An outdoor lounge is the ultimate in outdoor luxury. A place to put your feet up, a space to relax, while feeling the breeze on your face and the sun on your skin.
For a space that really works, take the time to figure out what you want from an outdoor seating area. And when it comes to outdoor furniture, also consider which materials are best to use. We’ve enlisted industry experts to help you do just that and ask all the important questions. “As with any interior piece, it’s important to consider form and function,” advises Rebecca Hunt, director of Suna Interior Design Studio. ‘How big is the area you are looking at? How and when could you use it? Will it be an entertainment area? Or will you perch there only occasionally to watch the world go by?
So beyond just buying a couch and a gas grill and calling it a living room, take a moment to think about what you’re looking for. Once you’ve decided what you want your outdoor living room to be, here’s how to put it into practice.
Outdoor Living Room Ideas
1. Approach the space as you would an interior room
When creating an outdoor seating area, follow the same design principles as any other lounging space in your home. “The key to creating a comfortable outdoor seating area is to design the space the same way you would a living room,” says Rebecca Lorimer, owner of luxury outdoor furniture brand Coco Wolf. “Think about the purpose you would like the space to fulfill and how you want to feel in it. Is there a focal point or view you want to accentuate? And where does the light fall?
For an interior room, lighting levels can have an impact on color choice or room layout, but in a courtyard it is especially important to observe them. “For a south-facing yard, awnings and umbrellas that create shade will be important,” says Rebecca.
And just like in a living room, in addition to seating, it is a good idea to include other types of garden furniture to maximize usability and comfort. “Accessories like nesting tables and ottomans help punctuate the space, creating flow and balance,” Rebecca says. “They also provide a functional perch for food, drinks and books.”
2. Choose resistant materials
With natural elements in play, it’s imperative to understand what materials and finishes will work best, especially if you plan to leave your seats installed year-round.
This concrete seat was created by Studio Ashby and couldn’t be tougher. For furniture that is not built-in, aluminum is a good idea.
“We use it in all of our designs because it has many qualities that make it suitable for outdoor conditions all year round,” says outdoor furniture designer Jennifer Newman, known for setting garden trends with her pieces. colored. “It is rust resistant, maintenance free and will retain its strength for many years.”
Jennifer uses lightweight aluminum, which makes her designs especially flexible – perfect if your space needs to be multi-functional. “Easy-to-move seating lets your setup adapt to the number of guests you have,” she says. “Each of our pieces can be very easily moved around the garden to follow the sun and create improvised eating areas when needed.”
3. Use specific fabrics
An outdoor lounge needs padding – that’s what sets it apart from garden furniture in a yard. In terms of fabrics, Coco Wolf’s Rebecca echoes the sentiment that longevity is key. “It’s worth investing in the best fabrics,” she says. “For our collection, we use high-performance fabrics that incorporate the latest textile technologies. Our rope finish, for example, is marine compliant, meaning it can withstand some harsh elements including UV rays, weather, abrasion, chlorine and salt water.
And for wood, Rebecca recommends Iroko. “It’s a hardwood chosen for its strength and extreme durability. It expands and contracts with the environment, reducing the risk of cracking or splintering.
4. Choose furniture with sensitivity
“Your choice of outdoor seating will depend on the space available and the position of the space you are designing,” says Rebecca Hunt, Director of Suna Interior Design Studio. “For example, lightweight furniture won’t suit a windswept terraced garden, and large soft sofas are going to need a lot of space around them.”
Once you’ve realistically assessed your space, you can start choosing the type of seating you want. If you’ve decided to use it primarily for entertaining and you have the space, a large table with plenty of chairs might work for you. Or, if you dream of spending your weekends reading outside, then a more comfortable sofa would be better.
There are always ways to circumvent the limitations of a space, and being smart with the type of seating you choose can help maximize its potential. “If space is limited, but you yearn to entertain, you can choose stools that may not be the most comfortable, but store easily.” said Rebecca. “If you want to be able to have a bit of both, plan for a few comfortable chairs for everyday use, but then add stackable stools for guests.”
5. Make the outdoor living room seem bigger
Along with built-in seating, there are a few other tricks of the trade to try if you want to make the most of a small outdoor space. “It was a very small interior courtyard, and we wanted to open it up as much as possible and make it feel like another living space,” says Hayley Robson, creative director and co-founder of Day True. “The apartment was refurbished during the first period of lockdown, a time when access to any outdoor space became critical and desirable.”
Proving that almost any outdoor space can be transformed into a relaxing sanctuary to enjoy nature and unwind, Hayley and her team at Day True used ingenious design tactics to turn this otherwise awkward space into a usable seating area. “It was too small to add a table and chairs, so we decided to incorporate a low bench seat,” says Hayley. “The placement of a large vertical mirror on the back wall helped create an illusion of space and also brought natural light back into the interior rooms. Tiles with a small pattern also helped to make the floor area seem larger than it was.
6. Include a fireplace
One way to make sure you’re sitting comfortably outside is to opt for a freestanding fire pit. Guaranteed to warm you up on even the coldest evenings, it’s a fabulous addition to any outdoor setup. “The fire pits have become more popular over the years as they have become more affordable,” says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, MD of Morsø UK.
“Smaller in size, freestanding fire pits also take up less space and therefore are ideal for enhancing compact outdoor spaces and gardens. The dancing flames will help create the ultimate cozy ambiance for relaxing with family or spending time with friends.
7. Be bold with pattern and color
More than anything, your outdoor living room should bring you joy – and opting for furniture in patterns and colors that appeal to you will always result in a space that you ultimately love. Stripes are a timeless choice and make a bold statement. “Stripes and other patterns bring a punchy design element to outdoor seating,” says Shalini Misra, interior designer and founder of The Design Buzz. “Stripes in particular can bring a striking design touch to your space, contrasting brilliantly with the verdant greenery of the surrounding plants.
Jennifer Newman also defends the use of color outdoors: “If you’re nervous about trying brighter hues indoors, the garden is a great space to experiment with bright colors and gives you the opportunity to be a little more adventurous,” she says. “For me, bright, bold colors are an immediate mood lifter and will bring a sense of optimism and fun to a garden space that will encourage you to get out and enjoy.
8. Plant to disguise your space
New York landscaper Grace Fuller wanted to use plants to fence off this outdoor living room. Creating a sense of privacy and seclusion, it helps make it feel like a room and not a courtyard.
And if you plant like that extensively, you need to think about which specific flowers to include. “The most important choice when considering plants is to research the plants native to the area, avoid invasive species, and start from that list to start my color palette,” Grace says. “A mix of different leaf shapes and textures gives a space a feeling of abundance and thoughtfulness. Here I used a mix of Ilex glabra, Clematis virginiana, Polystichum acrostichoides, Adiantum pedatum L., David Austin rose Clair Matin, Hydrangea arborescens and Panicum virgatum to name a few.
9. Create a mobile living room
Should an outdoor lounge exist all year round? Probably not – unless you live in tropical climates. So a big bean bag, like this one from Fatboy, could solve all your problems. Simply place it under the tree where you feel like lounging that day, and you have instant space to relax.
What furniture do you need in an outdoor living room?
An outdoor lounge can have as much or as little furniture as desired, although it is recommended that you have room for at least two people to sit at a time.
“An outdoor living room is a state of mind rather than a physical space,” says Pip Rich, editor of Livingetc’ds. “It’s about creating a space that you want to relax in and that can include whatever furniture you want. However, I would suggest at least a couch and/or a few chairs, a low or coffee table, and maybe an outdoor rug to tie it all together.