The outdoor room goes by many names – conservatory, sunroom, orangery, glass extension and, whatever you call yours, it is likely to be a much-loved space where you can enjoy the outdoors without being exposed to the unpredictable British elements.
Bursting with natural daylight and surrounded by the vibrant colours of your garden, with the right design scheme your outdoor room will be a pleasure to relax and unwind in. To get you started, our design team have put together all the essential information you need to make your outdoor room a success.
Before you can begin adding your own unique touches, these are the essential need-to-know's to help you create a standout space:
1. Consider how you will use the space
Let practical considerations lead your room design; what do you use this space for? What activities does it need to accommodate? Depending on your lifestyle, an outdoor room can be an occasional gathering space or a high traffic family room – knowing the difference is key to creating a design that works for you.
2. Establish a focal point
Choosing a focal point will give your eye a natural place to rest when you walk into the room. Pick out a key feature that you can design your room around such as a coffee table, chandelier or statement rug.
3. Consider traffic flow
Look at entrances and exits and make sure your furniture is arranged so it’s easy to move through your outdoor room from one end to the other without difficulty. Avoid side tables, cabinets and other pieces of furniture that will jut out and obstruct the room’s walkways.
4. Choose a colour palette
The glass windows of your conservatory replace walls usually covered with paint and wallpaper. Natural colour palettes work well in these spaces because they are filled with natural light – light and pastel tones are commonly found in outdoor rooms because they help to maximise the feeling of light. If you choose a neutral palette, introduce colour through your furniture and other furnishings – on the other hand, colourful tile and paint colours can be softened and complemented by understated furnishings.
What you put in your outdoor room will depend on how you intend to use it and how much space you have to work with. For many families, a conservatory acts like a second living room without the distraction of a television. Adding a billiard table can quickly transform your space into a games room, just as a dining table could make it an informal eating space.
The style of furniture you use depends on whether your outdoor room is in use all year round or only during the warmer months. A wood, wicker or woven-rattan sofa instantly makes the space feel like an extension of the garden and is a simple trick to bring the outdoors in. A soft, upholstered sofa on the other hand will help you to create a cosy retreat where you can sink in and enjoy a good book.
Adding a coffee table is a simple trick to find the centre of the room. Proportion and scale are important here: your coffee table should be large enough that it’s a comfortable distance from your sofa and seating. Too large and the room will feel cramped, too small and it will feel lost in comparison to the rest of your furniture.
Armchairs and footstools are a great way to create additional seating in your main conversation area or to establish a breakaway space away from the action for reading or studying. Think about how you can use chairs to balance your space and add symmetry to your design. The materials and finishes you use can be used to complement your colour scheme or create a bold contrast.
4. Dining table
Many outdoor rooms are connected to the home through the kitchen. Adding a dining table and chairs will help you to create an informal eating space to enjoy with your family and allow you to keep a more formal dining room for special occasions. Use a small dining table to divide an open-plan conservatory into separate spaces for eating and relaxing, or use a large table as the focal point for the room.
Once you have the essential pieces of furniture in place, turn your attention to the finishing touches that will pull your design together.
1. Window dressings
Curtains or blinds will help filter sunlight and protect your furniture from fading as well as creating privacy and helping to control temperature. An eye-catching patterned blind will quickly add personality to your room and can bring forward accent colours that are repeated throughout other soft furnishings like lampshades, cushions and throws.
Since most outdoor rooms benefit from so much natural light, your lighting scheme might come as an afterthought. The right conservatory lighting will create a relaxed, inviting atmosphere as sunlight fades. Recessed spotlights and pendant lights are a great solution, and for conservatories with mostly windowed ceilings, wall lights will provide a similar effect. Table lamps arranged alongside the sofa and chairs will help to recreate the atmosphere of a traditional living room in the evenings.
3. Soft furnishings
Your soft furnishings are a simple way to introduce pattern and texture into your design scheme. Versatile and inexpensive, you can add and change them seasonally to create a different look and feel throughout the year.
Outdoor rooms are all about bringing us closer to nature. One of the simplest ways to blur the boundaries between the outside garden and inside the conservatory walls, is by adding a little greenery. Houseplants, small trees and floral table arrangements all add a vibrant splash of life to your conservatory – experiment with different heights and shapes to create the right balance in your room. Lemon trees, palms, and African violets are all great options which offer a bright burst of colour.
Small accessories like candles, lanterns, wicker baskets and decorative glassware will introduce a stylish flare into your outdoor room design scheme. Keep your look consistent by choosing pieces with subtle repetition across shapes, materials, colours, theme or time period.