Outdoor Rooms are spaces created among various landscape objects such as fences, patios, plants or ponds.

We can look at an outdoor room as similar to an indoor room.  They consist of walls, floors and ceilings created of natural and structural landscape elements:

  • Trees, hedges, or fences connecting to the homes exterior walls form “Walls”.
  • Grass, pebbles, stepping-stones, a multi-level deck or paved patio and walkways form simple to well designed “Flooring”.
  • Shade tree limbs, pergolas, arbors, gazebos, canvas awnings and permanent roof structures form “Roofs”.
  • Outdoor rooms can have different purposes and furnishings, just as the rooms in the interior of the house.
  • The front yard is viewed from the street and serves as the main entrance to you home.
  • The side yards are usually quite narrow, and in most cases serve as an access way to the backyard.
  • The backyard must be organized to fulfill the multiple uses it serves to fit your family’s needs. 

Think about these outdoor areas in terms of “rooms”: Arrival and entry, living and entertaining, food preparation and dining, recreation, gardening, work and storage space. Consider how to extend the indoor areas outdoors to fulfill these functions.

  • The public entrance area, featuring the front door, extends the indoor foyer outside.
  • Patios and decks extend indoor food preparation and dining areas to the outdoors.
  • The garage can extend outdoor storage and utility space

To develop your landscape to its fullest potential, think first about the purpose of the landscape and the function it will serve in your family’s daily routine.  These are just a few factors to take into account when thinking about how to utilize your yard space.

Consider the age of your family now and how long you intend to remain in your current home. A long-term plan can be formulated now and implemented in sections, so that over time, your yard can  progress with the changing needs of your family. 

  1. Create a wish list of everything you would like to have in your yard.
  2. Assess your budget:  this will give you a starting point of what can be done now and what you may wish to do yourself vs. hiring a professional.
  3. Prioritize your list, to help decide what work should be done first.


Although you may feel endeared to your neighbors and their children, good fences do make good neighbors.  Consider areas of your yard where you may want a privacy hedge or a small length of fence.  Morning coffee and the newspaper in nice weather may not coincide with a morning gardener in the yard next door.  Children playing next door during your outdoor dinner on the patio may become a distraction from family time.  If your neighbor has a storage or play area you do not wish to view consider a privacy hedge there also.


Traditionally recreation areas in a yard consist of a large swath of lawn for children and pets to run and play. Some yards will have basketball, tennis courts or horseshoe pits; others will have, or leave room for a future swimming pool or spa. Mulched Swing set areas can be surrounded by plants, that are interesting to children, but do not draw bees to the area.


Adding a deck or patio off of an indoor kitchen or family room extends the interior of the home into the outdoors.   Consider how the area will be used. A wonderful retreat can be created regardless of space or budget.  Think about the people you will want to gather there, their comfort, and the mood you want to create.

  • Regular dining furniture will seat a crowd, low-seating conversation groups are ideal for casual gatherings, and elevated dining and bar groups make the most of a view.
  • A cooking area can consist of a no-frills gas grill or an elaborate outdoor kitchen with counter top & cabinets, running water and a refrigerator.
  • A hearth or fire pit provides ambiance and a special place for social gatherings.
  • A pond or water feature can create a relaxing atmosphere reminding one of a favorite waterside vacation spot. Fishponds or water gardens are a popular  family hobby.
  • Outdoor lighting can create ambiance and increase functionality.  Accent lighting highlights greenery and architectural elements.  Specialty lighting provides safety along pathways.  Security lighting can create safe well-lit stairway and entrances into the home.

Parking/ Storage

If you know you will be adding additional parking area to your drive when your children begin to turn of age, plan for it now.  It would be senseless to plant a tree in an area you will be changing in a few years.  Storage  & potting sheds are useful for Seasonal items which may be used in the backyard or garden only.  These types of building sometimes require a permit from the city.  Each city has guidelines dictating where in your yard a shed may be located. Compost bins and fireplace wood piles also require a logical location in the yard.


Fencing, railings, lighting and select plants can be used to provide safe entertainment and play areas around your home.  Some homeowners, who rely on their neighbors to keep a safe eye on their homes, desire open views to entrance doors. 

In areas of the country where fires are a threat, landscaping is planted in a way, which creates a fire ring around the home to help protect it from flames. It is prudent to plant large shade trees a required distance from a house pool or septic system to protect foundations and pipes from root damage.  Sometimes a  thorny shrub is best used under a low window with low visibility from neighboring homes to deter would-be thieves.