time, energy and money on their gardens, and want to enjoy them on every conceivable occasion. Creating well-defined outdoor garden rooms allows us to use our gardens more effectively as extensions of our living spaces.
Add a roof
We love the idea of enjoying the sky above, but outdoor living areas must be shielded from the elements for maximum service year-round. A pergola overgrown with grapevines can provide shade but not rain protection; a permanent roof offers both. Full sun or shade is possible with a retractable awning.
Build a hearth
This is especially handy if your room is adjacent to the kitchen, since it also facilitates easy serving. The additional warmth from the hearth will make the space usable during cooler days and evenings.
Purchase patio heaters
You'll find these portable space heaters at Home Depot and Canadian Tire stores across Canada, as well as at various Trail Appliances locations in Alberta and British Columbia.
Block the wind
Latticework is an excellent option for sheltering your outdoor garden room and looks beautiful planted with trailing vines, such as Chinese wisteria or climbing roses. For a contemporary feel, fashion a hedge from five-foot lengths of bamboo or create a more formal “living screen” by planting a dense row of cedar or yew trees.
Choose comfy seating
A high-back armchair that comes with weather-resistant cushions will cradle the body and soul and offer a sense of security.
Incorporate exterior lighting
A comprehensive plan that features a variety of fixtures is vital if you plan to enjoy the area in the evening.
The dos and don'ts of creating outdoor rooms
- DO design a garden room that flows seamlessly from your house's architecture and style of decoration. A classical interior is complemented by an Italianate garden room with chalk white urns, striped fabrics and Roman busts, just as a country home can open onto a rustic setting featuring wicker furniture, terra-cotta pots and galvanized watering cans.
- DO carve out specific areas for relaxation, recreation and tasks. For reading, include a comfortable chair and a table to place a drink. Even a tiny portion of a deck, patio or grass can be converted into an alfresco dining room. Plan on a minimum nine- by nine-foot space for a 48-inch-diameter table.
- DO position furniture with an eye toward the best view.
- DO look beyond the barbecue to a full-service cooking centre. Purchase or build a barbecue island with storage, warming drawers and even a small fridge, depending on your budget.
- DON'T allow fabrics to distract from the true focal point – your garden. Pick a neutral or natural palette and add a few accents that echo colours in your garden.
- DON'T forget most outdoor furniture lasts longer if sheltered during the winter. Consider lightweight furniture options like all-weather wicker, resin, or metal frames with woven seats. Only choose furniture with cushions (waterproof fabric is essential) if you have convenient storage close at hand.