Outdoor Living Spaces

Outdoor Living Spaces

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

Have you ever dreamt of opening a door in your home and discovering a space you didn’t know you had? It may not be as novel as a secret room, but you can utilize the area just outside your back door and transform it into an outdoor living room. Think of it as expanding your home’s footprint without an actual addition.

An outdoor living room is more than a set of patio furniture—it’s an oasis. Here’s how to maximize the coziness and functionality of your space.


How do you approach outdoor living rooms differently than indoors?

We’ve found that when you’re outside and in a more vast area, what works best is dividing up a backyard into multiple zones that feel cozy and more intimate. Even a tiny yard can have several small areas. It’s just a matter of space planning.


How do you decide what type of areas to create?

It depends on who lives in the home and how they will be using the space, as well as how sunny it is. The most frequent requests are a sofa area for lounging, a fire pit with Adirondack-type chairs, a space in the sun for tanning, and a shaded spot for reading a book. Typically, you want to fit 2–6 people in each area.


How do you differentiate the separate areas?

Changing the hardscaping is one way to do it—you could have one area with brick, a group of chairs on crushed gravel, then a fire pit on large pavers. You can also use plantings or water features, like fountains or a pool, to divide the space. If you’re working with one hardscape, it’s nice to have a structure to mix it up. You can do a pergola with a thatched roof or a breezeway, and the pillars of the structure can help break it up.


What if you’re more limited in terms of space?

You can also use the house itself as an anchor—that works well for an outdoor kitchen or bar area since utilities are close by. If you have a fence, that can work too; that’s a good place to set up a gardening station with storage and a worktable for potting. Fire pits can anchor a zone, and they’re so easy to do nowadays since you don’t need to run a gas line and make it a big ordeal. You can also break up the space with a height change, like hanging chairs or a taller bar table with stools.


How do you choose furniture for each area?

It depends a lot on who’s using the space. People who have younger children want more forgiving furniture, whereas older people who are more concerned about comfort tend to want everything upholstered. You also need to be honest with yourself about whether you’re going to cover up or bring in your cushions every night—if not, that’s something we need to solve for.


How does the décor differ from an indoor living room?

We tend to use color very sparingly, if at all—generally people want a more natural look and for the landscape to provide the color. So instead, we’ll vary the textures of the textiles and the furniture. I like a mix of materials, like wooden side tables, woven rattan seating, lava stone dining tables, and steel framed chairs.  And we really discourage people from outdoor rugs—they’re polyurethane, which off-gasses VOCs, and aren’t great for the environment.


What’s the biggest misconception about outdoor living spaces?

The cost can sometimes be a surprise for people. You’re limited in terms of materials because durability and wearability are big factors. There’s not a lot of midrange outdoor furniture or lighting—it’s either mass produced pieces or high-end European brands, and there’s not a lot in between, not to mention no secondhand market. There’s definitely a market opportunity there!


Create intimacy in an outdoor space with multiple cozy living areas.

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