For those who like to entertain, an indoor-outdoor space is perfect for gatherings where guests can enjoy al fresco dining, poolside cocktails, and kitchen conversations.
Creating sanctuary in outdoor living spaces remains a popular home improvement project — more than 70% of homebuyers wanted a private outdoor space in 2020 and 2021, according to a recent Zillow survey. But by creating a beautiful backyard that’s fit for entertaining, homeowners can have more. The ability to move easily between your indoor and outdoor spaces opens your home’s living space and allows you and your guests to connect in new ways. Here are our top tips for creating indoor-outdoor entertaining spaces.
1. Create an Al fresco Living Room
Make your deck or patio a place you and your friends never want to leave. “When you’re decorating the outside, it’s just like a second living room. There’s not really a difference,” says Elina Donaldson, interior designer and owner of design firm Simplicity by Elina.
Designing an outdoor room has never been easier. Pick an outdoor sofa and lounge set that mimics the look and feel of your family room furnishings. One of the easiest ways to get cozy outdoors is to add lots of texture. Pillows, poufs, and throw blankets add layers of softness and comfort. Place an outdoor area rug beneath your dining or seating areas to create definition while adding a pop of textural color. For a more intimate vibe, hang curtains along a gazebo or covered patio for shade and privacy.
2. Plan Your Layout
Design your indoor-outdoor living spaces for movement. While you can’t force your guests to mingle, you can create an environment that encourages them to move around. Design for flow with careful attention to your rooms’ layouts and furniture placement. Keep doors and openings unobstructed by large furnishings – sofas and armchairs should not block sliding glass or bi-fold doors. Arrange an assortment of tables inside and outside for places to set down food and beverages.
3. Make the Wall Disappear
Ease of access and a clear visual connection between inside and outside spaces creates a welcoming transition between entertaining zones. If you’re looking to have maximum flow, having large moving glass walls is the perfect design option. Multi-slide doors offer thin profiles that visually remove the barrier between spaces, and when open, these panoramic doors create large openings that effectively turn two separate areas into one. An option that creates a true wall-to-wall opening is a bi-fold or accordion door, which stacks against the wall to fully merge the indoors with the outdoors.
4. Use the Same Flooring Inside and Out
Keeping the flooring material consistent as you walk from inside to outside is an easy way to create visual continuity between the two areas, according to Donaldson. Let the eye travel easily from one space to the other with minimal interruption. Opt for the same tile in both color and shape to blur the boundary between the spaces. If you have a deck, stain the wood the same color as your wood or tile floor.
Creating design cohesion between your indoor and outdoor living spaces isn’t restricted to just flooring. Integrate your living room and kitchen tiles, textiles, and color palettes into your outdoor and landscape design to further visually connect these spaces.
5. Define Your Activity Areas
Give your guests various places to relax and connect. While easy flow between the home and outdoors is optimal, it’s also helpful to create activity-based zones for your and your guests’ comfort and enjoyment. If you have the room, consider designating separate areas for dining and lounging. Bonus points if there’s space to spare for a garden, games, or water feature.
6. Create Shade
Protect everyone from sun exposure with plenty of shade outdoors. A covered patio, pergola, gazebo, or market umbrella will keep guests relaxed and cool on warm afternoons. If you have shade trees, set up a small table and chairs or a hammock to provide various shady spots to enjoy.
7. Emphasize Natural Materials
Being in nature makes us feel more relaxed and less stressed. Biophilic design connects the interior to the exterior through the use of natural materials, color palettes, and forms. When designing your indoor living space, think about ways to integrate outdoor elements like warm woods, natural stone, and curved or rounded furnishings to mimic the look and feel of your backyard space to keep guests relaxed and comfortable.
8. Plan for All-Weather Entertaining
There’s no reason you can’t entertain during fall and winter – make your backyard a comfortable perch during the cooler months too. Patio heaters can warm you up on those chilly days and nights. Mountable heater styles are installed directly into a covered patio or deck or dot your seating areas with freestanding units. An outdoor fireplace is a luxurious and cozy way to enjoy the outdoors all year long. Interested in a campfire feel? A hardscaped or freestanding fire pit will have you and your friends waxing nostalgic over s’mores and enjoying the starlit sky.
9. Get Snacks and Drinks Outside
Whether it’s a large party or intimate get-together, you’re going to have some people that prefer being inside while some stay poolside. Keep the good times rolling inside and out with easy access to food and beverages. Outdoor kitchens, built-in grill stations, pizza ovens, and covered bars are a few examples of luxurious hosting opportunities. For smaller spaces, an extra-large sliding or bi-fold window can create an indoor-outdoor bar area. And if you’re on a budget, colorful bar carts and hors d’ouvres placed on tables will keep guests happy and mingling.
10. Set the Mood with Music
Let your favorite playlists follow you and your guests outside with an outdoor sound system that can be hard-wired or wireless for integration, and mounted or freestanding to suit your preferences and budget.
11. Add Greenery
Establish visual connections between your indoor and outdoor spaces through greenery. Inside, place potted plants and trees at varying heights that complement your backyard landscaping close to doors. Maintain consistency and add similar plants just outside the doors to create a visual pathway.
12. Light It Up
Make your backyard a place you can entertain both day and night with good lighting. Donaldson recommends taking a layered approach and including sources of ambient, accent, and safety lighting for consistent illumination. An outdoor-safe chandelier or pendant light is perfect for covered patios, while wall sconces can provide lighting along the back of the home. String lights create a cozy ambiance and can be placed along a covered patio, between trees, or along a fence.
Add drama and highlight your landscaping with spotlights or in-ground lights that point upward. For everyone’s safety, install lights along pathways and stairs to prevent trips and falls.
Embracing indoor-outdoor connections can help you create a great entertaining space. Transitions that visually bridge these spaces allow for movement. Large windows and moving glass walls open living areas, and design and decor can amplify cohesion, comfort, and connection.