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OUTDOOR ROOMS

Creating successful indoor-outdoor room relationships can increase your home's living space.



Just as a Building Designer creates the floor plan of a house and an interior designer chooses the style and color scheme within a home, a Landscape Designer develops the outdoor spaces around a building. When developing the landscape of a residence, and must keep in mind the purpose of each exterior space and how each of those spaces relates to those within the house.

In all residential landscape projects, the early planning stages are important to insure a quality relationship between the exterior and interior use areas. Harmony and continuity will result in a smooth flowing transition between these areas.

The term "use areas" comes from the concept that rooms within a home may be placed within one of four categories according to use. The public area is the entrance space of a home, such as the porch or foyer. The family/living area is represented by the rooms that serve as gathering places for the family and spaces for entertaining friends. These rooms include the family room, living room, recreation room and dining room. The service area is comprised of the rooms that service the family's needs such as the kitchen, utility room and laundry room. The private living area includes the bedrooms, bathrooms, secluded sitting rooms and any other rooms where the family engages in private activities.

These four use categories can also be applied to the exterior areas of the home. Each section of the property around the house can be divided into one of the four use categories (See Diagram A). Each division relates functionally to the rooms on the inside of the house—almost like a mirror. It is important to familiarize yourself with the outdoor room concept in order to create an efficient indoor-outdoor room relationship and get the most out of your home.

The public area of a home's landscape is the area that is most visible. This area projects the primary image to guests as they approach the property. The public area may include both an entrance walk and a porch. A street will sometimes dictate how much space is given to the public area. For example, a corner lot has much more public space than most lots within a block. The amount of public space will influence the size of the other indoor use areas.

The outdoor family/living area is an extension of the corresponding family/living room within the home. Family/living areas are used to entertain friends and as a gathering place for family. Outdoor family/living rooms normally include patios, decks, porches, swimming pools and outdoor eating areas (See Photo 1). These areas may be further divided into passive or active spaces. Passive areas, developed for relaxation, may incorporate a feeling of seclusion where a person can relax and escape the often hectic pace of the day. The active areas are spaces where activity is allowed and expected.

Within the landscape, the outdoor service area might include the garbage can storage, air conditioner units, firewood, storage buildings and shops. This is generally not an area guests should view or circulate through. Outdoor service areas are usually adjacent to the utility room, garage or kitchen.

The final use category is the private area. Frequently adjacent to the bedrooms, this area is for passive use and can include a patio, hot tub or spa. Often, it serves as a screen or barrier to the other use areas, providing privacy for the adjacent interior and frequently an interesting view as well.

Circulation between the different outdoor rooms and between the outdoor and indoor rooms is an important design consideration when planning your landscape. One should be able to move freely from one space to the other while a separation between the areas is still maintained. For example, the outdoor service area should be readily accessible to the outdoor family/living area as well as to the interior service areas of the house, rooms such as the kitchen and utility room. The outdoor service area, however, should be visually separate.

With this explanation, it is easy to appreciate how careful planning of the residential landscape can increase your home's living area. The outdoor landscape should be planned for just as the interior of the house in that the landscape can be designed as outdoor rooms. By defining these spaces into the four use areas, they may be broken down further into outdoor rooms that have components such as walls, ceilings and floors, comparable to those of indoor rooms.

While the materials may be different, the concept remains the same. The outdoor walls should be placed where they will define the outdoor space or limit its size. The walls should not be placed in the center of the space or lawn. The same principles that apply to an indoor room also apply to the corresponding outdoor room. Outdoor walls are created by using natural materials such as trees, shrubs, ground covers or flowers; or by using manmade materials and structures such as fences, retaining walls or screens made of wood, masonry, concrete or metal.

The outdoor features consist of arbor, a roof, a vine or a tree. These features create an overhead covering that helps bring about a sense of proportion and scale. Also, each of these features can contribute to the solar orientation of a house, helping to cool or warm the outdoor room, depending on the season.

An outdoor room's floor is the ground plane used for paving or surfacing. It may be constructed of grass, water, concrete, masonry, wood, tile, mulch, sand or gravel. Often a living ground cover other than grass is used to minimize maintenance.

Connections between indoor and outdoor use areas are vital to a successful landscape design. Every landscape plan begins with evaluating family needs and desires and incorporating these in the landscape design. Through planning and study, you can develop a master plan which addresses each need, fulfils each desire and reflects a well-designed indoor-outdoor room relationship.



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