The Pacific Northwest’s wet season more than makes up for itself in the greenery we get to enjoy when the sun comes out. However, unpredictable weather does create a challenge for some homeowners. What if you want to have an outdoor living space in your home, but don’t know how to justify only being able to use it half the year due to our usual Oregon weather?
Fortunately, a well-designed outdoor living space doesn’t have to be unusable half the year, even in the Pacific Northwest. At Lamont Bros., our expert team of designers has helped several Oregon homeowners make the most of their outdoor spaces. If you love the great outdoors enough to make it an extension of your home, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will cover several of the design principles our team uses when designing an outdoor living space for our Oregon clients. You can read about:
- Popular uses for outdoor living space
- How to design a successful outdoor living space for your home
- What to think about before building your outdoor living space
What are the most popular types of outdoor living spaces?
When it comes to enjoying the outdoors from the comfort of your own home, there are several options.
Kitchens are among the most popular types of outdoor living space, and with good reason. Who doesn’t love a cookout, the opportunity to enjoy the company of friends, and the great outdoors all at once?
Oftentimes, homeowners use a space like this as an outdoor extension of their indoor kitchen. Entry-level outdoor kitchens usually include built-in barbecue or smoker along with some cabinetry and a sink. From there, projects like this can grow in size and scope all the way up to a full-feature kitchen with all the necessary gadgets and appliances.
Open-air living room
Another common use of outdoor space is to create a setup purely for entertaining. This might look like a built-in fire pit or fireplace for gathering around and roasting marshmallows. Others choose to mount an enormous flatscreen TV to the wall for watching sporting events or hosting movie nights. Want to install a kegerator or full-service bar? The possibilities are endless when your goal is to provide entertainment value.
If you already have a pool but lack any kind of transitional area between your home and the water, this might be the type of outdoor living space you need. A pool house is a loosely-defined structure that adds to the entertainment value of a pool on its own. It’s a place where swimmers can relax, dry off, and mingle with the water-averse who still want to be part of the fun.
Some people put lounge chairs or a ping-pong table in this type of space, so even those who don’t want to swim have something to do. It’s not uncommon to find a hot tub in a pool house, either; keeping the jacuzzi covered means it’s usable year-round.
What features should an outdoor living space have in Oregon?
The Pacific Northwest region is notorious for its rain; Portland receives 155 days of rainfall annually. That’s over 40% of the year. By most people’s definition, an outdoor living space in Oregon doesn’t make sense if you can only use it when the weather is warm and sunny. The solution? Design a space that homeowners can still enjoy during the cold and wet seasons.
Keep it covered
With so much rain to deal with, the obvious solution is to cover at least part of your outdoor space. Patio covers work well to protect from the rain, both as freestanding structures or as extensions from the main structure of the home.
Shelter from the rain doesn’t just mean you can spend more time outdoors. It also means that your outdoor furniture and cooking appliances remain usable year-round, too. With a proper cover that keeps things dry, you’ll extend the usability of your outdoor space well beyond the dry season.
Use the right materials
Even if you have a covered patio, the furniture, appliances, and finished surfaces in an outdoor living space are still subject to the elements. As a result, you’ll need to use materials and products designed specifically for the outdoors.
Water-resistant lumber & structural materials
The main structure of your outdoor living area should be rated for exterior construction, whether it be a cover, deck, patio, or freestanding structure.
Timber framing is a method of structural framing that uses large wood timbers to support a structure. It’s one of the best ways to design an outdoor patio cover because the materials are water-resistant, durable, and look great with most home styles without requiring a lot of finish work.
If you’re planning to build a deck or some sort of platform, but don’t want to deal with wood lumber, consider composite planks. Though more expensive and structurally weaker than wood, these plastic composite boards can be made to look like wood, are easy to clean, and last a very long time. Since they’re not an organic material, they don’t rot, either.
Due to moisture and harsh weather conditions, the materials used for indoor cabinetry are not suitable for outdoor use. Since indoor cabinets are usually made of wood, they are more prone to water damage and warping.
Fortunately, there are cabinet lines designed specifically for exterior applications. The most common are made of stainless steel, which is a fantastic material for outdoor use. When given proper care, stainless steel is durable, long-lasting, and also resistant to water and rust. It’s also relatively lightweight and easy to install.
There are also cabinet lines made of plastic composite material which also work for outdoor use. They can be made to look like wood laminate cabinets, so if you’re looking for a more natural aesthetic, these could work well. The challenge with plastic composite cabinets is that they tend to be more expensive and weigh over twice as much as stainless steel cabinets. The added weight increases the shipping costs and makes them more difficult to install.
Finish & Siding
For most outdoor living spaces, the finish and trim materials should match the rest of the house. Consider the siding material and paint color, as well as any accent features you want to include. A skilled designer should be able to help you through this process.
Stone veneer is a great exterior finish option because it adds visual dimension and variety to a space. We’ve used stone for several applications in outdoor spaces. One common practice is to build the cabinet and countertop shell out of stone or concrete blocks. Both are great for outdoor use due to water resistance and durability.
Even if you cover your outdoor living space from the rain, the temperature and humidity of Oregon weather still pose some challenges. If you want to have furniture outside, you should still buy furniture designed for the outdoors.
The materials used to make outdoor furniture are more resistant to mold and mildew caused by moisture. They also tend to be more resistant to UV rays. Acrylic and polypropylene are two of the more common materials used for outdoor furniture.
Things to consider before building outdoor living space in Oregon
Even with our cold and rainy seasons in Oregon, outdoor living space can still make sense. When you use the right materials and have the right features to fit your lifestyle, these types of additions can enrich your life.
However, there are a few things to be aware of before you begin construction on a project like this.
Beware of DIY patio cover kits
It’s important to know that not all patio covers are created equal. As with any product, you’ll get what you pay for. Many big box stores offer relatively inexpensive DIY pergola kits for a few hundred dollars. While it’s hard to beat their prices, the downside to these options is that there is no customizability, and the structure won’t last as long as your house.
The more expensive option is to hire a professional builder to custom design an outdoor addition for you. Though initially costlier, this route offers the added benefit of increasing your home’s value. Also, with a custom design, you’re more likely to get what you want out of the project.
Prepare for the cold
A good cover takes care of the rain, but cold temperatures will often dissuade you from going outside. Many homeowners will request some sort of heat source for this exact reason.
Sometimes, they want a fire pit or a fireplace to use year-round. Another option is to incorporate patio heaters into the design or simply purchase freestanding heaters. In any case, adding a heat source to your outdoor living space can extend its usability even further into the winter months.
Start with a good design
When building an exterior addition to a home, you should have a design plan that is detailed, relates to the exterior of your home and specifically accomplishes your goals. Knowing exactly what your outdoor living space will look like before it begins construction ensures that the final build meets your needs and budget.
Some people start projects like these with “a general idea” of how they want it to look. All too often, these projects balloon out of control, or worse yet, fall short of the homeowner’s expectations. A professional designer can help guide you through the process of creating an outdoor space that you can make the most of.
Ready to start designing your outdoor addition?
Now that you know more about what an outdoor living space can do for you, check out our Additions Portfolio to get more inspiration on outdoor additions. Here, you can view photos and descriptions of past projects we’ve done for clients.
If you’re ready to start designing your own outdoor living space, Lamont Bros., is ready to help you like we’ve helped dozens of other Oregon homeowners. Click the link below to schedule a free video call with one of our design consultants.