Creating successful indoor-outdoor room relationships can
increase your home's living space.
Just as a Building Designer creates the floor plan of a house and an interior
designer chooses the style and color scheme within a home, a Landscape
Designer develops the outdoor spaces around a building. When developing
the landscape of a residence, and must keep in mind the purpose of each
exterior space and how each of those spaces relates to those within the
In all residential landscape projects, the early planning stages are important
to insure a quality relationship between the exterior and interior use areas.
Harmony and continuity will result in a smooth flowing transition between
The term "use areas" comes from the concept that rooms within a home may
be placed within one of four categories according to use. The public area is
the entrance space of a home, such as the porch or foyer. The family/living
area is represented by the rooms that serve as gathering places for the family
and spaces for entertaining friends. These rooms include the family room,
living room, recreation room and dining room. The service area is
comprised of the rooms that service the family's needs such as the kitchen,
utility room and laundry room. The private living area includes the
bedrooms, bathrooms, secluded sitting rooms and any other rooms where the
family engages in private activities.
These four use categories can also be applied to the exterior areas of the
home. Each section of the property around the house can be divided into
one of the four use categories (See Diagram A). Each division relates
functionally to the rooms on the inside of the house—almost like a mirror.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the outdoor room concept in order
to create an efficient indoor-outdoor room relationship and get the most out
of your home.
The public area of a home's landscape is the area that is most visible. This
area projects the primary image to guests as they approach the property. The
public area may include both an entrance walk and a porch. A street will
sometimes dictate how much space is given to the public area. For example,
a corner lot has much more public space than most lots within a block. The
amount of public space will influence the size of the other indoor use areas.
The outdoor family/living area is an extension of the corresponding
family/living room within the home. Family/living areas are used to
entertain friends and as a gathering place for family. Outdoor family/living
rooms normally include patios, decks, porches, swimming pools and outdoor
eating areas (See Photo 1). These areas may be further divided into passive
or active spaces. Passive areas, developed for relaxation, may incorporate a
feeling of seclusion where a person can relax and escape the often hectic
pace of the day. The active areas are spaces where activity is allowed and
Within the landscape, the outdoor service area might include the garbage can
storage, air conditioner units, firewood, storage buildings and shops. This is
generally not an area guests should view or circulate through. Outdoor
service areas are usually adjacent to the utility room, garage or kitchen.
The final use category is the private area. Frequently adjacent to the
bedrooms, this area is for passive use and can include a patio, hot tub or spa.
Often, it serves as a screen or barrier to the other use areas, providing
privacy for the adjacent interior and frequently an interesting view as well.
Circulation between the different outdoor rooms and between the outdoor
and indoor rooms is an important design consideration when planning your
landscape. One should be able to move freely from one space to the other
while a separation between the areas is still maintained. For example, the
outdoor service area should be readily accessible to the outdoor
family/living area as well as to the interior service areas of the house, rooms
such as the kitchen and utility room. The outdoor service area, however,
should be visually separate.
With this explanation, it is easy to appreciate how careful planning of the
residential landscape can increase your home's living area. The outdoor
landscape should be planned for just as the interior of the house in that the
landscape can be designed as outdoor rooms. By defining these spaces into
the four use areas, they may be broken down further into outdoor rooms that
have components such as walls, ceilings and floors, comparable to those of
While the materials may be different, the concept remains the same. The
outdoor walls should be placed where they will define the outdoor space or
limit its size. The walls should not be placed in the center of the space or
lawn. The same principles that apply to an indoor room also apply to the
corresponding outdoor room. Outdoor walls are created by using natural
materials such as trees, shrubs, ground covers or flowers; or by using manmade
materials and structures such as fences, retaining walls or screens
made of wood, masonry, concrete or metal.
The outdoor features consist of arbor, a roof, a vine or a tree. These features
create an overhead covering that helps bring about a sense of proportion and
scale. Also, each of these features can contribute to the solar orientation of a
house, helping to cool or warm the outdoor room, depending on the season.
An outdoor room's floor is the ground plane used for paving or surfacing. It
may be constructed of grass, water, concrete, masonry, wood, tile, mulch,
sand or gravel. Often a living ground cover other than grass is used to
Connections between indoor and outdoor use areas are vital to a successful
landscape design. Every landscape plan begins with evaluating family needs
and desires and incorporating these in the landscape design. Through
planning and study, you can develop a master plan which addresses each
need, fulfils each desire and reflects a well-designed indoor-outdoor room