Outdoor living is not a new idea, but it's an idea whose time has come. Homeowners everywhere are more interested than ever in finding ways to bring their indoor comforts into the open air. On the street side of the house, this trend is clearly visible in the architectural resurgence of front porches designed to help connect people to their neighbors. But it's at the back of the house that the real revolution is taking place.

Decks are still the most popular way to create outdoor living space and, although PT decking is still the most commonly used material, a growing number of composite and synthetic decking systems are gaining market share. A variety of colors and textures combine with low maintenance to make it more practical than ever to build complex, multilevel, elaborately detailed decks that endure in any climate. And a revolution of weather-resistant fabrics and appliances make it possible to create fully appointed living spaces, including upholstered furniture and flat-screen TVs.

The other option is to bring the outdoors in by removing the walls that separate them. Today that's easier than ever with one of a handful of folding or telescoping door systems that can create clear-span openings up to 24 feet.

In this special supplement, we present details from several projects to illustrate all three options. It is our hope that it will provide you with design inspiration as well as answers to questions your clients are about to ask.

Sal Alfano, Editorial Director