Creating a truly functional and relaxing room for outdoor living requires careful planning. Just as when designing an indoor space, you'll need to consider architectural style, color harmony, traffic flow, space requirements and comfort. Plus, an outdoor room has its own special challenges, such as providing for privacy and creating shelter from the sun and wind.

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Determine the size and layout of your outdoor space. This will largely depend on what activities you want to accommodate and the size of your property. Whether your outdoor room is small and intimate or large and spacious, you'll want to create zones to separate various activities-such as cooking, conversation and relaxation-while allowing for good traffic flow throughout the space. When situating your outdoor room, also consider the natural elements such as prevailing winds and sun orientation. Read more about dimensions for outdoor room size.

Complement your home's architectural style. The patterns and colors possible with decorative concrete are unlimited. Narrow down the options by choosing a design scheme that harmonizes with your home and landscape and echoes the design of your indoor rooms. Get ideas for home styles.

Create a room with a view by orienting seating areas to overlook flowerbeds, water features and other attractive scenery.
Get tips for proper orientation and layout.

Plan for privacy. Your outdoor room won't have walls, so if privacy and noise are concerns, you'll need to install a fence or tall landscaping plants between you and the neighbors. For design continuity, consider installing a precast concrete fence or screening wall with a decorative stone or brick pattern that complements your concrete patio.

Consider convenience. Your outdoor room should be easily accessible from the house, with food preparation areas located near your indoor kitchen to reduce trips back and forth. Also consider access to power and water.

Provide a sheltered retreat. Awnings, umbrellas, gazebos, and pergolas supported by decorative concrete columns are all ways to shelter your outdoor guests from harsh sunlight and light rain while creating intimacy.

Take it in stages. If you're on a tight budget, you can build your outdoor room in stages, starting with a decorative concrete patio and a concrete countertop for serving food. You can install other features later, such as an outdoor fireplace, a decorative concrete fountain, landscaping and lighting.

Get help pulling it all together. Work with a landscape architect and decorative concrete contractor to make your design ideas reality. These professionals can help you plan an outdoor room that matches your budget, aesthetic and functional requirements.

For more design ideas:

What Makes Up an Outdoor Living Room?

Free Outdoor Living Design Catalog

Outdoor Living: Creating Rooms for Outdoor Activities

Outdoor Living Design Ideas: Project Profiles of Outdoor Rooms

Outdoor Room Designs for Your Home Style

Outdoor Kitchens Photo Gallery

Outdoor Firepits Photo Gallery