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Outdoor Rooms: Creating the Borders

by | Apr 30, 2008 | Gardens & Outdoor Rooms | 30 comments

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this old house

One of the things that really contributes to the success of an outdoor room, in my opinion, is when there is a certain amount of privacy. After all, when you are in your house you have both walls and windows. I think the same should be true with the outside. My husband and I have always had a notion that outdoor rooms should be closed off enough to offer the feeling that you are in your own private world, but be open enough to let others have the tiniest peek of what is inside. I think it is part of our romantic notion of living a fairytale life. When you can steal a little glimpse of something beautiful as you pass by, but not see the entire scene, it leaves room for imagination and draws others to the space.

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house to home

By leaving portions of your rooms open, you are also allowing the room to be connected to the beauty that might surround the room. There is no need to close off a room if the mountains beyond are fantastic, if your neighbor’s cherry tree can be framed to be a part of your view, or if you want to be able to have neighborly conversations with those who pass by your front porch.

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southern living by jean allsopp

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house to home

Each space will be different in its need for privacy or openness. But with the right balance, your space will feel intimate and cozy enough to entice you into the space without making you feel claustrophobic once you get there.

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Borders are what give an outdoor room a sense of enclosure. And without definition, we lose the sense of the space being a room. By using things like the side of the house, shrubs, potted plants or trees, benches, trellises, small posts, ropes, lattice screens, lanterns or fences to create various borders, we can start to create definition in a space. You can really be creative here in what you use to define a room’s border.

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house to home

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Homes and Gardens

I like to allow spaces to unfold as one wanders from room to room, rather than revealing the entire space all at once. This can make your space seem bigger than it is, leaving it a bit of a mystery as to where the yard really ends.

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House Beautiful


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    What beautiful images, and blog. I like it here.

    Have a great day


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    Wonderful Post…….full of inspiring ideas! I love making little rooms and corners. With this new property, I have a long way to go…..but oh what fun I will have! :-) Rosie

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    Great ideas – love the black set!

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    I’m so glad you covered this topic. Creating privacy, without plain ugly fences, is such a challenge. We have quite a few plain ugly fences around the back yard and I’d love to find ways to “soften” the look. I’m also trying to find just the right trees to provide more privacy.

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    This post makes me want to pop over with some treats to share! We could sit in the garden and visit, chat and giggle while nibbling on some indulgent goodies!

    Are the photos which aren’t labeled, pictures of your home? If so, your home could be part of a fairytale! Just charming and inviting.

    The Jasmine plants that line my back fence are all in bloom, and the fragrance is absolute heaven! Wish I could send the smell over the computer!

    Hugs and love to my dear BFF,

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    Oh this is killing me! We just had an estimate done for a screened in porch and it’s just so BLAH compared to the pictures on your blog. How can I settle for a 16″ knee wall and a cement slab after those pictures? lol BEAUTIFUL!

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    I agree that privacy makes a garden special, I think the “secret garden” holds a special place in most womens heart. The privacy of a beautiful garden would wonderful.

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    It’s wonderful to be enveloped in a blanket of lush green and cool foliage…how fondly I remember my great-grandmother’s veranda swing where the ivy had grown up over one end. So many wonderful naps and reading times there. The white swing is calling to me today.

    Thanks, Melissa, for all you do to gather information and for sharing your expertise with us. It’s better than any magazine I know.

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    Melissa, I love your outdoor room series… very timely giving us inspiration and ideas before it gets too hot to implement !! thank you !!

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    Great pictures. You are so right about privacy. I love when we are able to use the elements in nature for building privacy. Lovely pictures:)

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    What wonderful inspirational photos! I am struggling with my front courtyard. It is only one year old and the plants are still small. I plan on planting alot more this spring and if necessary in the next year or two transplanting if it becomes to crowded. We are also installing a outdoor fireplace this year in our front courtyard. I can’t wait for that!

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    Such beautiful photos…. I like the repetition of the lined boxwoods and geraniums in the planters.

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    So many gorgeous ideas.

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    I’m always amazed with the beautiful photo’s that you share with us. Though my little abode is not as elabrorate as the one’s you share…it’s my little corner of the world; and I love it. Your pictures inspire me to become more creative on the outside of my life. Thank you!

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    Beautiful pics…I have always LOVED the “secret garden” approach to outdoor rooms….I LOVE my privacy

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    these are all so pretty.
    this is not the year to focus on our yard…so these pictures are killing me!
    my private area in the summer is in the backyard on my lawn chair that i put right in front of my zinnia garden. by july it’s tall enough to hide me (in my swimsuit) from the neighbors. until then…too bad for them. :)
    we don’t even have a fence! all these outdoor spaces are just so beautiful.

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    I love the idea of outdoor rooms, but our yard is so open to the neighbours, it’s ridiculous. We’re on a slope – I feel like anyone of our down-the-hill neighbours have a wide open view of our backyard. I have some plans to add privacy, but they are going to take awhile to complete.
    Thanks for the lovely ideas.


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    Hi Melissa! That last photo is my favorite – makes me think of Palm Springs and warm weather. I can just feel it ……

    Happy May Day!

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    love your outdoor rooms…I’m in the process of getting my backyard together…it also needs some privacy… Fay

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    Always so inspirational Melissa…..I love the outdoor room concept and you live in a wonderful part of the country for it!

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    I am VIRTUALLY stealing that swing…and putting it smack on my VIRTUAL house that I don’t own yet!! :D I am entering in the HGTV home giveaway…fingers crossed. ;)

    Hey, check out this link…
    I immediately thought of YOU!

    ‘Your’ Jason is still in it…aren’t you happy!! Have a wonderful day, Melissa!! :)

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    Gorgeous outdoor rooms… lots of fantabulous…fun..places to chill …I agree about giving people a peek unless you have a nightmare neighbor like I do who likes to hide in the bushes to hear and see what is going on… no lie!! LOL



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    Hi Melissa, I love outdoor rooms…the way the soft and hardscapes look together…just beautiful!! Your choice of photos is amazing too, these are just lovely. Have a good weekend.

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    I LOVE outdoor rooms! Last year my husband built a little dressing room for the kids to change in/out of bathing suits and it’s one of my favorite little places. Just a bit around the corner from the porch so, like you said, it’s private but still there. Now if I could just learn how to not kill flowers!! Blessings… Polly

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    So gorgeous! Outdoors never looked so lovely!


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    Wow. I love the inspiration I find here. We have a beautiful backyard, but it lacks the depth and layers that provide the privacy i think we crave. Your pictures gave me plenty of material to parade in front of my husband to see if I can get him onboard.

    The thing I’m struggling with is I want an instant yard and sometimes lush gardens take awhile to feel full. So, I guess there is no time like the present to start!

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    Ack! Thanks for the warning re entry gates. I’m panting in anticipation already!

    Although I hate the rain today, my wallet is very grateful…as is the hubby!

    Great blog – always come here for a lift. And if you get to Fiji – be sure to post!

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    Gorgeous photos. I love pergolas and everytime I see photos of them, I want to run to the lumberyard and make hubby build me one :)


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