Three Approaches to Outdoor Living

One of my wife’s favorite television shows airs on one of the major home improvement cable networks. It’s the show where homeowners get to choose a design from three designers for the room they’re planning to remodel. They pick their favorite design, the work gets done, and we see the results.

What I find interesting about the show is how different the three plans always are. We enjoy trying to match the personalities of the clients with those of the designers, and then guess which design the homeowners will choose. We’re rarely right, which shows it’s not easy to match client personalities with the right design.

For this issue, Residential Design & Build editors decided to create our own design challenge to see how three designers would plan the outdoor living space for the same house. We sent a floor plan for an imaginary house to each designer along with some basic requirements, and challenged them to design an outdoor living area — within our budget, according to our schedule and with the elements we required.

The results are fantastic. The three designs, presented for your review beginning on page 69, are similar because of the basic elements we required, but the similarities end there. The designs are different in approach, concept, layout and scope. Each plan is described by our three designers — in their own words — so you can appreciate their visions directly from their point of view.

Most meaningful to me is how each designer’s approach goes beyond simply piecing together the basic elements: water feature, kitchen, sitting area, fireplace, etc. Their approaches are centered around life, such as a mother reading a book while children play in the pool, or a guest lounging near a fountain while sipping a cool drink. The designers considered how the space would be used, and they enticed people outside with sounds of splashing water, inviting conversation spaces, and more.

Such attention to client satisfaction and comfort plays a key role when differentiating your design from others, especially with outdoor rooms in such demand. Outdoor living space finished second in our 2007 Market Trends report when we asked readers to identify the most asked-for rooms and features in the home (February/March 2007). With so many homeowners asking for outdoor living spaces today, it’s important to make yours stand out.

Outdoor living design must go beyond satisfying a client’s basic needs. Create outdoor living spaces that reflect your clients’ lifestyles, and design every detail possible. By doing so, you place a unique stamp on your design that proudly highlights your skills and your concern about your clients’ satisfaction. And, it can bring in that next customer.