Outdoor living rooms have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The combination of people stuck at home and wanting to get out of the house and a bunch of cool, outdoor-ready furniture has made the outdoor living room a must-have landscape feature for many homeowners. The designs and themes are practically endless so that each space can be customized according to its owner’s style and taste.
Not only will an outdoor living room increase your enjoyment of your backyard, but it will also increase the value of your home. The benefits will be more relaxation, more beauty, and more money. This sounds like a good combination. If you think it might be time to begin to consider an outdoor living room for your home, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide is chocked full of good advice and information. We will discuss design considerations, tips, and a few frequently asked questions.
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What are Outdoor Living Rooms?
An outdoor living room is a more casual version of your indoor living room, and they serve as a destination point in your property where you can entertain guests or hang out with family. Often, this is set up on patios, pergolas, and gazebos with an extended dining area and an outdoor kitchen.
If you search Youtube for videos on how you can transform your patio into a cozy living space, you won’t be disappointed with the number of results you’ll get. These videos can help you get started in the right direction if you are handy and on a tight budget. However, if your finances permit and you aren’t quite as handy as you would like to be, it may be wise to interview a few contractors or designers before you begin.
As for the designs, you can always search Pinterest, Instagram, and other websites for inspiration. There is also the option of planning your outdoor living room by getting ideas from your housemates or family members. There is no right or wrong here as long as you follow proper building techniques, adhere to local ordinances, and end up with something you enjoy.
What is the Scope of Your Project?
When considering this project, the main questions are: What are you trying to accomplish, and what do you already have? Creating an outdoor living room can be as simple or as elaborate as you and your family would like it to be.
This doesn’t need to be a break-the-bank sort of project. If you already have a patio or deck and a bit of furniture, maybe you just need to add a few pieces of furniture, some speakers, and a bit of a roof? Heck, perhaps one large lounging couch and an outdoor television would suit your style.
On the other hand, if you’ve got bread to burn and want to go all out, you may want to start from scratch and get all the cool options.
Outdoor Living Room Options
Okay, let’s dig into some of the cool options that you have to choose from for your new outdoor living room.
It’s about time you let go of those outdated lawn chairs that leave marks on your legs whenever you sit on them. Outdoor furniture has come a long way over the last few years, so take your time, do a bit of research and get what you need. Keep in mind that longevity and resistance to the weather are two of the most important qualities of outdoor furniture.
When choosing your pieces, consider the construction of the cushions. They should be light, airy, and made of materials that will dry quickly and will not decay with moisture. They make some outdoor couches that are pretty close to what you have inside, but you need to ensure that they shed the water or dry very quickly.
Another consideration is the framework. Most outdoor pieces are made from painted, thin tubular steel, which is light and cheap to produce. The downside is that the lighter the steel, the more prone to breaking. You can undoubtedly find aluminum pieces to avoid the possibility of rust, but again, thin aluminum will be prone to breakage. You can also find wooden pieces, but the type of wood will be very important to longevity.
While most of our shopping might be down online, your outdoor furniture might be something you want to see in person before you lay down your hard-earned cash. Get a feel for how heavy it is, whether it shifts around every time you sit on it, etc.
Below are a few pieces of outdoor furniture that can make your space look relaxing and elegant at the same time:
- Lounge Chair: Lounge chairs are permanently reclined seating options primarily made for relaxing, and it would be hard to use them for productivity since their structure is for leisure and lounging. If you visit furniture stores of big-box retailers, you’ll find various types of lounge chairs, such as the classic chaise lounges, armchairs or recliners, and club chairs.
- Sofa or Couch: Similar to lounge chairs, outdoor couches are meant to bring comfort and relaxation to you and your guests. If you want to lay down and take a nap in your backyard, this might be just the piece you are need.
- End or Accent Table: End or accent tables are meant to be placed at the end of your couch to primarily hold some décor or perhaps an icy drink and some snacks.
- Coffee Table: As its name suggests, this outdoor table acts as a surface to hold snacks and drinks or maybe a laptop or tablet. It is usually situated at the center of your outdoor living room and is often the same height as your sofa cushions.
- Stacking Chairs: Stacking chairs are a must-have if you build an outdoor living room for big gatherings but don’t want to add any fixed features. These chairs can be stacked when not in use so that they won’t take up much space, and you can even store them inside.
- Hammock: Hammocks not only serve as extra seating, but they also give your outdoor living room that very relaxed, “kick your shoes off and stay awhile” vibe. Unless you have big trees right there in your outdoor living room, you will need a hammock that comes with its own frame. Be aware that while hammocks can be the ultimate nap spot, they can be a bit treacherous for the elderly or the young who don’t have much hammock experience. We wouldn’t want to see grandma flipping out of the hammock when trying to sit down.
- Cooler Table: A cooler table is a handy piece of furniture to add to your outdoor living space if you want to skip trips inside your home when you run out of drinks. It serves as a drink cooler and a table at the same time. How can you go wrong with that?
Patio and Deck Coverings
Covering your outdoor living space makes it possible to use it more since it allows you to control the environment a bit more. Keep in mind that anytime you are installing roofs, umbrellas, or awnings, you are basically setting a big sail in your yard to catch the wind. Consider your location and wind when deciding whether or not one of these solutions will work.
- Umbrellas: The most common and straightforward solution to providing a bit of shade and maybe a windbreak would be an umbrella. There are many options and sizes to choose from, and they are very easy to install. They can often be freestanding, or they can fit into the hole in the center of the patio table. Either way, be sure to pick one with a heavyweight to hold it down.
- Awnings: Awnings are retractable patio coverings that come in various sizes, materials, and shapes. They are often attached to an exterior wall and offer convenient protection from sun and rain, but you do need a solid structure to fasten them to.
- Pergolas: Pergolas come in many shapes and forms and can be custom-made to suit your needs. It is a framework that can have vines growing over it or a roof installed. They can be very delicate and cheaply built and last a season or two or long-term built-in structures. Sinking heavy beams into the ground and installing a metal roof would be one way to give your outdoor space a proper living room feel. These structures can also be fitted with curtains and mosquito netting to keep out the sun and bugs. Again, consider the weight and quality of the structure. You don’t want to find this in your neighbor’s yard after a strong wind.
Having a quiet, peaceful living room outside is one thing, but having an entertainment area will make it feel more like your living room than sitting out in the yard. Your outdoor entertainment will depend on your likes and how you intend to use your outdoor space. The more high-tech stuff you install, the more breakable this outdoor space will be. Will this area be for large gatherings and parties or just for you and the kids to hang out? Are you trying to get away and be in nature, or are you trying to bring all of the comforts of your living room outside? Be aware that televisions and speakers may require internet connectivity, so plan accordingly.
- Television: Installing a television is a great way to create the proper living room feel. Outdoor televisions come in all different sizes and can be anything from weather-resistant to weatherproof. Be sure to choose the right technology for your sun exposure. There are different types of screens designed for different sunlight levels. You don’t want to spend the money on a television that no one wants to watch because it doesn’t look as good as the one inside. Also, consider the location. Will this television be freestanding on a table or hanging on the wall?
- Projector and Screen: You might want a projector and a screen to achieve an outdoor theatre setup. These will never have the picture quality of a high-def tv, but it is a very cool way for a big group to watch a movie.
- Speakers: Of course, your whole audio-visual setup won’t be complete with outdoor speakers. This can be as simple as a single Bluetooth speaker on a table to a complete surround sound system mounted into the rafters of your pergola. The sound is not likely to be as nice as indoors because there aren’t walls for the sound to bounce off of, but it can be pretty cool to watch your favorite movie in surround sound outside.
Fire / Heat
Adding fire or heat to your outdoor living room will give you the ability to make it more of a group gathering place, as well as take the chill out of those cool spring or fall evenings. Keep in mind that your choice of fire needs to fit with the type of living room you are creating. The more it resembles your indoor living room, the less likely it is to do well with an open fire pit.
- Fireplace: An outdoor fireplace traditionally consists of a firebox and a chimney. However, there are now different heating sources aside from wood that you can use. These are natural gas, ethanol, and electric-powered fireplaces. The three latter options are best if you don’t want to deal with the mess.
- Fire Pit: An outdoor fire pit is an excellent focal point for your outdoor living room since it is often situated in the middle of the seating area. It is very inviting, allowing for a more intimate bonding experience. Keep in mind that large open flames, nicely appointed furniture, and flat-screen televisions may not do well together.
- Space Heaters: There are many shapes, sizes, and types of heaters that you can choose from. Some are much more portable than others, so choose wisely. Keep in mind that heating an outdoor space will work better if protected from the wind.
What would your living room be like without lights? Well, if you are planning to use your new outdoor space as a living room, you will need some lights.
- Freestanding: There are plenty of choices for freestanding outdoor-rated lights to choose from. These can be sitting on the end table or be all on their own in the corner.
- Built-In: If you are creating a solid structure pergolas to house your outdoor living room, your lights can be built right into the structure to really make it feel like home. Everything from chandeliers to downlights and rope lighting can give this space accent and function.
- String Lights: If you aren’t planning a structure, you may have nearby trees or shrubs that can be used to hang some rope or string lights. Maybe you can run strings of lights along cables that cross the patio from one tree to the next? There are many types of easy-to-install and economical LED color-changing light sets that can be controlled from your smartphone, so if you want to liven up the look, you might want to consider color.
Your outdoor living room would not be complete without some decorations that can give it more character and make it look more “liveable.” Consider some of the following choices.
- Outdoor Rug: Rugs enhance your outdoor living experience by adding color, patterns, texture, and comfort to your space. Unlike indoor rugs, which use light materials, outdoor rugs are often made of durable fibers that can withstand the elements. Some of the best choices for outdoor rug materials are plant fibers like jute, hemp, seagrass, and sisal. Aside from these natural fibers, man-made materials such as polyester and polypropylene can also endure the worst of weather.
- Patio Plants: What’s an outdoor living room without plants, right? To create a lush outdoor space, you must choose the best patio plants. Fan flowers, chrysanthemums, begonias, Mandevilla, marigolds, and herbs top the list of homeowner favorites. Like the potted plant in the corner of your indoor living room, a potted plant can help create a living room feel outside.
- Outdoor Curtains: Outdoor curtains are not only perfect decorations, but they can also serve a lot of functions. For one, if the sun is too hot, they can provide shade to you and your guests. They can also give you more privacy if your neighbors seem too close. Note that outdoor curtains are different from indoor ones. Their materials are mildew-resistant so that they can be used despite the changing weather conditions.
- Throw Blankets: Aside from warming up your guests, throw blankets also add a layer of elegance to your outdoor space. If you plan to have throw blankets, you may also need to plan an area to store them while not in use. Maybe that coffee table can have storage beneath?
- Outdoor Cushions and Pillows: The best outdoor cushions and pillows are made to lock out moisture. Even though they are more expensive than the usual cheap cushions, they are highly durable, so you’ll likely get your money’s worth. Keep in mind that more layers, pillows, and blankets will encourage more animals to create homes in your furniture when you are not using it.
- Wall Accents: What living room would be complete without some art hanging on the walls. You can undoubtedly incorporate some pictures, paintings, or wall art if you have any structure.
I know that we are not talking about outdoor kitchens in this article, but everyone knows that a living room needs access to snacks and refreshments.
- Bar Cart: If you’ve invited many people, a tiny cooler table won’t suffice to hold your drinks, and you would need a rolling bar cart to satisfy everyone. Of course, you need to stock it up with rums, flavored vodkas, wine, glasses, reusable straws, etc.
- Refrigerator: Long warm days out in the new living room with easy access to cold beverages sounds like a great setup to me.
- Trash Can: Having an animal-proof trash can will come in handy when having snacks and refreshments in your new living room.
- Furniture Covers: This is one of those accessories that you will live to hate. Good furniture covers will protect your furniture from the elements, but they will also discourage you from using the space because you will need to uncover the furniture first. These covers also provide cover for animals, so don’t be too surprised when you pull off a chair cover to find an animal sleeping in your chair. Also, if you choose to have furniture covers, where will you put them when they are not on the furniture.
- Cabinet/Storage: A weather and rodent-proof storage cabinet will come in handy for often-used items like cups, broom, blankets, furniture covers, etc.
- Outlets: If you are bringing a bunch of technology and electrical devices out to your living space, don’t forget to install some extra outlets for devices and other un-thought of accessories.
12 Benefits of Adding an Outdoor Living Room to Your Property
Is it worth investing time and money into building an outdoor living room? This question is one that you will want to be answered before you begin. Here are a few of the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits of the outdoor living room.
- Gives You More Space: The primary benefit you’ll get by setting up an outdoor living room is additional functional space. This means that you and your family will have an extra area where you can relax, share a meal, or make conversations. Since you can customize it according to your taste and needs, you can also make it child-friendly or senior-friendly. This way, your kids and grandparents can enjoy sitting outside to enjoy some fresh air and the comforting view of nature.
- You can Express Your Creativity: What is often overlooked is that the process of building an outdoor living room lets you express your creativity. From planning the layout to choosing the furniture and adding some wall accents, your right brain is getting the stimulation it needs.
- It can be a Stress Reliever: Having your own quiet, secluded outdoor space may be just what the doctor ordered to relieve the stresses of everyday life. Not to mention that if you build your outdoor living room yourself, you can get some great exercise in the process.
- It can be Affordable: Many homeowners think that building an outdoor living room is expensive, but it is one of the cheapest landscape changes you can make. Buying furniture and an umbrella can be pretty cheap if you already have the yard, patio, deck, and trees. Consider checking online postings and local rummage sales in some nicer neighborhoods for lightly used furniture of good quality.
- Increases Your Property Value: If you are planning to sell your property in the future, adding an outdoor living space can raise its value since it is highly functional and adds an aesthetic appeal to your home. Potential buyers always prioritize space whenever looking for properties to buy, so an outdoor living room might be just the thing that attracts them to buy.
- Flexibility for Entertainment: Tired of entertaining your guests indoors where all you can do is watch Netflix or play some old board game? Well, outdoor living rooms provide more ways to have fun while remaining at home. Also, if you have a large gathering, a bit of extra gathering space is always welcome. From tossing around the football to curling up on the couch and watching a movie, the outdoor living room can be a versatile entertaining area where the kids don’t need to take off their shoes before entering. This can also be a place to invite some of your cigar-smoking friends to enjoy a smoke without worrying about indoor air quality.
- Improve your Physical and Emotional Wellness: It probably won’t surprise you to hear that sunshine and fresh air can improve your health. Installing an outdoor living room gives you an excellent likelihood of spending more time outside.
- A Safe Space: If your house isn’t huge, you and your kids may get tired of sharing the living room. If life in the house feels a bit cramped, the outdoor living room can be a safe space for you or your kids to get some alone time and still be comfortable. This could be an excellent place for you and your spouse to get away from the kids for a bit of quiet time while still being home to keep tabs on them. It could also be an excellent spot for kids to hang out with friends and talk about kid stuff away from the prying adult ears.
- An Easier Entertaining Space: You might not always have the energy to throw a party, especially if it is inside your home. There is a bunch of prep and cleanup needed to throw a party. Well, if you have a well set-up outdoor living room, having a few of the neighbors over for an impromptu little get-together isn’t much of a bother at all.
- The Perfect Nap Spot: There is nothing better than a quiet nap outside. Especially if no one is making noise and the hot sun is not beating down on you. Think of how nice it will be waking up from a warm afternoon nap in the summer.
- Perfect Pet Spot: The outdoor living room can be great for your pets that may not be allowed to get close to you in your more formal indoor living area. They say that time spent petting your pets can lower blood pressure.
- Increased Productivity: The outdoor living room might be just the answer for when you are trying to find a quiet spot in the house to do a bit of office work on your laptop. What could be more peaceful than the quiet outdoors?
7 Considerations Before Creating an Outdoor Living Room
Before you contact a contractor or follow the steps on a Youtube video you watched, you should carefully consider the purpose of your outdoor living room, its size, layout, and some other factors that can affect how it should be built.
- Purpose: The primary thing that you should keep in mind during the planning phase of your outdoor living room is the purpose it will serve. Will this be for family use, or are you planning to invite many guests? Do you want it to be a quiet and relaxing spot, or do you want it to be the center of activity on your property? Do you have to childproof your outdoor living room or add a corner where kids can do some fun activities while you’re chilling on the couch? These are critical questions to ask yourself since they can significantly impact everything about your outdoor space — from materials used to layout and furniture choice.
- Size and Shape: The size and shape of your outdoor living room will depend on the activities you plan to host there as well as the number of people you are planning to invite over. It may also be limited by your budget or by your existing landscape features and the size of your yard. You should also consider how this new living space will affect the view from your house. As for the shape, the general rule is to avoid odd layouts where your furniture won’t fit properly, and your guests would have problems navigating around.
- Layout: Most landscape architects suggest that in designing an outdoor living room, you should exert the same effort as planning your home interior. Think about traffic flow and the usefulness and flexibility of areas. Consider how you and your guests will interact with the site and each other. Too much massive furniture on a small patio will not feel comfortable. Nor will a tiny furniture layout on a large patio.
- Budget: One of the most common mistakes of many homeowners is not setting up a realistic budget before beginning any construction. Whether you are doing this project yourself or hiring it done, you want to know that costs before you start; it will do you no good to get started just to find out halfway through that you will not have enough money left to finish it properly. This is not to say that you can’t plan around budget shortfalls, but you need to know ahead of time. An outdoor living room can certainly be done in phases; heck, you aren’t tearing apart your house. You could expand the patio one season, add a fireplace and some furniture the next season, and add a television and sound system the third season. As long as you plan ahead, this won’t be a problem.
- Placing the Room: The best thing about outdoor living spaces is that it allows an unobstructed view of nature or whatever a property has to offer. Thus, in designing your own, make sure that your sitting area can provide a perfect view of the sunrise or sunset, your landscape’s focal feature, or anything interesting that can relax the mind. Also, keep in mind the sun and wind exposure and place the room accordingly.
- Protection from the Outdoors: Since an outdoor living room is an external area of your home, you must consider its orientation to prevent the harsh sun rays from damaging your furniture or from making it so hot that you can’t use it. You need to consider how to block the wind if that is an issue. You need to consider drainage; the last thing that you want is to put a bunch of new furniture into a spot in the yard that floods when it rains. You might also want to consider the bugs in your area and whether bug protection is necessary. If you have an unlimited budget, glass screens and stacking or bi-folding louvers can make this more like an indoor space if you want.
- Privacy: Depending on your outdoor living room’s proximity to your neighbor’s home, you may want to build a privacy wall or plant some additional shrubbery. If you are not comfortable in your outdoor living room, you won’t use it, so ensure some privacy if that’s what you desire. Masonry seat walls or decorative walls are a great way to add a bit of solid structure and privacy to your outdoor space.
Common Design Mistakes That You Should Avoid in Creating Your Outdoor Living Space
Choosing between designs and creating an outdoor living room can be overwhelming, especially if there are too many ideas you want to incorporate into your space. To avoid some of the most common pitfalls, please read on. If you’re going to prevent your patio from becoming a mess instead of a liveable outdoor living room, you must be aware of the following mistakes that many homeowners make:
- Making it look like indoors: Replicating your indoor living room in your outdoor space is going a bit far. You won’t feel that you are outdoors if you furnish it with furniture meant for indoor use and then wall it in with glass. A room like this would be better built onto the back of your home and called a sunroom.
- Trying to DIY everything: If you are not the handiest person you know, you will probably want to hire a contractor if you plan a complicated structure or extensive masonry work. If you keep it simple and work with what you have, a handy person shouldn’t have a problem.
- Too much or too little furniture: Adding too much furniture would make your outdoor living space like a yard sale. Meanwhile, being too minimalist in furniture selection can lead to a boring living room instead of a relaxing area.
- Going overboard on decorations: Your space will look cluttered and busy when you hang or install too many decorations. For some reason, people tend to over decorate outdoor areas. If that is your style and that pleases you, then, by all means, live it up.
- Not adding plants: Plants soften the look of your outdoor space. Not adding them can make your outdoor living room look a bit rigid.
- Wrong color choice or combination: Just like inside your home, you will want the colors and textures in your outdoor living room to complement each other, not clash.
- Overbuilding your Existing Structures: Sometimes, we will see the situation where a person decided to build an outdoor living area and made it very detailed and grand, but did it over a very old, cracking, and run-down patio or deck. Don’t sink a bunch of time and money into a failing structure. You want to have the solid structure proper before adding to it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does it Cost to Build an Outdoor Living Room?
The cost of building an outdoor living room would primarily depend on the hardscapes built, the furniture that will be bought, and some other decorations to make it feel homey and relaxing. There is no definite answer as to how much it costs to build an outdoor living space. However, Home Advisor claims that the average cost of creating an outdoor living space is around $7,670. This would be if you already have the structural elements in place and wanted to dress it up and get some furniture and accessories. For covered, natural stone patios and all of the goodies, you can easily spend $50,000+ depending on size.
How Can You Make Your Outdoor Living Room Look Bigger?
In making your outdoor living room look bigger, you must first and foremost remove all the unnecessary clutter. You can’t do anything with a space that has too much stuff. Once you’ve done this, proceed by moving larger furniture pieces to the outside of the living area to make the center seem more significant.
Can You Make an Outdoor Living Room on a Budget?
Of course, you can. This is assuming that you already have a pre-existing patio or deck that will work. The solid structures are the most costly. Simple furniture choices and umbrellas won’t break the bank, but $10,000 bright sunlight outdoor televisions will.
Is it better to have a deck or a patio for an outdoor kitchen?
This will depend on your budget and your desires. A concrete, stone, or brick patio will be longer-lasting, more formal, and more solid than a wooden deck. A wooden deck will typically be a softer and less harsh feel, since brick and stone are rough and hard. A deck will allow you to refinish it over time to change the look if you desire. A deck will let the wind come up from underneath the furniture, so the patio might be a more comfortable place on a windy, cool day. Most outdoor living rooms are built on a patio simply because the patio allows for installing a larger and more solid room structure.
An outdoor living room is a worthy addition to your landscape, especially since it has many proven benefits to your property’s resale value and your lifestyle and health. This space can be a favorite family gathering spot for many years with proper planning and creativity. Spend your efforts on the supporting structures like the patio, pergola, and walls at first. The rugs, furniture, and pillows are all wear items that will need to be replaced over time, so don’t prioritize them as they will be changing with time, while the solid structures will not.