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How to design an outdoor room

How to design an outdoor room

A well designed outdoor room can make you feel like you’ve got a bigger house for a fraction of the cost! By considering layout, function, shelter from the elements you can create a flexible living space that increases the value of your home and can be used all year round (especially if there’s a firepit involved). So where do you start? Here are eight areas to consider when deciding on your ultimate design.  

Stool, outdoor sofa, umbrella, rug, kentia palm, cushion, potted plant, lantern, planter.

Pick your place

What areas on your property could accommodate an outdoor room? While you can create one away from the house it’s much easier in terms of protection and practicality if it’s directly off the house. To help decide, plan the space by deciding what you’ll use it for e.g. dining, lounging, cooking or simply drinking wine - zero judgement here! This will help you decide how big it needs to be, and the pieces you’ll need in it. Sketch this out on paper and do some basic measurements in your chosen spot to see what size is realistic.

Add flooring

Flooring is the foundation of a house and an outdoor room. Hard flooring will visually zone the space, be easier to move furniture on, and simpler to clean. You may already have a deck or patio that can act as the floor, but if not consider adding a hard floor that is level, solid and secure like paving or decking.

Wall up

Outdoor rooms work best if they’ve got some kind of structure on at least two sides to make them feel cozy. This doesn’t mean you need to build walls though! Scan your section for what’s already there - cedar slatting, outdoor blinds, hedging, retaining walls, the ends of your deck or a wall of the house that the room is placed against are all great features to create an outdoor nook against.


  • $ Build a pergola from timber and paint it, then grow and train a climbing vine up and around it for a beautiful green cover.

  • $$ Install external timber or metal screens in key areas to create windbreaks. You can build these yourself, buy ready made panels from hardware stores, or splash out a bit more for an electronic version (these will need to be fixed to a structure).

  • $$$ Add an awning off the roof structure of your house. You can choose the right powdercoated steel and canvas colour to match your scheme, and the awning is retractable so you can enjoy the outdoors with or without it.

  • $$$$ Add a permanent built-in structure like Louvretech. These are made from stainless steel powdercoated in the colour of your choice and feature a clever louvre system to protect from the sun and wind controlled at the touch of a button.

Zone out

Remember learning about breaking your living area up in to zones? Treat your outdoor area exactly the same. If you have space create a couple of different zones like a cooking and dining zone – this could be a BBQ and table and chairs on a deck, or a paved area featuring an outdoor kitchen and dining furniture. Position this zone a practical distance from the exit point of the home so access is easy.

TIP An outdoor rug helps define the zone, set the look and add cosiness, however they’re best used in outdoor areas with some cover.

Plan a palette

Create a colour palette for your outdoor space so it’s cohesive and considered just like an indoor living area. Using the same foundation tones as inside links the areas nicely, but you can also bring in a couple of different accent colours inspired by the outdoors. Put your samples of paint, timber, furniture, fabrics and accessories together to see what works together and if the undertones get on nicely. Making a visual moodboard can really help - the above moodboard is a look and feel for a client’s covered outdoor area.

Find furniture

When choosing your outdoor furniture make sure the scale is right for the space by measuring or taping it out first and position it to enjoy the best outdoor aspect. The style of your furniture really sets the tone for the entire design – e.g. battered teak looks Balinese while black wrought iron inspires a European look. Choose the largest pieces first like your sofa, then add the ‘stuff catching’ pieces like side tables and a coffee table that support the activities you’ll be enjoying.

TIP In an outdoor living room, one sofa with two chairs opposite creates an intimate lounging zone that has the flexibility to move around or be added to easily.

Storage solutions

Outdoor living is much more enjoyable if you don’t have to transport everything from one side of the house to the other. See if there’s opportunity to create your outdoor living area off the kitchen. If not, use clever built-in storage like a built-in kitchen, bench seating, or furniture that double duties as storage. Then you can store outdoor tableware and accessories close by for quick set-up.

Light up your life

  • Path lighting creates a beautiful meandering shape at night and is a practical wayfinding tool if your outdoor room is separate from the house.

  • Modern LED lights are safe, long-lasting and practical. They come in different shapes like strip lights for under balustrades, round spot lights for around decks, paths and furniture, and garden lights with bases made to easily press into soil.

  • If your outdoor room has walls then sconces look luxurious and add a subtle layer of light at eye level.

  • Lamps come in different designs to match your interior style and are a fun, moveable light option for any occasion.

  • Use string lights between trees or around structures like pergolas to feel like you’re sitting under the stars.

Discover more outdoor design ideas in my book Live Luxe, out now!

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