Being on an exposed patio can feel a bit like Goldilocks’ dilemma — too hot, too cold or too far from the fridge — for someone to feel completely at home on it. This thoughtfully designed patio in Sydney appears to get it just right. The design brings all the comforts of an indoor room to a breezy outdoor setting.
A pergola offers the option of shade in the afternoon, and there’s a deep, cushy outdoor sofa ready for lounging. (Looking for a spot in the sun? Check out the “floating” chaise at the back of the garden.)
A grill with plenty of counter space reduces the need for trips back and forth to the kitchen, while two beverage fridges keep drinks within arm’s reach.
In smaller gardens, where square footage is at a premium, look to climbing plants and vertical gardens as a way to add more greenery without taking up floor space. This San Francisco backyard, behind a converted fire station renovated by Jeff King & Co. and Aleck Wilson Architects, features wisteria vines that twine up and around a trellis covering a back cottage. The vines, combined with hedging and potted plants, create a lush backdrop to look down on from the main home’s windows and don’t encroach too much on usable patio space.
The fireside lounge in this design by JMS Design Associates is certainly inviting on its own, but it’s the view of the seating area framed by olive trees that takes the design to the next level. One feels enticed to walk down the path of crunchy gravel framed by rosemary to reach the seating area.
To frame a view and create an outdoor space that draws one in, start by seeing how sightlines align from one space to the next or from windows out to the garden. Site your seating areas or garden focal points on these lines. Use symmetry between the viewer and the seating area — such as trees planted on either side of a path, or parallel hedges — to frame the view.
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There’s a lot to love about this dreamy loggia by Sean Rush Atelier in Palm Beach, Florida, from the view looking out to a peaceful pool and palm garden to the stylish furnishings, gauzy drapes and Moroccan lanterns. Perhaps what is most alluring (and achievable) is the indoor-outdoor connection.
To foster this type of breezy connection where you live, consider design moves such as widening window and door frames or replacing solid doors with glass ones. In addition, add patios — complete with seating areas and lush potted plants — adjacent to indoor rooms to enjoy more indoor-outdoor flow.
Most decks and patios don’t come with natural divisions of space. Rather, they tend to be wide, blank canvases. To anchor furnishings and help define zones, consider rolling out an outdoor rug or two. On this breezy indoor-outdoor lanai in Sydney by DesignBuild Project Services, a rectangular rug sets the dining table apart from the corner lounge, which has its own circular rug.
For sheltered outdoor spaces such as this one, you can get away with indoor-outdoor rugs made with natural materials like jute or sea grass (but keep in mind they will not be waterproof). For patios exposed to the elements, look for outdoor rugs made from water- and UV-resistant materials such as nylon, polyester or polypropylene.
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As with home interiors, a few strong hits of color in a garden can add energy like nothing else. In this terrace in Madrid designed by architecture firm gon, leafy vines and sage-green painted walls form a neutral backdrop to the bright yellow dining chairs and red structural support. The splashes of primary colors change the feeling of the design from calm to playful and energetic.
Looking to add color to your outdoor space? Do it with paint, accent chairs, throw pillows or pots filled with brightly colored flowers.
Built-in benches and other seating can be an investment upfront, but they are often the most space-efficient option for seating a larger group in a modest-size space.
The designers of this seating area, built by Pat Coughlan, utilized built-in benches to maximize seating in the covered area. Yellow-and-white striped seat cushions and a scattering of throw pillows add comfort and style.
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Sloped lots are generally seen as a challenge, but a well-executed grade change can boost a yard’s design. Outside In, which designed this stylish outdoor room in Perth, Australia, elegantly turned the backyard’s natural slope into an asset. Wide steps lead up to an outdoor lounge, kitchen and dining area, complete with overhead fans and a wall-mounted television. The raised outdoor room sits in a position of prominence, with a view looking down to the garden and across the swimming pool to the left.
Two ideas to steal for your own sloped garden: First, use generously proportioned steps such as these to make grade changes feel more gradual than steep stairs. They can also double as seating areas. Second, leave room for plants when building retaining walls so that greenery can help soften walls and fill in garden edges.
One outdoor seating area is great, but two or more are even better. This home in Denver, designed by Lifescape Colorado, features patios, terraces and an expansive rooftop where the homeowners can eat or relax outside. Within the single patio, the designers carved out two hangout spots — a large outdoor table for eight and a fire pit area with an outdoor sofa and accent chairs. There’s a spot for everyone and room to move from one outdoor area to the next in the course of an evening.