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Outdoor Living Spaces: Thinking Outside the House

Outdoor Living Spaces: Thinking Outside the House


One of the surprise blessings of the last year and a half is our recognition and use of the additional living space available to us outside. To escape our confinement (and on-occasion our loving family) during the pandemic, and to gather safely afterward when life began to open up, we rediscovered the under-utilized square footage waiting just beyond the door. You have true living spaces—actual rooms that you can live in— with all the added benefits of being in the fresh air. 

The New Frontier

For many properties, outdoor areas are low on the list of “to-dos.” Creating a wonderfully functional and enjoyable interior can be exhausting, and exterior spaces then become the last consideration. But the pandemic taught us how important and beneficial thoughtfully designed backyard living spaces – outdoor rooms – can be. It taught us to move them up our list of priorities.

You can easily expand your sense of “home,” and the size of your living space.  In a well-designed outdoor living space you can enjoy being outdoors and experience true comfort, just as you do indoors.

Especially this past year, many people are spending much more time in their yards. They remember to step outside. They’re recognizing that they have untapped space that can be designed as actual, additional rooms rather than just a lawn, patio or deck with a couple of recliners by the pool.

Inside Out: Creating a Conceptual Flow

To best develop your backyard living space, consider extending the feeling of your interior design and integrating it with the natural elements your outdoor spaces provide. When you are able to simply flow from inside to out, you feel a continuity, a connectedness. To begin, the spaces are already designed just for you—now you simply address activities that are different outside (grilling, for example), and materials you’ll use to hold up to the weather. But your unique design concept that was developed for your interior design now expresses itself in an outdoor environment. You experience comfort with the added sense of expansion—your home became that much bigger. 

Colors, shapes, patterns and textures from the interior are now referenced in your outdoor living space. They become connected. Through the use of biophilic principles and great design, you’re drawn to and around your new outside environments. Just as it does inside, biophilic design amplifies the benefits of the outdoors, literally creating happiness in your new surroundings.

These patterns might include the creation of meandering paths, the sound of a water element, or the comfort of a secluded nook. The use of fractal geometries in your space planning, the layout of pavers and even fabric patterns can enhance your well-being. You can meld the design with your landscaping through the creation of built-in seating resembling rocks, or a table top manufactured from the cast of a tree. Or, you can create a soft tension by installing clean lined furniture with a modern crispness, upholstered in a contemporary botanical print.


We absolutely love working as a team—with you, first and foremost, then your landscape architect, master gardener, lighting designer and AV expert. The result is a cohesive vision and implementation, all helping to create the outdoor living space of your dreams. 

A landscape architect attends to structural considerations, whether that means retaining walls, engineering for a pool, out-building, or fireplace. A master gardener accomplishes your plantings with attention to color, scale, movement, seasons, and growth. Your designer can create proper space planning with cozy, private nooks or expansive play areas. Maybe a wisteria-draped pergola with a cutting garden in view seamlessly blending outdoor dining with a natural setting. Together they will be certain plants, stone, wood, metals, fabrics and perhaps even ponds, fountains, pools and fire pits are all properly integrated – they all speak to one another to create an amazing outdoor living experience.

Taking Biophilic Design into Nature

Amplifying the benefits of being outdoors with specific patterns of biophilia has been measurably proven to enhance your health and well-being. A fireplace or fire pit, for example, creates an elemental sense of hearth and home outdoors. A feeling of comfort and safety.

We can also use natural analogues, as we do inside.  A table with metal branches as a base, or cushions with images of birds or flowers for your chairs. 

Arranging pavers or stones in a floral or leaf pattern, or installing wood furniture are other instances of the use of natural analogues. 

Metals that patina to gorgeous greens, yellows and oranges, bird feeders, koi ponds and plants that attract butterflies will all enhance your experience of your outdoor rooms. How about a copper bird feeder on a rock at the edge of the koi pond surrounded by phlox?

Technology Outside the House

Lighting does more than allow you to see, of course. As a change in flooring materials can define a place, strings of Edison lights, for example, can create the sense of an outside room. Lights can direct you down a path, highlight a beautiful tree, and create a mood—festive or romantic, playful, or simply functional. Proper lighting can protect you, and provide a sense of safety. Attention to the right kind of lighting, in the right space, with the right color and intensity is key. Lighting designers are well worth the investment. 

Outdoor theater and outdoor sound present other opportunities to bring the comforts and pleasures of indoor living into nature, creating a backyard lounge area. Today’s systems sound great and can be very discrete and unobtrusive: amazing little speakers that look like rocks. A buried subwoofer can provide full-spectrum sound without intruding into your design.

What About Weather?

Whether you’re concerned with ice, snow, rain, or sun, different materials react in a variety of ways. Proper care of materials that tend to patina—even woods such as teak—not only enhance their beauty, but lengthen their lives. There are many materials now on the market that will hold up beautifully to the weather. Quality outdoor “wicker” will last years. Treated aluminum and iron are fine in weather. And protecting them with a covering in bad weather is never a bad idea.

When you experience constant sunshine, covering seating in outdoor living spaces with a pergola or an awning is smart. Be aware that while some materials are gorgeous, they may only last a season or two. But there are amazing new outdoor fabrics now available that hold up wonderfully, that won’t fade, are cleanable, and are just as beautiful. Today, you can do just about anything with these fabrics. You can install delicate sheers on a pergola that won’t disintegrate, amazing textures and prints for upholstery and cushions. New technology is reaching the area rug industry as well. There is a plethora of designs and fibers that weren’t available until very recently. Though many are available to trade resources only, I’m noticing more possibilities in the retail environment as well.

During the winter, we suggest taking cushions inside, and as mentioned, investing in a good cover for other furniture. Be sure to tighten the covers over your pieces; after a strong wind, I found one of my sofa covers floating in the pool. 

Here in California, fire season has always been a concern and now a prolonged season is becoming the norm. Be sure to keep flammable pieces away from the house. Umbrellas, wood furniture and the like are best a bit further away in your yard or garden. Common sense carries the day.

There is No Typical

Especially this last year, people are spending much more time outdoors. It’s a wonderful place to entertain safely, and with proper design it becomes a true extension of your living space. As no two properties, projects, or clients are alike, we approach each new opportunity with excitement and wonder. The discovery of possibilities, and the creation of unique outdoor living spaces is a joyful experience!

 Now, as the world reopens and we gather again with friends and family, the world seems like a sunnier place. Those long-overdue gatherings remind us of how important it is to take charge of creating our own happiness. For us and our clients, that begins with the spaces we inhabit and interact, including those found and designed outdoors. 

Trust Us

We can literally create happiness for our clients by implementing design excellence and integrating the principles of biophilic design. And when a client says the magic words, “We trust you,” we unleash our creative energy with full enthusiasm and gratitude.

If you are courageous enough to trust yourself— if you are not worried about trends but rather what will make you happy, let us provide you excellent design, elevated service, quality furnishings and materials, all to create a functional, beautiful place you can call “home.” Indoors and out.

Call now to schedule your complimentary Zoom meeting. 415-493-6469.

Stay safe,

Stacey Lapuk, ASID


Stacey Lapuk, ASID

Stacey Lapuk, ASID is celebrating her 30th year with her firm. Named “One of America’s Ten Designers To Watch” by Design Times Magazine, one of the “Top 100 Interior Designer in North America” by Blink Art Resources, and the winner of multiple national design awards.  Her goal is simple: To co-create with her clients the home of their dreams with responsive and comprehensive solutions, and timeless, beautiful results.

Her full service firm attracts clients desiring the finest workmanship, materials and custom design. Facets of work include partnering with architects on new construction, remodels, kitchen design and bath design, color consultation, custom furniture, flooring, area carpets, wall and window treatments, lighting design, art procurement and antique acquisition.  Service areas include but are not limited to Marin County, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Ross, Kentfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, San Rafael, and Pacific Heights.