Fresh Air Fantasies
Spring fever is upon me so what makes a great outdoor room? In Baroque Italy it might have included finely clipped box hedges, stone benches, a bubbling fountain, the odd grotto, and perhaps a running stream for keeping wine bottles cool (those thirsty cardinals and popes!). In the late 1920s the famous modern architect Le Corbusier designed a roof garden for an eccentric client in Paris that was a surrealist living room: an ornate fireplace, a rug-like lawn, and the
Arc de Triomphe peeking over one wall like the fragment of a floating cornice (photo courtesy Studio International). More recently architects and designers have continued to push boundaries, literally, and they have shown how almost every room in the house can move outdoors. Here’s a quick round-up of indoor functions that migrate.
Living. Of course a patio sitting area becomes a secondary living room, as
landscape architect Bernard Trainor shows in this arrangement around a fire pit, where the gravel floor and perimeter plantings neatly define the space (photo courtesy Bernard Trainor). Crisp edges, smooth ground, two chairs and perhaps a shade umbrella are really all you need. A built-in bench protected from the sun
by a retractable canopy is another way to go as shown in this example by architect Buzz Yudell, of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects, and architectural colorist Tina Beebe, where the pillows seem to embody the weight and color of shade itself — lighter to darker green.
Cooking. Outdoor kitchens have grown in popularity and run the gamut from simple built-in barbecues with an adjacent counter to grand food preparation
zones with a full complement of appliances designed for outdoor use, not to mention pizza ovens and flat screen televisions. (The example above is from Plan 496-14, by Leon Meyer.) The arrival of versatile folding wall systems — pioneered by Nanawall from the US, with other companies like Centor from Australia adding to the mix — have made it possible to turn any kitchen with an outside wall into an outdoor kitchen. (This Nanawall example is courtesy
Dining. In good weather everyone wants to be outside, especially at mealtime,
and here’s an especially serene space for alfresco dining by Aidlin Darling Design. I hope that after this compelling image was made the owners added a little more seating — otherwise the fire seems to be entertaining itself (photo courtesy Aidlin Darling via Custom Home). Architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen is known for supremely elegant houses where outdoor rooms are proportioned
like interior ones, as this hip-roofed patio dining pavilion demonstrates (courtesy Architectural Digest).
Bathing. Where the climate is temperate and there’s enough privacy even bathrooms can move outside, as this dramatic example by the firm of
Backen Gillam Kroeger Architects demonstrates. When the walls slide away you can really soak in the sunset! (Photo courtesy BGK Architects.)
Sleeping. It’s a summertime pleasure to sleep in the open air. Certainly it can be done with a sleeping bag, but there are other ways to go. The Mexican modern architects Legoretta and Legoretta turned an entire bedroom
at a house in Hawaii into a breezeway. The corner disappears — no sleepwalking allowed (photo courtesy Architectural Digest). But simply installing a hammock
on the porch (visible in the distance, house design by and photo courtesy of Walker Warner Architects) might be enough. Or why not hang your bed from the
rafters for the ultimate relaxation room, and let your house rock you to sleep (photo courtesy Chomec.com).