HOME INTERIORS BY MEREDITH COOPMAN

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” 

– Aristotle

You’ve heard it over and over when talking about window placement and the overall feeling of a room or space: bringing the outdoors in or the connection between inside and out. This couldn’t be a better idea in such a magnificent place as the Flathead Valley. There isn’t a bad spot and most everyone has an attractive view, if even of only their own backyard. What about bringing the indoors … out? Outdoor living is booming, and it’s no wonder. Frequently, out-of-doors is the best part of the house, especially in a location like ours. Whether you have a deck, porch, sunroom, backyard, balcony or patio, creating an outdoor living area increases your living space and allows you to enjoy nature; and nature never goes out of style.

Extending your living area from the inside out and allowing for continuity from an indoor space to an outdoor space is a great way to make the most of your household. An easy way to achieve this is by incorporating an outdoor living room. It will add appeal and personality to your home, while creating a great place for entertaining or spending quiet time outdoors.

Until recently, outdoor areas such as patios, terraces, rooftops, balconies and gardens were typically considered completely separate from the rest of the house. Outdoor space is becoming as important as indoor space, and the garden and living areas are considered living space as people now want to enjoy the same amenities both indoors and out. The deck or patio isn’t just for the grill anymore. It is actually an outdoor room, sometimes including whole kitchens, fireplaces, and even waterproof electronics. The outdoor experience has evolved.

To blur the lines between outdoor and indoor spaces, the outside environment needs to be as useful and comfortable as the inside of your home. The process of creating unified outdoor places is easier now because companies are creating modern, attractive, functional and versatile products that can withstand out-of-doors environments that look and feel like they were made for an indoor living room. Below are some of the basic elements to create your own outdoor living room.

Outdoor Living Room

Patio furniture is still the foundation of all outdoor living items. PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

FURNITURE

Patio furniture continues to be the foundation of all outdoor living items. However, the days of rattan furniture and deck chairs are evolving as many outdoor furniture sets now resemble an indoor living room. It’s not uncommon to find cushioned sofas, the kind you want to sink into, and coffee tables in outdoor settings. What makes this space feel as cozy as an indoor family room is the comfort level.

An outdoor setting provides a fun opportunity to do something unexpected, like hanging furniture from the ceiling. Wide, comfortable swings the size of sofas, even twin beds, can work perfectly in an outdoor living room. It’s the type of thing most people wouldn’t do indoors as they aren’t nearly as daring inside as they are outside.

OUTDOOR FABRIC

Whether you’re starting from scratch or just wanting a seasonal refresh, the simplest, most impactful way to update the look of a lifeless backyard is through fabric. The variety of options for outdoor use is limitless. Use fabric on throw pillows, draperies, or as upholstery. In fact, use these fabrics indoors as well. Thick, lightweight cushions with weather and fade-resistant fabrics (Sunbrella, for instance) are always solid investments and such an easy way to add print, pattern, and texture. These dry faster and resist mildew. Draperies made of these fabrics help set off the space from the rest of the backyard and allow your design aesthetic to carry through from inside while softening the hard surfaces of the building materials. Not to mention, they’ll provide shade and privacy.

CEILING

Installing an awning, pergola, trellis or canopy over your deck or patio will instantly define the area and really make it feel like an actual room that is alfresco. Overhead cover will create a more intimate space, is great for acoustics, and can cut down on glare and excess heat in the summertime. Something retractable will help control light exposure at different times of the day, and in different seasons. A permanent structure will give you a place to add a ceiling fan to keep the bugs away or a place to add light fixtures (or hang furniture).

outdoor living room

Installing an awning, pergola, trellis or canopy over your deck or patio will instantly define the area. PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

LIGHTING

At 48 degrees north, the summer night sky is well lit past 10 p.m. However, spending time outdoors isn’t necessarily limited to the daylight hours, and auxiliary light is still important. Tiki torches and solar posts stuck in the ground can be nice, but to truly reflect the intimacy of a regular living room, nothing sets the mood like the overhead and tabletop lighting we have inside. And light pointed downward will create a softer, cozier glow. The outdoor lighting industry has improved significantly in recent years, and outdoor fittings can be as stylish and elegant as indoor lighting. Pendants, chandeliers and candelabras are now graded for outside use and can withstand the elements, while they look and act like typical indoor fixtures.

For a more casual approach, candle lanterns hung from a hook in the ceiling or placed on tables or railings lend a subtle nighttime glow. They’re also easy to move where you need them and require no wiring. Or maybe even string up some holiday lights in your outdoor spaces for a festive feel. Effective lighting can make your outdoor living space safer and it can also help to transform your yard or deck into an inviting place to spend time after the sun goes down.

RUGS

Similar to ceilings, rugs also provide warmth and intimacy by creating a boundary between the room itself and the rest of the elements. They anchor and define the area as a space. And just like furniture and lighting made for out-of-doors, rugs have certainly come a long way and offer a myriad of colors and patterns to allow your design aesthetic to carry over from inside the house.

FIREPLACE

An outdoor living space can be created around a fireplace. The popularity of fire pits and outdoor fireplaces in recent years provides double duty by helping set both mood and temperature, which means you can enjoy your open air living room even when it’s chilly.

Well-designed outdoor environments that blend seamlessly with the rest of the style in the house will not only add value to the property and make it look more spacious, but will also make a more enjoyable place to live, creating a visual extension of, and complement to, indoor spaces.

Whatever you choose to do with your outdoor space, a fresh-air living room is an easy and inexpensive way to extend your home, your time spent outdoors, and perhaps even provide the feeling of a mini vacation only steps away.

Meredith Coopman of Meredith Coopman Design Studio lives in the Flathead Valley. She has a background in architecture and interior design. You can reach her at meredith@meredithcoopmandesign.com.