It’s no secret that the fascination with outdoor living has been building to an unprecedented level in recent years. In the late 80’s, when I began in the design business in Dallas, the focus of outdoor design was really all about the swimming pool, and loads of decking, for sun worshiping. Covered patios were minimal at best, and for the most part non-existent. Of course, in the 80’s, our idea of sunblock was a bottle of baby oil and some tin foil, so perhaps our priorities were off balance. As the decades passed, the focus of outdoor design began shifting. Luxury pools became more of a design element in the landscape, and the space surrounding them started taking on new meaning. As with any trend, the ship turned slowly, but boy did it turn toward an incredible new sea of creativity and opportunity!

In the time frame of just the last couple of years, I believe the value of outdoor living spaces has reached a level of top priority, closely following the kitchen and the master bathroom. By merely looking at what spec builders are doing, you can see what kind of major role outdoor living is taking in our lives.So how do we create successful outdoor living spaces? As with anything, planning is key. Whether it is a space that is attached to the home, a completely separate structure, or some combination thereof, there are some key processes that should be considered in planning your space.


Priorities for use of the space

Think of any room you have inside your home. Those rooms can all be duplicated in outdoor living. What’s most important to you? What would be on a wish list? The most common is an outdoor kitchen, living, and dining area, but I’ve also added sleeping porches, bathrooms and storage rooms. The possibilities are endless!

Space Planning

Like designing the interior of the home, thoughtful space planning makes for a more successful outdoor living design. Consider the furniture needed for the various spaces, and make certain the plan accommodates the need. I’ve seen too many builders slap a 7’x20’ covered patio onto the back of the house, and think that is somehow going to suffice. If the space doesn’t allow for proper furniture arrangement, the value is not there!

Sight Lines and Light

In the planning of outdoor spaces, I always take into account what it will do to the view from inside the home. Try to keep from blocking the views out of the main living areas of the home, with furniture, a kitchen, or a fireplace. If there is going to be a living area, with sofas and chairs right in the main view, try to keep the furniture selection a bit less bulky, and with a lower profile. If you are expanding or adding a covered patio on the back of the house, consider vaulting the ceiling or adding skylights, to keep from darkening the interior of the home too much.



Paying special attention to the lighting in any outdoor space, can add fantastic drama. Consider a combination of recessed lighting, chandeliers, sconces, and table lamps. Up-lighting exterior walls can also be a very effective way to elevate your mood lighting.


Climate Control

There have been incredible advances in climate control for outdoor living. Selecting an uber effective ceiling fan, like those from Big Ass Fans, will dramatically increase the usability of an outdoor space, even in the throes of a Texas summer. Additionally, there are many options available for both heating and cooling outdoor spaces. Drop-down screens and mosquito mist systems, can be very effective methods of ensuring year-round comfort, as well.


Be Adventurous

Your outdoor living spaces should reflect the overall aesthetic of the interior of the home, but they also present an opportunity to show off your more playful side. Think of these spaces as the connector between you and nature. Outdoor spaces can take bridge the gap between a more traditional home and a modern landscape, or take you from a very formal interior into a rustic garden. Whatever the case, don’t fear being adventurous. Work with a designer you trust, and have some fun!