Outdoor living rooms have not only become popular ways to add space to homes, but many homeowners also view them as extensions of the indoors. Today’s outdoor rooms have easily become the most dazzling parts of a home by embracing lavish gardens, courtyards, pools and other water elements, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, televisions, stylish furniture and just about every comfort one would find indoors.
As we move into prime spring and summer entertaining season, we turned to Clinton Smith, editor-in-chief of VERANDA (and fresh off his magazine’s annual Outdoor Living issue) to help us explore the art of creating the ultimate outdoor room.
Previews Inside Out- What is the most important element of the outdoor room?
Clinton Smith- Good company! Outdoor rooms should welcome friends and family like a hug.
Previews Inside- Out You just came out with your 2015 Outdoor Living issue. What were some of the most interesting trends you covered this year?
Clinton Smith- Outdoor living areas have become as elegant as any indoor room. These days, it’s almost impossible to discern outdoor fabrics from their interior counterparts. They no longer feel synthetic. In fact, some interior designers are using high-quality outdoor fabrics in dens and family rooms because they hold up so well to the wear and tear of daily life.
Previews Inside Out- VERANDA keeps its readers in touch with the finest in design and decorating, so you’ve seen your fair share of beautiful outdoor spaces. What was the most memorable outdoor room you have ever seen?
Clinton Smith- That’s hard to say. Because of its climate, California has so many homes with beautiful outdoor rooms that really blur the lines between indoors and out.
Previews Inside- Out When you took the role as editor-in-chief at VERANDA, you relocated from Atlanta to New York City. How has your idea of outdoor spaces changed based on your geography?
Clinton Smit- In New York, outdoor spaces are often under several feet of snow for weeks on end during winter, so I no longer take outdoor living for granted! I enjoy it as much as possible the other three seasons. Space is also such a luxury, so it’s interesting to see designers create unique outdoor spaces in tight quarters.
Previews Inside Out- Do you think an outdoor room is more in demand among affluent homebuyers than, say, 20 to 30 years ago? Why do you think that is?
Clinton Smith- Without a doubt. Exterior furnishings are as beautiful as anything you’d find indoors. That was not necessarily the case, even just 10 years ago. But now, even outdoor appliances and grills are elegant. In the 20 to 30 years, people have become more well traveled and have seen things while on vacation that inspired them. So you’ve seen people incorporating elements of resort-style living into their own homes.
Previews Inside Out- Do you agree with the statement that an outdoor space should be an extension of your interior space?
Clinton Smith- Any outdoor room should be a seamless extension of what you see inside.
Previews Inside Out- Who are some of your favorite designers when it comes to outdoor spaces?
Clinton Smith- My favorite designers are those who honor not only a home’s architecture and interior design but also respect its place in the world. An outdoor room in Florida shouldn’t feel the same as one in California or Texas.
Previews Inside Out- What is the biggest risk you would take in designing an outdoor space?
Clinton Smith- Not knowing what you want. An outdoor room cannot be an afterthought. If decorating from scratch, people need to give outdoor areas the same attention as interior spaces and budget accordingly for furnishings; otherwise, they’ll have a terrace, patio, deck or veranda that never gets used. Make a priority list. Do you want a quiet, contemplative space to read the morning paper? Or a brick pizza oven to entertain big groups of friends and family on the weekends? Or both?
Previews Inside Out- In your view, how important are elements like water and fire in outdoor design?
Clinton Smith- Very! Fire pits can provide great gathering spaces for creating memories, and the visual effects of a great water feature, however big or small, can add aesthetic value. If I have any advice, it would be to keep these elements simple and understated. Sometimes a water fountain properly placed can leave you with the same lasting impression as a large pool.
Previews Inside Out- If you were designing your own outdoor room, what would be your one must-have?
Clinton Smith- Some sort of climate control. If I lived in the South or West, maybe cooling misters or fans. In colder climes, outdoor heaters, fireplaces or fire pits. Sometimes, nature needs a little help.
Clinton Smith is the editor-in-chief of VERANDA magazine. As an award-winning journalist, he has devoted his career to covering style, design and decoration, most recently serving as editorial director of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. More information can be found at www.veranda.com.