The past two years have held some unprecedented times that resulted in many of us spending a lot more time at home than usual.
Some homeowners began to see the shortcomings of their existing spaces, especially as they discovered they could gather with family and friends more safely outdoors, spurring an interest in improving the quality of those outdoor living areas.
Whether you were inspired to build the ultimate outdoor space complete with a pool, kitchen, and lounge area, or you’re simply aiming to spruce up the patio with a cozier vibe, outdoor renovations are all the rage right now.
Here, three local design experts provide some tips for designing the alfresco living space of your dreams.
Think of it as an extension of your home.
“People tend to think of covered porches as just a deck with a roof on it, but it’s so much more than that,” explains Michael Winn, CEO and owner of Winn Design + Build in Falls Church. “We really are building an extension of your home, just instead of glass, it’s a screen.”
Tracy Morris, owner of Tracy Morris Design in McLean, agrees.
“With outdoor renovations, people tend to realize just how much their homes mean to them and how much they enjoy being there when it’s the right space and everything fits together,” she says.
She says the project was a true expansion of the home, as she felt inspired to pull the inside of the home outside.
“The homeowner had the best taste, so it was not difficult for me to expand upon that, choosing things that were fun, fresh, and a little edgy with a very sophisticated twist,” she says.
It can create an incredible extension of your home where you don’t even feel the need to go inside, Morris adds.
“With things like outdoor Ping-Pong tables and swings, it just tends to be a bit more playful and has a more fluid and fun feel.”
Determine your needs for the space.
Defining exactly how you plan to use your outdoor space is key — whether it’s for entertaining a lot of people, hosting more intimate gatherings, or just relaxing with your family.
For instance, Morris’ recent project centered around a large pool and included a pool house, deck space, and kitchen with conveniences such as a grill, pizza oven, wine fridge, and trough cooler.
“The family loves to entertain large groups and wanted an outdoor kitchen space that was going to allow for this,” she says.
However, if you want something that is a bit more usable in the cooler months as well, a covered porch may be the way to go.
Take GTM Architects’ recent project, for example.
“The client wanted a space that felt very much like an outdoor room,” explains George Myers, president of GTM Architects in Bethesda.
This screened-in space includes beautiful arched windows and a stone fireplace in the lounge area that really makes you want to curl up and stay a while.
“And heaters were placed in the ceiling to help to extend the room’s use into the colder seasons as well,” Myers says.
Consider the dimensions carefully.
“One of the worst mistakes I often see is starting with dimensions that have not fully considered your furnishing and circulation,” says Winn. “Then you end up finding out that a few extra feet would have made all the difference in the world.”
With Winn Design + Build’s recent screened porch project, which boasts architectural pyramid skylights, outdoor cabinetry, and an open flame fireplace, Winn explains that the client had originally expressed concern that the space was too large.
However, they wanted a place to prepare food, a place to dine, and a lounging area, so when you put those three together — and allow enough space for everyone to move around easily — it creates a pretty large footprint, Winn says.
“After the room was finished, it really was just the right size,” he adds.