Inspiring Outdoor Living Spaces

Outdoor spaces are often afterthoughts of design, but as we have all learned in the last year, they can add so much quality of life (and useful square footage) to our home when designed properly. Even if they cannot be executed at the same time, I think it is crucial to design your outdoor spaces at the same time as your indoor rooms in order to get the best outcome. Let's take a look at a few spaces by venerable designers, and see what we can learn.

inspiring outdoor living space

Design by S.R. Gambrel | Photo by Eric Piasecki


Designer Steven Gambrel is the reigning king of thoughtful outdoor spaces, and we can learn quite a lot from his work. The main takeaway for me is that this porch is executed just as thoroughly as an indoor room would be. It is generously furnished, and includes lighting, art, and accessories, making it layered and comfortable. The finishes on the walls, fireplace, and ceiling and the inclusion of double-hung windows along one wall give the space architectural presence, and the well-stocked outdoor bar makes it easy to stay a while. My favorite detail is the ceramic lamp on the side table -- it's an unexpected move on a porch, but imagine what a cozy spot this would be to read a book by the fire! My goal is always to provide my clients with a vacation-worthy spot in their own homes, and this certainly fits the bill.


inspiring outdoor living space

inspiring outdoor living space

Design by Hoedemaker-Pfeiffer | Photo by Haris Kenjar


In last month's blog post, I wrote about the order in which I would approach a renovation, and creating a whole-house plan that includes the outdoor spaces is critical for achieving a well-designed home. The main reason to design them all simultaneously is to have wonderful flow between them, as this Seattle home shows. The two sitting areas are nearly mirror images of each (with even the cocktail tables of a similar design) and the spaces almost feel like an enfilade, with the fountain at the end as the focal point for both. Designing the two spaces together means not only continuity in design, but affords the opportunity to create a sightline through the patio doors, making it a space to be enjoyed (visually, at least) in all weather.


inspiring outdoor living space

Design by S.R. Gambrel | Photo by Douglas Friedman


Perhaps even more than their indoor counterparts, outdoor spaces can evoke a sense of place, and the hardscaping, landscaping, and furnishings should all be chosen to fit appropriately into the existing environment. For example, the square lines of this bluestone patio and pool feel formal, which is reinforced by the boxwood plantings, tall privacy hedge, and simple lines of the furnishings -- one could easily guess that this garden spot is on the East Coast. If I were designing a home on a lake in the Berkshires, I would skip the boxwoods and choose a grouping of Adirondack chairs around a fire pit or hang a nostalgic woven hammock. Similarly, the choices made will reinforce a lifestyle, so I will make selections that refer to the specific needs and wants of my clients to achieve not only an aesthetic goal, but a functional one as well.


An outdoor space that is thoughtfully planned and generously furnished creates design continuity with the indoors and offers a sense of place. I hope you can tell that I approach all areas of a home with intention and a desire to create a beautiful, useful home for my clients. If you'd like to discuss collaborating on a project in your home, get in touch by filling out a design inquiry.