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Outdoor Rooms

by | Apr 21, 2008 | Gardens & Outdoor Rooms

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Outdoor Rooms

I’ve always been intrigued by outdoor rooms. The outside is always so full of creative possibilities! My husband and I spent many hours in our last two houses designing and creating living areas that stretched the borders of our home. I love the idea of taking some of the same design principles we use on the inside to create special spaces outside.

We bought our current house As Is, which as I’ve explained before, meant it was sorely neglected. Because we’ve had to spend so much time and money bringing things up to speed, decorating both inside and outside has taken a backseat to more fundamental issues. Nevertheless, our backyard is begging for some attention.

Outdoor Rooms

As I was thinking through what could be done with limited money, time or manpower (story of my life, darn those limitations!), I started to consider basic design principles that would help me get going on the project. I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but a lot of the same principles I use for creating style and function inside a home apply to the outside too. More often than not, we can accomplish a lot just with creativity. That is good news for those of us who have access to more creativity than funds.

To explore some outdoor room ideas, I will do a series of posts coming up periodically over the next few months sharing creative inspiration for designing outdoor spaces. I’ll even do a few Drive Bys in my own neighborhood to illustrate some points!

Outdoor Rooms

READER PARTICIPATION: I could use your help on this! If you have some creative ways to define, create or decorate outdoor rooms, email me! I’d love to share your photos and ideas over the course of our series (which will go on periodically over the next few months) so start gathering your outdoor room inspiration!

Photos: House to Home


  1. rosieswhimsy

    You have struck near and dear to my heart here. I love outside rooms. There is something so wonderful about have a spot outside to dream and nest …. filled with soft pillows and warm throws for chilly mornings! My wraparound porch is my limit so far….but…..I have a small canopy I bought for daughter;s Wedding Picnic last year that I would love to use somewhere in the yard. I’ll be watching for ideas!! ((hugs)) Rosie

  2. Alison Gibbs

    Oh I love that last one. How beautiful it would be to sit in there in any type of weather

  3. Rhoda

    Hi, Melissa, I’m all about beautiful outdoor spaces too, even though I don’t have it in this house either. My last house had a gorgeous backyard that I didn’t do (my ex did it) and it truly was an extension of the house. I have big plans for my backyard too and like you, limited money and time, so I will just do the best I can with what I have and hopefully get there one day. My immediate plans are to build a paver patio under our back deck and that’s to make it look prettier and get rid of the mud, two birds with one stone thing!

    I adore looking at magazines with pretty yards and love playing around with gardening too. I’ve done a few things in this yard and planon doing a lot more! My favorite thing to have is a screened porch. That’s also on the to-do list one day here, add a roof and screen in our back deck. I already have all the furniture, just waiting for my outdoor room!


  4. teresa

    You have such wonderful thoughts, pictures and ideas-
    Thanks for sharing-

  5. mrs darling

    I would give anything for a place like that in my backyard!

  6. melissa lewis - off the wall

    Oh Melissa, those outdoor rooms are great. I would love to be able to walk out to that every morning with my coffee in one hand and my study in the other. Though I don’t have an outdoor room, or much of a green thumb for that matter, I did get to big gardenia’s at my local flea market this weekend and planted them (successfully) in my flower bed. They smell beautiful!!

  7. Terri Steffes

    Oh yeah, I am ready for this. I absolutely love the potting shed room idea. Fabulous. I worked on my outdoor room this weekend but I can see I have a bit more work to do.

  8. Catherder

    Oh I love your pics. Our yard was a big rectangle of grass when we moved in. we put up a block wall with lilac on oneside, and a pond on the other, with a home made bridge in the middle..over the bridge was our veggie the house we put in a small patio, and small deck, with a tent over it and another seating area. A firepit next to the tent, and a grilling and eating area next to that. Right now it looks lousy, spring hasnt really sprung here yet. Three more weeks or so we will be mowing, raking, planting and getting everything just so. We use our yard every day in the warm weather. Even if it rains, i can sit under my tented area and drink my tea and read! When the weather is good, we had cable run outside to watch our flatscreen in the tented area…Hubby sits with his feet up and his iced tea and watches his Yankee Baseball games. I LOVE being outdoors…now if we could just get rid of those pesky mosquitos.

  9. Charmingdesigns

    Oh, a bench and potting shed, a little place to sit with a cup of tea, tuck in a garden…aaah, I am so ready for spring, Can’t wait to see what you choose to do.

  10. Beverly

    I’m completely charmed by every picture. We spent time on our front porch and in our sunroom. I am on the lookout for a new table and chairs to put on our open deck – just haven’t seen the perfect thing yet.

  11. Diana

    I love the last photograph – excited to see your progress!

  12. Pat

    Melissa, You are welcome to use our back porch, if you like. We’ll be working on the patio over the next few days, to ready it for the season, also.

    I love outdoor rooms. We try to spend as much time as possible in or out in these spaces. We are finally having spring weather here. Can’t wait to get started on the patio.

    I love the photos you’ve posted!


  13. robin

    We will be working on our outside space very soon….once it dries up a bit…I planted flowers but then it hailed….I want to add more potted trees for a lil privacy as we live in close quarters with our neighbors….it’s still in the 30’s and 40’s here in WA…

  14. Barbara

    Beautiful pictures of outdoor rooms but I will be looking forward to your ‘drive-by’ photos and then eventually your very own outdoor room. You can just start small and it will evolve over the years.

  15. the feathered nest

    This is a subject dear to my heart! I really love being outside. I feel like I’m starting from scratch with my backyard. When we moved in half of it was crabapple trees and southern pine trees. I had what didn’t fall down in storms over the years removed about two years ago and I’ve been staring at big brown patches ever since. Trying to decide what to do. I have a big yard so I’m taking it section by section. I’ll look forward to seeing more pictures (oh and Rosie’s wrap around porch is to die for)!


  16. Vee~A Haven for Vee

    Who wouldn’t love that little cottage room in the backyard? I would swoon to wake up and find one sitting in mine. It’s too wonderful for words. Thank your for gathering that one in.

    I’ll be following your frugal outdoor decorating with interest.

  17. marita

    once i enjoyed a mediterrenean outdoor living at the most.
    a beautiful garden with lemon trees, sweet jasmin perfume, tender pink bougainvilles, oleander, an olive tree and lots of herbs.
    still dreaming of strolling into my next southern garden one day.

    i love the weathered bench and pastel tints of the flower pillows. loverly images, melissa! very inspiring to me!

  18. Pat

    Hi Melissa

    I got your e-mail, but my replies keep coming back. I tried a couple times.

    It’s okay, if you want to take the photos from the back porch post. It’s the one I did April 6th, I believe.


  19. Camilla

    Lovely pictures!

  20. Debra W


    I love your creative outlook on things! Coming here is like a visit with a dear friend who can make the world look beautiful! Wait a minute, you are a dear friend who can make the world look beautiful!

    I believe in color. Lots and lots of color, so our yard is just bursting with flowers right now. It’s like a smile from nature.

    Hugs BFF!


  21. Chris

    It’s almost like you go into my head to find what I think are the most beautiful rooms and then you put pictures of them on your blog. I am anxious to see what you have on here every day! Thank you! How beautiful.

  22. Mrs. B

    What wonderful pictures! Some of our outdoor areas are in need of work too, so I’ll look forward to your series!

  23. hookedonhouses

    Ooh, one of my favorite topics! I’m eager to see what ideas everyone shares for outdoor spaces this Spring. I’m ready to spruce up my own.

    Love these pics, too! -Julia :-)

  24. Terri

    Oh, I can’t wait to read these posts. I have a total brain freeze when it comes to outdoor rooms. The spaces are so large and we have such miserable weather here in Calgary that the options are so limited. We have dry, cool summers which are lovely in every way except that our growing season is so short and so many things won’t grow here.

    So I can’t plant all the things I want, and stuff doesn’t finally flower until September! And then, decor-wise, how do your decorate or create a room when it needs to be dismantled for 8 months of the year. Even buying furniture is an issue – do you store it or leave it out? How do find great comfortable furniture for a crowd that isn’t cheap and weird and made in China and sold at Costco? I can’t afford teak and I’m not into country chic…so what is my outdoor style? And does it have to be the same as my indoor style?

    i’ve hardly figured out what I want inside and now the outdoor rooms are all the craze. Hmmm….no budget!

    Can’t wait for some suggestions (no pressure!) :)

  25. Lynn

    Love the photos you posted Melissa. I would love to participate and will send some photos. ~ Lynn

  26. Neutral Dwelling

    Looking forward to seeing all of the beautiful posts! Outdoor rooms are fabulous!

  27. Sandy

    Let’s see … I think the top photo best fits me. :) Fun series, Melissa!

  28. CC

    I’m meeting a friend for coffee and visiting in the top picture….aaahhhh :)

    Beautiful finds….thanks for sharing with us!

  29. Alys Geertsen

    OH MY! I would LOVE to see more ideas! Even larger rooms, and garden sheds wouldbe ideal. I am preparing my yard to build a large 30×20 outdoor living space. I would love to see more ideas, and ways you have found to do this. I found a great website that sales plans to build the structures… Here is the Url:
    I will be substituting the garage doors with french doors.

  30. A-M

    Would love to follow your ideas. Any chance of some ideas that don’t involve plants?!!!! We are on level 6 water restrictions here in Australia. Not allowed to wash our cars, water plants or even fill a kiddies paddle pool! Love your blog. My favourite!
    Cheers, A-M

  31. Christine

    Oh whole acres are my outside room!! This is my element dear!!!
    I love the idea of a ‘sleeping shed’… even a wonderful ‘alfresco dinner’.. I’ll have to see if I can come up with something! What fun.
    Hope your week is blessed!!
    You sure bless me..

  32. Teal Chic

    So beautiful and relaxing!!!!

  33. Sally

    Oh that last little white shed is my idea of a peaceful place. I will look for some Aussie outdoor spaces.Sally Ann

  34. Annechovie

    Some beautiful photos, Melissa. Outdoor spaces can be so wonderful – can’t wait to see your next posts!

  35. Joy

    OH the photos – DIVINE! I love that you will be doing a feature on this becasue I need some help too! :)


  36. Catherine

    I love that little shed! How cute is that. Can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve.

  37. Melissa

    Hey guys! How are ya? Yes, let’s try to cover all the possible ways you can create outdoor rooms! Whether you have a yard, patio, porch, green thumb or not, big space, tiny space or no outdoor space at all (how out indoor garden rooms!)…

    And for anyone who doesn’t like this topic, no worries. I will fill in with all the other topics we like too. This won’t become a garden blog. :-) I’ll leave that to the professionals.

  38. Kim

    Oh how I wish my outdoor room looked like these. There is nothing better than an outdoor retreat. A place to read a great book and drink a nice glass of ice tea. Sitting in one of these spots could truly inspire so much creativity. Just look how beautiful. Someday I will tackle the outside! Still working on the inside at the time. I will just enjoy your posts instead. Thanks!

  39. rhondi

    Hi Melissa
    What beautiful outdoor spaces! We have a huge deck which is a great outdoor space. Although once the mosquitoes are out we don’t sit out there much! I’ve never had the resources to make it look very special, but you’ve inspired me to see what I can do with what we have to make it more inviting.

  40. Fabulous Finds Studio

    We just bought a new home and the grounds could definitley use some help so I’ll definitely have to check back for more lovely photos! Love these outdoor room-so beautiful!

    Have a fabulous day!

  41. Lisa & Alfie

    Gorgeous escape for the weary eyes. Melissa, I hope you don’t mind but I am tagging you for a short memoir game. This will be the only time, I promise. See my blog for details.
    Lisa & Alfie

  42. Ruth Welter

    Love the first photos especially Melissa…that is a gorgeous outside room. So so pretty!

  43. Penny

    Hi Melissa,
    I love the first photo! Last year we laid cement pavers in our front courtyard and planted a few plants. Lavender, roses, peonies. This weekend we plan on planting more. I want my courtyard to look like the first picture here! We also just ordered an outdoor fireplace kit, it should be here in 2-3 weeks.

    This post is full of wonderful inspiration.

  44. this is glamorous

    Perfect timing–part of our weekend was spent making our patio lovely again after a long winter, and while it’s still not quite finished, it’s really coming along and it was so much fun to be outside . . .

    {I’m ready to cozy up in that last image–beautiful!}

  45. Mari-Nanci

    I love looking at such pictures, but… Bugs love me so, that I can’t stay sitting outside long. :-( But I’m glad for all who can.

    And please say it didn’t snow over the weekend, as you thought it might. Yikes…


  46. Karla

    That bench is to die for!!!
    Karla & Karrie

  47. Joni Webb

    What beautiful pictures these are! Just gorgeous!!!

  48. tracy

    Okay, so my husband needs to seriously improve his carpentry skills so he can build me a cottage in the backyard. I’ve been collecting photos similar to that one….dreaming that one day I’ll have my own little cottage. Or better yet! He can build one for our daughter and then we can both enjoy it!!

  49. snhamlett

    oh what beautiful pictures Melissa! Exactly the dreamy, romantic outdoor rooms I’d want to have if my husband wasn’t so urban sophisticate… I can’t wait to read more of this series because my patio is the trouble spot in my home and I’m totally stuck on how to solve it.

  50. maryam in marrakesh

    That little cottage is the sweetest! I am working on my outdoor space at peacock pavilions and I will look forward to your outdoor posts!

  51. heidi

    what an inspiring post! i love the idea of outdoor rooms, and wanted to create one. i love the little cabana and actually my kids old playhouse is that very style ~ i never thought of converting it to put by the pool! thanks, now i just have to get hubby on-board. xo

  52. Stephanie Ryan

    Oh, I love these! So pretty and fresh. Great blog!

  53. becky

    Hi, I know it’s been blogged to death, but some of my faves are still kwid’s Santa Monica Viceroy . I uploaded two pictures from and the Viceroy’s website but I’m not sure how to share them here. The flickr URLs for them are:[email protected]/2445670627/

    Also, the Parker Palm Springs by Jonathan Adler – two photos from

    sorry I don’t know how to show the photos in a better way, but you might want to snag them for inspiration on a future post. I credited the websites in the titles – obviously, I did not take these!



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