17 Great Ideas for Better Outdoor Living

Tour this newly renovated California deck and patio, and find ideas for creating an outdoor room full of comfort and practical amenities.


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Outdoor Room
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Ultimate Outdoor Room

    This 3,000-square-foot deck and adjoining patio boasted spectacular ocean views, yet felt uninviting and saw surprisingly little use. However, a renovation that combined indoor luxuries with the pleasures of outdoor living, created an outdoor living space to envy. Tour the highlights, then use these ideas in your own backyard.

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Open Floor Plan

    A thoughtful layout and well-placed patio doors create an easy flow between indoor and outdoor rooms.

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Multitasking Furniture

    Back-to-back seating marks the transition from deck to patio. This custom piece combines a bench facing the dining table and a daybed facing the ocean.

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Subtle Lighting

    Did you see this light fixture? That's the point. Well-camouflaged downlights in the arbor are positioned to illuminate seating areas. Dimmers allow fine-tuned moonlight effects.

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Fireside Ambience

    The outdoor dining area features a gas fireplace with a stone-and-stucco surround and a fir mantel. The raised hearth continues to either side, forming a built-in bench.

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Sheltering Structure

    The arbor is made of sandblasted fir topped with three colors of stain to mirror the natural tones of driftwood. A fungicide added to the stain minimizes maintenance. What you don't see counts, too: wires for lights are in the channels routed into the timbers and capped with matching wood.

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All-Weather Decor

    A honed-granite top and a distressed-fir base ensure this side table will weather gracefully. Nearby cushions are weatherproof, too -- the owner simply hoses all the surfaces about once a week.

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Material Repetition

    A custom-built daybed repeats the materials and forms of nearby structures. It is constructed of the same distressed fir as the arbor, while its lattice base complements the wall fountain's square tiles.

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Moving Water

    Water dances down the wall fountain, whose porphyry face matches the stone of the fireplace. Decorative tiles add a splash of blue.

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Instant Warmth

    An infrared heat lamp -- one of five in the arbor, each with its own switch -- warms the air on chilly evenings.

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Matching Lights

    A rustic hanging lantern illuminates the arbor's dining area. Coordinated wall lights above the fountain complete the decor.

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See-Through Railings

    Made of tempered glass, the deck's railing preserves views while blocking ocean breezes.

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Durable Finish

    Traffic-hardy porch paint treated with a fungicide protects the redwood sun deck.

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Spa Treatment

    A tropical wood, a dais of oiled ipe, dramatizes a portable spa and defines another outdoor room. The platform is an easy step up, yet high enough to also serve as a bench. The spa itself rests on a poured-concrete platform set below deck level.

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Night Lighting

    Downlights illuminate steps after dark.

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Shade on Demand

    A teak offset umbrella offers shade when and where it's needed and can be moved aside to reveal the sky at night.

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Hidden Mechanicals

    The wall fountain's filters and pumps hide beneath a remote part of the deck, so only the soothing sounds of falling water are audible here. Stepping stones offer an adventurous path across the basin.

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Garden Setting

    A flagstone patio wends through a side garden, linking a car court to the deck area. The trickling fountain lures visitors deeper into the landscape, where the patio's water feature also becomes audible and the ocean views unfold.

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