Rooms With A View: The Elements

Natural Habitats

Nature may be easy on the eyes, but sometimes it requires a level of design intervention to add comfort to the equation. That’s the beauty of enhancing the organic areas around your home with outdoor rooms; the combination delivers the best backdrop observed from the perfect perch.


If space limitations are a concern, make an effort to create at least one worthwhile spot to savor your outdoor setting. Those with larger properties might make a series of rooms that include anything from a hammock or chaise for lazy days to a bistro table for two and a dining or lounge space for entertaining.


“Outdoor rooms should be destination areas,” says Harry Gelderman, landscape sales and project manager for Gelderman Landscape Services in Waterdown, Ontario. Though he says each property is unique, a covered area close to the home can be a big bonus. “If it’s raining, you can still enjoy it if it’s warm outside,” he says. “Most often, we try to get them close to the home and sometimes attached to the exterior of the home. A stand-alone can look nice as long as it blends in with the landscape.” For buggy areas, he suggests adding screens for extra protection.


Some outdoor rooms are more structured than others, like a 20-by-20-foot pavilion Gelderman and his team created for a client that features a small dining area, a fireplace, and a sink. For more spontaneous arrangements, Gelderman recommends high-quality cloth pavilions or cabanas.


Plant material helps set the tone for an outdoor room. “Your plants should reflect the design of the area,” says Gelderman. For instance, an English cottage garden should include furniture and planters with a similar aesthetic. If you live in the desert, select native, drought-tolerant species. And consider low-maintenance options for garden decor, no matter which growing zone you live in. Powder-coated aluminum and resin products can withstand the elements, and planters and urns can be watered through an irrigation system.


Less work leaves you with more time to relax and unwind. “Solid benches create respite areas that encourage you to take a break and see the butterflies, birds, and whatever else,” says Gelderman. A comfy spot is all it takes to create a seating area, especially if color is part of the charm. He recommends setting up an attractive arrangement, like a pergola paired with an inviting orange chair.


A secret garden effect provides pure delight. “I like to create a mystery to each outdoor room, which should have its own identity,” says Gelderman. “You can do this by placing larger shrubs just before it, so you can still see the whole landscape from the entire room, but you can’t see the whole room from the landscape.”


Outdoor rooms should complement their surroundings, like an enclosed gazebo Gelderman Landscape Services did for a client that was a reproduction period piece for a property that dates to the 1800s. “It can fit four comfortably,” says Gelderman. “The gazebo provides a place to sit at night and have tea. It also becomes a piece of artwork in the garden.”


Another project features multiple outdoor rooms that surround a small pool with a spa also known as a “spool.” A barbecue area is enclosed with a screen, while a fireplace provides warmth in the evening.


Indoor-outdoor fabrics soften the seats in one section where an arm umbrella offers protection from the sun. Varied plantings add visual interest. “The boxwood hedges are a little bit formal, but they are mixed with natural touches,” says Gelderman.


For an expansive property with numerous outdoor rooms, a pergola frames a quaint seating area that features a rattan table and chairs. Accent pieces like a candlelier (a chandelier with candles) and a birdhouse for purple martins are part of the perfect recipe for a front-row seat to nature, which is what outdoor rooms are all about.Written by Jeanine Matlow. Photography by Jeff McNeill of McNeill Photography.


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