HOME & GARDEN: Designing the perfect outdoor room

Outdoor rooms provide fabulous party space and add value to your home. (Photo courtesy of The Outdoor Greatroom Co.)
Outdoor rooms provide fabulous party space and add value to your home. (Photo courtesy of The Outdoor Greatroom Co.)

By Sharon Naylor

You’ve seen it on TV home remodels: the transformation of a basic backyard into a jaw-dropping outdoor room with an arched-roof pergola housing a flame-flickering fire pit table, fabulous couches and tables, a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen and magical lighting illuminating the cozy and chic space for gathering family and friends. Now, more homeowners are designing their own outdoor rooms to give themselves a fabulous open-air space in top design style.

According to the experts at The Outdoor Greatroom Co., “the wonderful thing about adding an outdoor great room is that the cost per square foot is much less than any other inside-the-home remodel job.” They also report high returns of joy from their investment. The family can revel in living the good life via their new, enviable, high style outdoor space. Party guests will marvel at the transformation of the corner of the yard that previously offered nothing more than patchy grass during the celebrations and outdoor family dinners commencing throughout the year.

Aside from the entertaining perks, a new outdoor room adds value to the home. According to the American Institute of Architects, outdoor living is the number one growth category in American lifestyles, and installing an outdoor room increases a home’s value by 10 to 20 percent, which The Outdoor Greatroom Co. says delivers a 100 percent return on investment.

To begin your process of designing an outdoor room, browse Pinterest to gather enticing images, from the ultra-exorbitant to the most simple. Show these to your professional designer or outdoor room company stylist. (It is advisable to hire an expert to assess and measure your property’s grading and anchoring needs, advise on township codes and suggest the most durable, weather-resistant materials for your outdoor room.) Completing this project alone presents serious risk to the amateur home remodeler, as there are so many details and codes to consider.

A professional team also makes easy work of installing the room’s pergola and support beams, which The Outdoor Greatroom Co. says can be “easily installed in less than a day with two people.” However, the flooring may take longer depending on your need and choice of flooring materials. “It is also necessary to do the planning for the electrical and gas lines if these are to be utilized” for gas fire pits, outdoor kitchens and outdoor fireplaces. Licensed and insured professionals know how and where lines may be run and can handle permit acquisitions tasks for you.

A pergola is the most popular design, with thick support legs holding up the lofty beamed roof, in either flat or arched design. The legs may be simple beams with decorative bases, or you can give your outdoor room a feel of Tuscany through pedestal-round legs. Overhead, choose from an open beam design or add a latticework layer to increase visual interest while allowing for wind and rain to pass through harmlessly. You also need to decide if your structure will be anchored into the ground or raised on a deck.

Choose furniture for comfort and style in materials specifically designed for outdoor use. New trends in outdoor furniture include love seats, gliders, coffee tables and end tables in addition to the traditional table and chairs set. Adding a cushioned bench seat to one side of your pergola outdoor room is also popular. Materials for stylish outdoor furniture sets are resistant to mildew and mold and are often UV ray resilient to prevent fading. Furniture may be accessorized with cushions and pillows in complementary colors such as hunter green or Caribbean blue, to coordinate with colors existing in your landscaping or pool areas. You could also choose trendy patterns such as preppy stripes or romantic garden florals.

“Outdoor lighting is an important element for creating the perfect outdoor living space,” says The Outdoor Greatroom Co. French colonial lanterns add elegance to an outdoor room, and the design experts at Restoration Hardware suggest grouping several different sizes of metal lanterns to add extra visual appeal. Other lighting effects include lights strung throughout the latticework ceiling or wrap around pergola beams, LED or solar lights in pillar candle form, and lanterns hung from S-hooks on tree branches around the structure. Portable light-and-heater fixtures add to the lighting effect while warming up the space on cool evenings.

Speaking of heat, the top trend in outdoor rooms is the gas fire pit table, which is often a low-set round, square or rectangular table with a clean-burning gas fuel feature in the center, creating a fireplace flame effect emerging from center-placed clear or colored stones.

Fire pit tables come in contemporary designs such as polished marble, Lucite and stainless steel details, reflective surfaces, linear burners, innovative graphical or asymmetrical patterns, and metallic, stone or modern color designs.

Additional outdoor room features include an outdoor fireplace or footed chiminea, an outdoor kitchen with wet bar, a sound system via hidden speakers, a ledge for an iPod dock and potted flowers coordinating your outdoor room with the landscaping around it, creating a magical and gorgeous space for your family’s enjoyment.