Design ideas for outdoor living

The outdoor living trend has been gaining momentum for a number of years as designers and builders respond to customer demands to merge indoor and outdoor spaces. And while trends are often short-lived, many of us have discovered during the pandemic just how valuable outdoor living spaces can be during our recent encounter with long-term isolation.

Designing creative and functional outdoor spaces is usually not too difficult if the available area is large enough. Small batches, on the other hand, can present challenges. Our design team responded with an assortment of intriguing solutions for homes of varying sizes, all on small lots. These efficient solutions offer excellent facilities for relaxation and exercise.



Architect: Todd Hallett, AIA, TK Design & Associates, [email protected]248.446.1960

Dimensions: Beam: 34 feet; Depth: 54 feet, 8 inches; Living area: 2,555 sf

Outdoor living spaces are a great way to blend the indoors with the outdoors. The key is to create a comfortable place to relax and enjoy nature. With a covered area for shade and rain protection and a chimney for warmth, this outdoor living space can be used almost year round. When working with small lots, it’s important to maximize space with a functional and efficient design. Fences and greenery provide privacy, while incorporating some of the outdoor living space into the design of the house.

live outside

A. Numerous glass doors both allow natural light to fill the interior and provide easy access to the outdoor space

B. The cozy fireplace is the focal point, creating a relaxing ambience while providing warmth

VS Extending the outdoor living space beyond the house provides additional space for meals and gatherings

D. The covered grill area not only provides shade and weather protection, but also adds visual interest.

live outside

Addition of shed

Architect: Donald F. Evans, AIA, The Evans Group, [email protected]407.650.8770

Dimensions: Main house: 1,386 sf; Shed: 401 sf


The existing one-car garage of this completely remodeled 1940s home allowed for the design of a new cabana/auxiliary structure to provide a unique garden oasis on a small infill lot. The use of different heights and demarcated areas creates spaces with many different uses, including an outdoor kitchen, dining room, fire pit and living room with access from the driveway so guests don’t have to cross the house to access the backyard.

live outside

A. Renovated main house

B. Existing garage renovated for one car

VS. New hut/auxiliary structure

D. Various outdoor spaces create an entertaining dream

E. The extended porch creates another outdoor space where owners can interact with the neighborhood

The Addie at Westlake

Designate: Seth Hart DTJ Design, [email protected]303.443.7333

Dimensions: Beam: 27 feet; Depth: 70 feet; Living area: 2,688 sf

live outside

This small batch product was designed for a hilltop site. Each 27-foot-wide home is front-loaded and uses a walkout condition to meet topography. Creating outdoor living opportunities on the ground floor became a unique challenge when designing this home. There are terraces out back, but creating spaces for fire pits, plunge pools and built-in outdoor kitchens required more space. These homes utilize the side yard between each home to provide terraced outdoor living spaces that offer a variety of configurations for each buyer.

live outside

A. The active side of the house takes advantage of large window groupings to admit natural light and visually connect to the yard

B. The passive side of the house uses a combination of frosted or tall windows to provide light while maintaining privacy

VS. Aft decks provide outdoor living space that takes advantage of hillside views

D. Side yards offer a variety of options that expand outdoor living possibilities

Personalized Residence

Architect: Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning, [email protected]925.251.7200

Dimensions: Beam: 130 feet; Depth: 100 feet; Living area: 3,400 sf

This custom residence in Belmont, CA is designed with an emphasis on outdoor living, which is designed with the goal of making the most of every square foot of outdoor space. This determination is particularly evident in the connections between the house, the ADU (accessory dwelling unit) and the swimming pool deck.

live outside

A. The kitchen features a walk-through counter, creating an outdoor bar in the California room dining area

B. The pass-through counter in the kitchen flows seamlessly into the rest of the great room with sliding glass doors that run the length of the space, folding back into the wall, making for great California room and room a unified space

VS. The detached ADU receives the same level of attention to the indoor/outdoor connection with folding glass doors that open to a covered outdoor living area overlooking the pool terrace

D. The pool serves as the focal point in the outdoor space with the indoor/outdoor space oriented around it. It also has a Baja shelf that extends the relaxation area into the pool itself.

E. A fire pit and lounge area adjacent to the pool provide comfortable outdoor space year-round