According to the Slow Home movement every house should have an outdoor living space. Even if you have the tiniest home, your actual living space can become much larger with an accessible outdoor area. If you're fortunate enough to have an outdoor space, small or large, read on to find out how to make it not only a bonus area, but a true extension of your home.
According to the Slow Home movement, "most fast houses are designed as hermetically sealed boxes and most terraces are left over spaces that may hold a barbecue but little else. The situation can be even worse in multi-family units where the balconies are usually oddly shaped, poorly proportioned, and only the minimum area required by the planning code." But when designed and used property, outdoor spaces can be functional and enjoyable components of your home.
- Outdoor spaces should be visual extensions of the principal indoor living space. They should bring many of the internal functions of the house out into the fresh air and sunlight — in good weather these spaces can often double the amount of available living space at only a fraction of the cost.
- If you have a very large area, divide it into flexible zones, as you would the interior of your house. For example, organize it so that there is a dining zone, lounging zone, play area, vegetable garden and ornamental gardens. The spaces should be flexible enough to shift and change for a variety of activities and events. Also, consider alternates to standard patio furniture, such as outdoor sofas and chaises, bars, shaded and trellised areas. Look towards firepits as the outdoor's fireplace alternative, or if you have the option, install a 2-sided fireplace — one side functions for the interior, while the other functions for an attached patio.
- Patios, decks and terraces should be designed and sized like a room. Avoid unusual shapes and awkward sizes because they won't be functional and efficient, and will instead have a lot of uncomfortable wasted space. You wouldn't want a long narrow living room, so why should you have a deck designed that way? It should be of a good proportion to function like its own room and fit furniture.
- Doors to outdoor areas should be large and not disrupt the functionality of the living spaces. The idea is to have a large and clear view from the interior to the outdoors, as well as easy accessibility. These outdoor spaces bring light, air and views to the indoor spaces, and windows and doors should be sized accordingly. Sliding doors are a great option because they can offer a large opening, without taking up any floor area or disrupt the flow because of a large door swing.
- Consider going lawn-less for easier maintenance and less energy. Big grassy lawns seem to define the American yard, but they are a lot of work and a water and energy hog. A much more beautiful and eco-friendly option would be local and native plants and ground cover. These types of plantings often require no water after the first year of establishment, and no grass means no lawn mower.
- Plant a vegetable garden. Growing your own food not only saves you money while having access to the freshest of foods, it also gives you a direct connection to the outdoors. While growing during the summer months is the easiest, a little bit of planning can go a long way for a year-round garden. Vegetable gardens can be grown pretty much anywhere: in the ground or raised beds, using containers and even vertically up walls.
- A Few Of Our Best Posts on Gardens and Gardening
- Double your Space: Indoor-Outdoor Homes from Dwell
- How to Create an Outdoor Living Room
- The Small, Cool Outdoors Contest 2011
(Image: Flora Grubb Gardens via Apartment Therapy)