Outdoor Living Spaces

Covered spaces – linked to the home but open to the elements – provide a way of enjoying the great outdoors even when the weather turns nasty. These outdoor rooms can come in many guises, but mainly take the form of verandas and sizeable porches. Think balmy afternoons outside with friends, protected from any incoming rain or blazing sunshine, comfortable seating, loungers, plenty of foliage, vines and roses.

To set your outdoor living space apart from the everyday patio, incorporate elements that add comfort and will allow you to enjoy your new space year-round, such as a fire-pit, an outdoor fireplace, shades or shutters that allow it to become more enclosed should the need arise. You can also use outdoor versions of the things you would use for your interiors, such as armchairs, or even furnish it with an outdoor kitchen.

Varied ceiling heights and vaulted ceiling in a barn conversion with brightly covered velvet furniture

Image: James Brittain

Varied Ceiling Heights

Your ceilings can really influence the look and feel of your home just as much as your walls and floors. They give the spaces in your home shape and character.

As a rule, it is best to avoid low ceilings in larger rooms as this can make for an oppressive feel. Likewise, high ceilings in smaller rooms can make rooms feel small and narrow. Using a variety of ceiling heights within the same space is an ideal way to subtly break up the room into different zones.

For example, in an open plan kitchen/dining/living space, using a low-level ceiling in the dining area will conjure up a more intimate feel, while a higher ceiling in the living area will define it as a public space and add a bit of wow-factor. Vaulted ceilings provide drama in entrance halls and dining spaces too.

A lounge with large windows and glazed roof to connect it with the outdoors

Image: Simon Maxwell

Outdoor Connections

Renovating, remodelling and self building offers the unique opportunity to connect your home to its surroundings and the outdoors in general. For some this might mean taking full advantage of a spectacular view through extensive, well-placed glazing.

From large picture windows to those that wrap around the corners of a building, not forgetting rooflights, planning out the placement of windows and doors carefully to take advantage of your home’s setting is crucial to any design. Even in the absence of impressive views, use your windows to give just a glimpse of a favourite area of the garden or the skyline. For example, you could use high-level horizontal glazing, roof lanterns and skylights.

A kitchen living area and kitchen diner with eclectic interior finishes

Image: Richard Parsons

Live-in Kitchen

A really great, well-proportioned and planned-out sociable kitchen space will be somewhere you spend a huge amount of time, where guests are naturally drawn to, and where a multitude of daily family activities take place. The best ‘live-in kitchens’ will include a practical kitchen space, but also a dining area – ideally in addition to a breakfast bar or island for more informal mealtimes – as well as a relaxing space, with a sofa and bookshelves.

Good visual and physical room dividers are important to ensure each zone is well-defined. Use different lighting techniques for a more intimate feel around dining areas (low-hanging pendants are ideal) in combination with brighter task lighting such as spotlights in the kitchen, for example.

Finally, ensure storage is in abundance and that there is a way of hiding cooking clutter and dirty plates and the like out of sight from guests. Breakfast bars that are split-level, with the higher side towards the dining space, are a good way of concealing the chaos which may be occurring in the kitchen — and a separate utility room is essential too.

Circulation space and light filled spacious corridors in a modern home

Image: David Barbour

Luxurious Circulation Spaces

All too often circulation spaces are just squeezed in where necessary but never given any priority compared to the other spaces in a home. Many people view hallways, landings and corridors just as wasted space, with the assumption that no one goes to relax on the landing — but perhaps they would if it was given a different treatment.

Homes with generous circulation spaces take on a completely different feel to those with tight, winding corridors and little to no hallway. One of the best examples of this is homes with large, welcoming entrance halls. Not only do they work from a practical perspective – allowing space for taking coats on and off and giving somewhere to store shoes and other outside gear – but they also add a touch of luxury and a sense of breathing space in a way that a home made up of just a series of rooms, all leading off from one another, cannot.

The same goes for landings — one with space for sitting and enjoying the views, with perhaps seating and shelving and rooms leading off from it, feels far nicer than a poorly lit narrow tunnel leading to the rooms. If you have the option, leaving some space for circulation will make all the difference to the way your home feels — and it might just surprise you how well-used these so-called wasted spaces become.

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