How to Create Outdoor Living Spaces

If you ever wondered how to create outdoor living spaces, that are comfortable and inviting, then we have a few design tips for you. 

There’s a lot to love about outdoor living, particularly in New England, where the climate isn’t warm and inviting year-round. Harsh winters leave us dreaming of pools, patios and open-air living rooms, where we can have fun and savor the sun and warm temperatures. 

“Creating the right outdoor opportunity can make a home an incredibly successful place to visit and live in,” Patrick Ahearn
 Location - Martha's Vineyard   Architect - Patrick Ahearn  Photographer - Greg Premru

Location - Martha's Vineyard   Architect - Patrick Ahearn  Photographer - Greg Premru

Bring the Indoors Out

Outdoor living and entertainment spaces can be created by taking advantage of a few key design elements, including the concept of bringing the inside out. Luxurious living rooms under ceilinged porches make for great outdoor living spaces. 

“It’s all about scale” says Ahearn. “When designing an outdoor space, think about the scale of the space and how it relates to the environment you’re trying to create. It is key to have the flow of the outdoor and the indoor space work well together.” 

Ahearn does just that with the property (shown above), a large home on Martha’s Vineyard with distant water views. The use of multiple columns is reflective of the home’s Gambrel architecture. Red brick on the fireplace and oversized bluestone on the floor complement the more formal characteristics of the home. 

Scale is just as essential to Architect Mat Cummings. “If people are dwarfed, they don’t feel secure,” Cummings said. For this beautiful outdoor living space in Lynnfield, Massachusetts (below), Cummings balanced a large tree that stands just outside the verandah with the doubled-sided stone fireplace to make it feel comfortable. Fir bead board ceilings and mahogany decking cozy up the space. 

 Location - Lynnfield, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings  Photographer - Eric Roth 

Location - Lynnfield, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings  Photographer - Eric Roth 

Below, this Cummings-designed West Newbury, Massachusetts home provides entry to the pool and outdoor area from multiple rooms. The house is designed to gradually open from indoors to outdoors. A card room is a transitional space from the interior living area and opens into a bar, which shifts into a family living space. The family area can be completely opened to the outside, al- lowing the homeowners and their guest to enjoy an all-inclusive indoor/ outdoor experience. Glass windows throughout the indoors allow the pool to remain a focal point. 

 Location - West Newbury, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings  Photographer - Eric Roth

Location - West Newbury, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings  Photographer - Eric Roth

Tiered Spaces On A Home Provide Entertainment Options 

Porches, balconies, patios and lawns, all working together can create an enticing multi-tiered living space. In this striking Winchester, Massachusetts Victorian (below), Cummings uses different materials to clearly define the patio and porch spaces, creating a hierarchy. Cumming says that such a transition makes each space feel intimate, while creating variety through familiarity. 

 Location - Winchester, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings. Photographer - Eric Roth

Location - Winchester, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings. Photographer - Eric Roth

Pools – The Liquid Showpiece

A swimming pool can be the liquid showpiece of any outdoor space, turning your home into a decadent escape. 

In this home on Eel Pond Overlook in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Ahearn designed the pool to be in line of sight with the indoors. 

 Location - Martha's Vineyard  Architect - Patrick Ahearn  Photographer - Greg Premru

Location - Martha's Vineyard  Architect - Patrick Ahearn  Photographer - Greg Premru

“What you see when you look out helps define the scale and the character of that outdoor space,” said Ahearn. “If you’re in the living room and you’re looking out to the swimming pool, it should offer a senseof organization and alignment with a picture window, or a pair of French glass doors, from the house.” 

Use Fire to Fuel the Party 

Like water, fire plays an essential role in New England outdoor living and allows homeowners to spark up some outdoor bonding time. 

“Fire is an increasingly important outdoor element in New England,” said Ahearn. “People tend to gather around an open flame.” 

The first home featured on this post, offers a fireplace that provides warmth, allowing the homeowners to use the space into the night, as well as into the colder seasons. The light brick and open concept complement the more relaxed feel of the home. 

Knowing that people congregate around fire, Cummings recently added a large red-brick fireplace to his own home ( shown below). 

“A fireplace close to the home will generally draw people out of the busy kitchen and into the outdoors,” he says. 

 Location - Ipswich, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings  Photographer - Cynthia August 

Location - Ipswich, MA  Architect - Mat Cummings  Photographer - Cynthia August 

Cummings designed the fireplace as an intimate part of the back façade of the home, with windows framing the chimney, and a circular seating area surrounding the fireplace. This lets his family and friends feel as though the exterior patio space is a room unto itself. 

Whether you open up the views to your outdoor features, or add an outdoor fireplace to warm your patio, enhancing your outdoor living spaces is a great way to make the most of your outdoor time.

Written by Diane Parazin for New England Fine Living's Lifestyle Magazine - Summer 2015 Issue