• Samia Verbist

Designing Outdoor Spaces: Expand Your Living Space by Taking It Outside

Updated: Sep 12

Whether you have a spacious backyard, a patio, or a small balcony, there are many ways to enhance your outdoor space. And to make it a place you love to spend time in.


By utilizing the exterior areas of a home, we increase living space and enjoy the benefits of well-being that fresh air brings.


Designing outdoor spaces begins with taking stock of available areas, considering your climate, and assessing how and how often you might use your outdoor space. Some homeowners love grilling, while others prefer to soak up the sun.

Interior designer Samia Verbist sitting in an outdoor living space in Orange County

Both options – and many others I will discuss below – are correct if they are right for you. Maybe you would like to do both! Your outdoor living spaces and backyard decor should meet your individual lifestyle.


To illustrate how outdoor spaces can be tailored to each home and the people living there, I will share my backyard with you. You’ll see how I have created multiple vignettes for the different activities we enjoy in my household. You’ll also notice how each one has genuinely expanded our living space.


Enjoy Al Fresco Dining

In California, where I live, the outdoors is our second home.


The weather is so pleasant here, and we can use the outdoors for eight months per year, which gives us extra square footage. We added an outdoor entertainment area with our al fresco dining room, which we love to use.


For our outdoor dining room, I chose an aluminum canopy with panels that can open or close to block or let in the sun, depending on the weather and time of day. The terrasse is covered in 24-by-24-inch ceramic tile that looks like marble with its lovely gray vein but is durable enough for outdoor use.

With its smooth finish, it is easy to clean. I added a rug to bring pattern and contrast to the space. It has a darker color, which works well for exterior floor fabrics – especially considering you might have some animal visitors to your outdoor areas.


Because we live in a coastal environment, the outdoor dining furniture is in keeping with a beach theme. The bleached wood table, white chairs, and woven pendant lights perfectly complement the palm trees throughout the yard.


Set Up an Exterior Living Room When Designing Outdoor Spaces

Speaking of palm trees, what is a better way to portray an oasis in the desert than a covered outdoor living room? For this space, I chose faux wood deck flooring made for the outdoors.


It’s a better option than wood because it does not require maintenance. Wood, on the other hand, would need to be sanded and stained every couple of years.


To this, I added a full suite of living room-style furniture: a sofa, two chairs, and a coffee table. This inclusion of furniture helped create an outdoor interior of sorts. This set is a beachy beige wicker, and I tossed on decorative floral pillows for a bit of color.

A rug helps demarcate the space and again adds pattern and contrast. But not too much, of course, because we want the space to feel relaxing. When you choose elements for your outdoor living room, always use only outdoor furniture and fabric.


A decorative outdoor sculpture and tall pots complete the look. But my favorite aspect of this second living room is the aluminum pergola with drapery. By opening or closing it, we can control the amount of sun we get, making this area usable day or night.


Create a Cozy Outdoor Space

The different living areas in my backyard are connected by gravel paths dotted with concrete pavers. Now, let’s take the path to our sandy at-home getaway.

Two wicker chairs in an Huntington Beach back yard

Inspired by a bonfire on the beach, this space under a luscious palm tree features two roomy egg-shaped chairs with a teak frame and outdoor cushions. I can remove the cushions for washing, so their lighter color is not a problem. As you can see, there is a lot of sun in this area. But the tree provides natural shade, so I did not include a pergola.


With sand underneath and a round fire pit, this cozy space benefits from natural colors and materials. We live near the ocean, and it can get cold at night, and these egg chairs are great to snuggle into. I did not want to have any sharp angles in this nest-like area. So I chose round shapes – in the chairs, the fire pit, and even the design on the pillow. But you can choose many shapes and styles for your fire pit – some can double as a coffee table or dining table.


We enjoy spending time in the outdoor living spaces in our backyard, whether entertaining, alone, or together. Sometimes homeowners overlook the possibilities and just put out a table and chairs with a grill. Instead, think of your outdoor space like any other room, just one without walls. Create outdoor living areas that are welcoming, and you’ll find yourself using them more.


I certainly feel like I am on vacation just sitting there in my own backyard!


Let’s be well. Let’s be bold. And of course, let’s be beautiful.


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