We live in a great climate. Our night skies are world famous. We are renowned for our love of the great outdoors … No wonder, then, that the so-called ‘outdoor room’ has become such a big part of the grand designs of so many of us.
They may offer a view of the stars, but organising one is not rocket science.
An outdoor room can range from a simple bistro table and two chairs in a cosy courtyard to a house extension complete with roof, walls, fully-equipped kitchen, dining and lounge areas.
The most common outdoor rooms sit somewhere between these two extremes. Ideally, an outdoor room allows you to do the things you love doing inside your house: cooking, eating, relaxing, playing, socialising and even sleeping.
Now, where’s that day bed?
Great outdoor rooms feel like a continuation of your home, even if they’re not attached.
Ruth Francis, design director of Forever Home Design (foreverhomedesign.com.au), says modern families like to connect and be together.
“We want to cook and be able to see everyone and join in, not to be separated.
“I receive a lot of requests to fix old-style layouts, where the kitchen doesn’t connect to the garden or there’s a deck and a kitchen, but they’re not well linked.
“Even if your outdoor room is under a pergola at the end of the garden, there are ways to connect it to your house. It could be as simple as laying pavers to lead the way and linking its design to that of your home.”
Size, space and function
The size of your backyard and purpose of your outdoor room determines its dimensions and what’s in it.
Draw a plan and test it visually by marking it out on the floor with chalk or tape.
Or use a 3D room planning app.
“It’s important to have enough space to make your room inviting. People often build decks that are just big enough for the table and chairs with no room to walk around them comfortably,” says Ruth.
When it comes to positioning furniture, Ruth says, to be able to relax most people like to look out at natural surroundings and have their backs protected by something like a wall or fence.
“It’s a primal thing.”
The big picture questions
Ruth Francis begins any job by asking clients three thought-provoking questions.
First of all, what do you love about your outdoor area? Secondly, what annoys you? And lastly, what’s missing from it?
“Maybe you love the morning sun, but it gets too hot in the afternoons. You enjoy looking at the trees, but not your neighbours,” Ruth explains.
The other thing to remember is that comfort comes first, just as it does inside. If your outdoor room isn’t appealing and comfy, you won’t use it. The other biggie is budget.
There are many cost-effective products available, so do your research and work out what you have to spend on each element.
You may also need to check building restrictions with your council.