The Outdoor Room

Apr 15, 2024

Walls, houses, and buildings were made to create separation and protection from nature and her elements. Despite this, the outside has always been, and will continue to be, part of our lives as human beings. Beyond just having to struggle with the forces of mother nature, we choose to spend our time relaxing outdoors, sometimes in similar ways that we do inside. So, if she is something that will be a part of our time on earth, why not cherish her beauty? And if we are going to cherish her beauty, why not create spaces for the purpose of residing in that beauty? 

This is, by no means, a new concept. For quite some time, we’ve made backyards, front porches, decks, terraces, and courtyards. While we humans have separated our living spaces from the outdoors, we have also, at the same time, created outdoor spaces for our leisure and enjoyment, oftentimes directly attached to or near our indoor spaces. Therefore, what we need is not the creation of a new kind of outdoor environment, but rather a shift in how we think about and define these outdoor environments.

Right now, we largely think of these spaces as a binary. There is the outside: yards, porches, courtyards, etc., and then there is the inside: the house, the rooms, etc. But what happens if we think of the outdoor spaces we create as not just attached to our indoor shelters, but as a part of them? The outside is not merely a space, but a room, just as much of a room as a bedroom, bathroom, or a living room.  

Many of the designs you’ll see in our portfolio have this paradigm shift in mind: invite the outside in by thinking of it as a part of the house itself. Through the design of the building proper, and its placement on the property, an outdoor room can be shaped. These outdoor spaces are designed with guests, hosting, and relaxation in mind. 

But this shift can happen in more ways than just thought. In many of our projects, such as Courtyard House 1, Courtyard House 2, and the Gallatin River Residence, through the implementation of large, high end doors, the inside can literally open to the outside, allowing movement from one space to the other to be fluid, unbroken by any barriers. The indoor rooms literally extend into the outdoors.  

Other times, like with Sauna House, the outdoor rooms are more than just a place to hang outside. They serve specific purposes, like the outdoor dipping bath or the outdoor kitchen and dining area. We go to them in a similar way we would go to a kitchen or a bathroom. Granted, an outdoor room, especially with amenities, will need different considerations than any indoor room. But, in that same way, a bedroom needs different considerations than an indoor bathroom, an indoor bathroom needs different considerations than an indoor kitchen, and an indoor kitchen needs different considerations than a bedroom. All rooms have different factors and guidelines that need to be taken into consideration, regardless of their indoor/outdoor status. 

These outdoor rooms are more than just a stove, grill, bath, or couch that was placed outside. The areas around these utilities or pieces of furniture were designed, shaped, and cultivated with intention, thought, and care. The same kind and level of thought, intention, and care that goes into designing, shaping, and cultivating their indoor counterparts. Let the outside be inside, and let the inside be outside. 

The outdoors are not only something we have to battle against to stay dry and warm, but rather a space that can provide the same comforts as a dining room, living room, and wood burning fireplace. If we design, construct, and live with this shift in mind, thinking of outside spaces as rooms themselves, then perhaps we will be more thoughtful in how we exist in and treat the environment around us.