Creating Outdoor Rooms

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Vacations are generally remembered as much for spending time in stylish locations, as much as they are for fun activities, and great weather. So, what if you could translate that holiday-away appeal all year round right in your own home?

Interior designer and writer Karen Ho Fatt is here to tell us how to do it.

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Recently my husband and I took a much needed vacation in the Canadian countryside. Our accommodations included a lovely garden retreat—an outdoor room complete with a built-in fireplace, grill, comfortable outdoor seating and potted plants. We spent most of our time lounging in that outdoor room. We took our meals outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and atmosphere, napped and read books in the comfy chairs, and soaked away our cares in the spa.

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Elbert Hubbard once said, “No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.” And it’s true. Traditional vacations are a lot of work. But, when our vacation was over, we had no planes to catch and no luggage to unpack. Why? Because we were already at home. Like many people, we opted to staycation, and found it a wonderful, restful experience.

A few months previously, while contemplating a vacation, we decided to spend the money we would have spent on a vacation refurbishing our backyard and installing an outdoor room instead. Now, we have an outdoor sanctuary that we enjoy year-round.

Getting started on your outdoor room design

Creating your own little oasis is easier than you think. The first step is assessing your site. If you already have a patio, you’ll probably want to build the pergola our outdoor room over that area. If you have a clean slate, you have a bit more freedom in determining the size and shape of your space.

Consider the amount of wind the site gets. Pre-fab aluminum or vinyl outdoor rooms aren’t a good idea if you have a lot of wind. Instead, you’ll want a sturdier wooden or steel structure installed with footings into the ground.

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Think about the amount of sunlight the area gets, as well. If the area is shaded, an enclosed outdoor room can seem oppressive and dark. Opt instead for a pergola that lets in the maximum amount of light.

Consider access for electricity and water in your planning, especially if you want to include special features, such as a fire pit table set, grill or fireplace. You’ll need a source of light, either candles or an electrified chandelier, as well.

Visit garden stores and online sites to research styles and materials. Pre-fab outdoor rooms and pergolas are typically made from steel, aluminum, vinyl or wood, while custom designs might also include plaster or wood composite materials. Pre-fab outdoor rooms are generally inexpensive and are easy-to-assemble, and can be taken down and moved. The more expensive custom designs are permanent and range from simple pergolas to extensive home additions that require building permits.

Fluffing the Nest

Once you’ve installed your outdoor room, it’s time for the fun of decorating it. Many outdoor rooms come with draperies to create a cozy, private feel and keep out wind and dust. If yours doesn’t, install rattan blinds or drape muslin or linen for a light, airy feel.

Place outdoor heaters around the perimeter to keep the room toasty during the winter months, and be sure to include a propane fire pit table that will add warmth, as well as provide an anchoring focal point for the room. Save room for creating a cozy seating area with attractive, durable and weatherproof outdoor lounge furniture. Colorful throw pillows, candles, end tables and potted plants will add the final touches to your exclusive new retreat.

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Thanks, Karen!

Karen Ho Fatt is an interior designer specializing in creating beautiful rooms and spaces both indoors and out. She maintains a website that offers tips and advice on outdoor fire furnishings for your staycations at home.

Cheers,

Rob.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.