Extending your indoor living space into the great outdoors is not only healthy but also fun. There is nothing quite so cozy as sitting with your favorite book on your outdoor sofa listening to the birds chirping. Or, what about entertaining under the starry sky? Either way, an outdoor living room takes personal space and entertaining to a whole new level.
Let your needs dictate the space
Apart from the availability of space, your needs should dictate the size of your outdoor living room. If all you need is a quiet area to just sit and relax with a book and a cup of tea, or have a private conversation, that’s exactly what you should aim for. On the other hand, you could mark out a large space, add a TV and some cooking equipment, and you’re ready to host large parties.
Check out the essential components of a functional as well as aesthetically pleasing outdoor living room.
Seating is the most important factor that determines how well your additional living space is going to be used. It should be inviting and relaxing. This is no place for straight-backed chairs. Use plush sofas, lounge chairs, bean bags, porch swings, or hammocks that beg you dive in. Cushions and pillows of a variety of sizes and colors add a splash of color and interest.
If the outdoor space is for the exclusive use of the family, one seating area will do, but if you intend to entertain often, create multiple areas by arranging the furniture pieces into small groups. This allows people to gather and talk.
Protection from the elements
You’ll be able to get more use out of your outdoor living room if you install a covering that offers some protection from the sun and precipitation. Options range from large umbrellas and awnings to ready-to-use pergolas with coverings. A PVC or glass roof can transform outdoor space into a lanai or sunroom.
A heat source for comfort
To make your outdoor living room useable and comfortable during the colder months, consider installing a heat source. You can use a fire pit, a conventional fireplace, or even a wood-burning oven that would do double duty to cook your meal and keep you warm!
If open fires seem risky, tabletop fireplaces within safety glass enclosures work well. An even safer option for families with young children might be a heat lamp which runs on either electricity or propane.
Outdoor living spaces are steadily getting upgraded to include counters with cooking equipment, sinks for washing, and storage space for utensils. You can even add a small refrigerator to round it off. The sky is the limit – let your needs, and of course, budget do the guiding here.
TV in the outdoor living room
A TV or outdoor movie screen transforms your outdoor living area into a complete entertainment space. Flat screen TVs can be easily hung anywhere, but make sure that they are protected from the weather by some kind of enclosure. Many options exist for showing movies on a large screen, including devices that hook to your smartphone.
Bring the greenery in
Add some plants to your outdoor living room so that it blends with the landscape. They can be strategically arranged to provide privacy where required.
A few large specimens that remain green all year set off other seasonal flowers and foliage.
Several shade-tolerant palms will remain happy in your outdoor living space. Parlor palm, lady palm, and pygmy date palm are good choices.
Evergreen conifers are ideal for colder areas where most other shrubs shed their leaves seasonally. Choose Arborvitae, hemlocks or other dwarf varieties along with shade-tolerant conifers.
Since the spring and summer months are likely to see maximum activity in the outdoor living room, it’s great to have a few plants that flower during this time within or close to the area.
Azaleas are reliable spring bloomers and have a long flowering season. You will not only get a wide range of colors to choose from but also varieties to suit different climatic conditions. Another advantage is that they like part shade, which makes them just right for almost any part of the room.
Mock orange is one shrub you could have in a sunny location close to the outdoor living room. This early summer bloomer of fragrant white flowers that last for weeks will make your nighttime entertaining magical.
For a tropical feel, there’s nothing like hibiscus with their large, striking flowers in jewel colors and dark green glossy leaves.
This is the perfect place to display your hanging baskets of summer flowers. A great advantage of these is that they add color to your space without making it cluttered. Begonias, fuchsias, calibrachoas, weeping varieties of lantana, verbena, geranium, impatiens all make good candidates and can be paired with shade-loving ferns.
What is a pergola without some climber softening up its harsh lines? Depending on your climatic zone, you could choose from wisterias, climbing roses, Clematis, honeysuckle, climbing hydrangeas, Star jasmine, passion flower, trumpet vine, Mandevillas, and bougainvilleas. Trained on a trellis, they make excellent privacy screens, too.
As with every other element of the outdoor living room, ease of maintenance should be one of the main criterias when choosing plants.
Already dreaming of your outdoor living room?
-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener