Published on September 28, 2021 by Ryan Castillo

Updated on October 4th, 2021

If you’re looking to make the most of your square footage, consider extending your living space outside. Whether you enjoy laying by the pool or cooking a nice meal at the barbecue, designing your outdoor living spaces using the same principles as any indoor room will help you create a comfortable outdoor retreat that you will never want to leave. 

What is outdoor living?

Outdoor living means creating a space in your yard where elements of everyday life can happen. It means purposefully utilizing your outdoor area as a place to cook, eat, read, work, and spend time with family and friends. Your outdoor living space can be as simple as a cozy corner with a porch swing and string lights. Or it can be more elaborate, featuring an outdoor kitchen for entertaining, a fire-pit for roasting marshmallows, or a pool to cool down in during the warm summer months.  

Does outdoor living count toward the square footage of my home? 

Outdoor living spaces don’t increase the square footage of your home. However, according to Jennifer Bonello, a Redfin Home Services Listing Concierge from Orange County, “furnishing them to feel like another room can make your home seem bigger.” By tending to your outdoor space, you can create areas for entertaining that can help your home stand out and be more appealing to buyers if you decide to sell your home.

How to design outdoor living spaces: 5 tips 

1. Purpose

Consider what purpose your outdoor living space will serve. Will the space be used primarily for entertaining or will it be an area where you can relax? Once you have a better idea of how you will spend time in the space, you can start planning. 

2. Layout

The key to any room starts with a floor plan. Use an online space planner to help figure out the best configuration for your outdoor space. Think about traffic patterns, view, conversation, and symmetry. 

3. Creating zones

Once your layout is complete, review it and make sure you’ve created “zones” for activities you’ll be engaged in on a regular basis. Do you host large family dinners? Do you enjoy laying in a hammock? Even small outdoor footprints should be thought out in terms of furniture and space.

4. Color from indoor to outdoor

Connect outdoor decor to indoor color schemes with pillows, textiles, and your furniture material palette. Shop for the rooms adjacent to your patio or porch and pull in accessories that could be used outside. 

For accessories, think about lanterns, dishes, planters, and side tables that are built to withstand the elements. Look for accents in the same style and color palette as your home’s interior to create a cohesive look. Let the architecture of the home dictate your choices.

Use outdoor pillows, cushions, rugs, towels, and umbrellas to blend your indoor decor with your outdoor decor. Look for rugs that are indoor/outdoor, fabrics with moisture-wicking technology, and stain and sun resistant products. All of these will help lessen any weather-related issues that typically arise in outdoor living spaces.

5.  Lighting

Lighting is key to an outdoor living space. You can hang string lights on your covered porch, or hang a statement light fixture outside. 

Outdoor living spaces: 5 possibilities

1. Outdoor kitchen and bar

Combine the benefits of entertaining with the functionality of outdoor meal prep by creating an outdoor bar and kitchen. Whether you have a small space or you want to go all out, outdoor bars and kitchens are customizable to your liking with options to install pizza ovens or secondary grills. “When creating an outdoor bar or kitchen, keep in mind the flow of traffic and how you will use the entire area to entertain,” Lola Castle, a Redfin Listing Concierge from Arizona said. “Building a kitchen on the other side of the yard may aesthetically look nice, but may not always be practical with frequent trips to the house for supplies.” 

2. Outdoor fireplaces and firepits

Maybe you live in Vancouver, BC, and want to spend time outside during an early fall evening, or perhaps you live in Austin, TX and you’re looking for a space to roast marshmallows and tell late-night stories. If these ideas interest you, installing an outdoor fireplace or creating a firepit is a great option. Making your own DIY fire pit is simple and easy and there are many options to fit your design aesthetic — from in-ground fire pits to fire bowls. A fireplace can serve as a statement for outdoor living space. 

3. Outdoor dining area

An outdoor dining area can be set up anywhere from a small balcony to a large area on a plot of land. When creating a dining area, think about the shape of the table, how many people you are trying to accommodate, and what accessories you want to decorate with. If you’re looking to install something more permanent, adding a pergola or gazebo draped with greenery and string lights. 

4. Pool

A pool is a popular US home trend* that is a practical and useful outdoor living space. This is especially true if you live somewhere with hot summers, like Phoenix, AZ, or Coral Springs, FL. Installing a pool can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 and the end result may increase home value.

5. Patios and decks with water features

Perhaps one of the most common outdoor living spaces is the patio or deck. These versatile spaces can be customized to fit your needs. Water features can create an added touch of peace and elegance. According to Bonello, “there are many options, ranging from larger floor fountains to tabletop versions in a myriad of designs to suit any décor and budget.” Some examples can be as large as a koi pond or as small as a water fountain.

*Per home listing data on, as of September 2021.