"The concept of the outdoor room is really pretty new. And while many folks still refer to the creation of an outdoor living room or outdoor kitchen as landscaping, it’s actually far more similar to interior design— with a little different ‘paint’." -Corey J. Halstead
Over the last 5 years or so, the idea of what an outdoor living space can and should be, has come into focus. Outdoor kitchens today have every modern convenience of a standard indoor kitchen, including deep fryers, granite countertops, refrigerators, stovetops, and cabinetry. Outdoor ‘living rooms’ include cushy couches, coffee tables, TV’s, and rugs. With all the products available today, it is very possible to develop an outdoor space that really does add livable space to the home.
When the design of outdoor spaces is viewed from this vantage point, plants very easily become the ‘paint’ and the ‘art’ of the outdoor room. Plant material today offers vast options for design textures and colors. So much so in fact, that incorporating them into the outdoor living space becomes very important to the success of the overall design.
When planning the look and feel of an interior space, designers and homeowners select color schemes and paint colors to form the foundation of the space, while pictures and art add the important style accents. The same is true for outdoor spaces. Properly designed softscapes—the term used for the living elements of the outdoor space—will typically include 3 ‘layers’ of height and texture and accomplish the same design goals.
It’s helpful to think of the tallest layer of the planting as the paint. These plants form the ‘walls’ of the space and provide a backdrop for the other 2 accent layers. The middle and lower levels can be used to add color and texture, bringing the outdoor space to life and tying together the color scheme.
When choosing plant varieties, consider all the elements of the space’s color and texture scheme such as the furniture, natural stone or pavers that act as the ‘floor’, planters, and of course the house itself. What color will you ‘paint the walls’ of your new outdoor room, and what exactly will your ‘art’ look like?