The outdoor room shown above has all four sides exposed, creating an exterior space more akin to a gazebo than an attached porch, yet itís close enough to the house to be used daily.
Grey Crawford The outdoor room shown above has all four sides exposed, creating an exterior space more akin to a gazebo than an attached porch, yet itís close enough to the house to be used daily.

Most people conceive of an outdoor room as a porch, screened or not, attached to the house. If just one side is open to the elements, it hardly feels like outdoors at all. Three open sides and we really start to feel the connection with our surroundings. We are projected out into the landscape, but there’s still a strong connection to the house.

Just as with interior rooms, if you can’t see an outdoor space or if it’s too much out of the way, it won’t be used very often. But make the space easily seen and accessible, and it will be frequently used.

For a true outdoor room, the components are the same as for one that’s indoors: some walls, a floor, and a ceiling.

In a landscape, walls can be high or low, of hard materials or soft. Outdoor flooring can be made of wood, stone, tile, or even grass. The out-of-doors equivalent to a ceiling could be a trellis, a pergola, a garden house, an arbor, a tree canopy, or the sky itself.


Adapted with permission from Outside the Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka and Julie Moir Messervy, published by The Taunton Press (2006).

The delightfully shaped beech tree is close enough to the house that it feels like the outer wall of the room (right). As the sun moves across the sky during the day, the leaves, which are lit from above and behind, change in both color and light intensity, and the shadows cast by adjacent foliage modulate the room color.
Grey Crawford The delightfully shaped beech tree is close enough to the house that it feels like the outer wall of the room (right). As the sun moves across the sky during the day, the leaves, which are lit from above and behind, change in both color and light intensity, and the shadows cast by adjacent foliage modulate the room color.
On the second floor, too, the tree canopy provides relief in what is an otherwise unremarkable view. The neighborís house predominates from this angle, but when the homeowner sits at her drafting table, her gaze is directed toward the tree.
Grey Crawford On the second floor, too, the tree canopy provides relief in what is an otherwise unremarkable view. The neighborís house predominates from this angle, but when the homeowner sits at her drafting table, her gaze is directed toward the tree.
In this sunken garden, the masonry walls are just 15 inches high, with plants serving to screen the upper story from view.
Grey Crawford In this sunken garden, the masonry walls are just 15 inches high, with plants serving to screen the upper story from view.