How to Maximize Sumptuous Outdoor Living Spaces

From poolside cabanas to open-air living rooms, elegantly appointed outdoor spaces are a key selling point in today’s luxury market.

Long gone are the days when a simple pool and patio set would do to maximize the value of your luxury home. Outdoor living as defined by today’s luxury market doesn’t entail a few extras on a long list of amenities as much as it does a true extension of a home’s interior living spaces, and a seamless blend of interior with exterior. The furniture, textiles, and overall design of outdoor living rooms, terraces, and poolside patios are carefully considered as yet another reflection of a home’s design aesthetic. Outdoor living spaces are well on their way to becoming a requisite rather than simply a value-add; responding to buyer demand, the global luxury market continues to raise the bar for outdoor luxury ever higher. This week in “Luxury Defined,” global experts in the Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate network share six trends for bringing the indoors out.

1. Four-Season Outdoor Living Room
Fully realized alfresco living rooms are distinguished by one signature feature: fire. Whether a dramatic stone hearth and fireplace, a firepit, or a chiminea, a fire element turns an outdoor space into an outdoor room that can be used year-round in warm-weather states throughout the U.S., including Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona. “Florida’s weather is such that you can do virtually all of your living and entertaining alfresco, especially during the winter months, when the weather is characteristically warm and dry during the day and deliciously cool and comfortable at night,” says Michael Saunders of Michael Saunders & Company. Fire elements generate warmth and a welcoming ambiance; additionally, two-sided fireplaces can create a natural separation between outdoor spaces, such as a living room and dining area.

2. Poolside Cabanas 2.0
A perennially popular poolside accompaniment, the cabana today is designed to serve triple and even quadruple duty at summer homes in New England, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. In addition to being a respite from the sun’s rays, cabanas may be furnished with a wet bar and stools, a kitchenette, and even a full-size dining table. “Our clients enjoy being able to spend the day outside with little need for going indoors,” says Liza McKenney from Great Point Properties. “Being able to fix drinks and food, dine outside, and get some shade is a plus for many. Stepping out your back door into an outdoor living area makes you feel like you have your own private oasis.”

3. Designer Flourishes
“Carefully selected furniture adds to the sense of stylish outdoor living,” says Maria Gryllaki of Ploumis Sotiropoulos. Gryllaki has worked with numerous properties in Greece where the designer treatment has been given to the outdoor patios and terraces of centuries-old villas: importing pieces from shops as far-ranging as London and Hong Kong adds just the right touch of contemporary sophistication. Comfortable, elegant seating and pillows done in luxurious fabrics further blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living.

4. Blended Indoor-Outdoor Living
Oceanfront estates from California to the Caribbean are being designed with an open-air concept that takes full advantage of the desirable weather and gentle ocean breezes. The concept is essentially built into a home’s design, notes Peyton Cabano from Willis Allen Real Estate. Architects are bringing the outside in by creating permanent, covered living spaces with all the same amenities as an indoor family room, living room, or kitchen— only one or more walls are absent.

The resulting designs capitalize on sweeping ocean views and make for an impressive space for living and entertaining. “When it comes to entertaining guests, there is no nicer setting than by the sea,” says Dominique Silvera, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at One Caribbean Estates. “Entertaining in a beachfront property creates an unmatchable ambience.”

5. Dining Alfresco
Dining outdoors against the backdrop of a breathtaking natural vista is a cherished tradition amid the desert landscape of the American Southwest and the majestic mountain ranges of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. In these places of rugged, natural beauty, understated elegance is best, so as not to take away from the grandeur of the surroundings. That being said, outdoor dining sets have come a long way. Today they are made in a variety of materials that are both luxurious and able to stand the test of time and the elements; teak and cypress are popular choices. Tabletop flourishes including candles, floral arrangements, and elegant tableware and stemware set the stage for an unforgettable evening under the stars.

6. Next-Gen Pool Design
Ocean Home magazine reports that the latest iteration of pool design trending in the northeastern states—including the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—is inspired by nature. Characterized by forest-like landscaping, rock work, and water elements that one might happen upon during a stroll through the woods—waterfalls, lily pad–topped ponds—these designs are as much about creating an environment as they are about the actual pool. Taking a page from nature’s playbook doesn’t mean scaling back on luxurious finishes, however. These homes may well have an outdoor kitchen or firepit, or perhaps both.