The 4 Elements of Great Outdoor Rooms

You will get unending pleasure from constructing outdoor rooms. Europeans know how to do this, but North Americans have forgotten how to use walls outside. There are all kinds of joy to be had in the intimate use of light, space, and the sound of water—and you don’t have to hire an army of gardeners!

Learn about the four common elements that make a beautiful outdoor room, and more:

The Four Common Elements of Great Outdoor Rooms
In her research into outdoor rooms, HGTV host Kitty Bartholomew has found four elements they all have in common:

Water provides a very peaceful sound for an outdoor room. Many people also use water to cover up the sounds of urban conversation—fire engines, garbage trucks, jack hammers—but water can also be invaluable in the suburbs. To absorb the sound of a freeway, you need 200 feet of thicket. If you don’t have enough room, you can mask the sound quite effectively with a fountain. Or, you can create an illusion with 2 to 3 feet of bamboo massed so tightly you trick people into thinking that they shouldn’t hear the noise through such a barrier-and they don’t. Water also acts as a mirror, making smaller spaces seem bigger.

Natural Materials
Wood, metal, stone, linen—all are natural materials that are well suited to outdoor rooms. Natural materials provide a sense of being at home, of oneness with the all, with nature, and can contribute to a feeling of sanctuary.

Intimate Spaces
One way to make your outdoor room feel very intimate is to fill it with beautiful plants growing in beautiful pots. Another is to place chairs so that they welcome conversation.

Put a priority on comfortable furniture for your outdoor room; some even put a bed in these rooms if it has a roof! At least you can try a hammock. You’ll want to have welcoming and pretty fabrics, but make the furniture as moisture-proof as possible: Choose materials that are natural mildew-proof, such as wrought iron and cedar, and heavy canvas.

Resource: HGTV.

Adapted from Meditations on Design, by John Wheatman (Conari Press, 2000). Copyright (c) 2000 by John Wheatman. Reprinted by permission of Conari Press.
Adapted from Meditations on Design, by John Wheatman (Conari Press, 2000).


Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Alicia N.
Alicia N5 years ago


Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago

Thanks, Annie
Would we need to cnosider first and by help to resolve also more. Thanks again.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago


K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

ilse D.
.7 years ago

thank you :) If my terrace is ever finished ..

karin m.
Karin M7 years ago


Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Eva Orta
Eva O7 years ago

Very nice ideas! My parents have a real large garden (two actually, one in the front of the house and a more private one at the back) and I love the little spaces they have created in there. Still, I definitely think that the tips you gave can add just that little extra to said spaces!