How to Create the Perfect Outdoor Room for your Home

In this episode of ‘Out The Back Door’ your host Adrian Apostolatos discusses how to create the perfect Outdoor Room for your home.

You might have a blank space, a spot out the back which is sitting there doing nothing at all – when it rains you won’t go out & then in Summer its just too hot to step out the back door. 

What what do you do, how can you create something? Here we’ll talk through some key points to consider when designing your Outdoor Room.

  • Approval processes
  • How to create the perfect size
  • Choosing the right materials

Want to find out more?? Read the blog we wrote about creating an Outdoor Room HERE

What about the roofing material choices we discussed? Have a closer look HERE

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Episode Transcript

Hi, my name’s Adrian Apostolatos. Welcome to this edition of Out The Back Door, where we discuss everything that extends from your back door out to the back fence. So whether that is your landscaping, the pool, the outdoor room, al fresco area, patio cover, you name it, we’ll be talking about it. Today’s topic, we’re going to touch upon the outdoor room and to how to create that perfect outdoor room.

It’s a bit of a buzz topic at the moment and if you think about it, it has been for quite a few years. It was probably Jamie Durie that really brought it to the market and to people’s ideas about really taking that outdoor space and using it a little bit more differently. You’ve seen over the years people probably started more with their traditional timber pergolas and it really wasn’t a space that you could utilize no matter what the seasons or the weather or day or night or things like that.

I think if people put the time and effort to think about not necessarily creating an outdoor room, but you can use these elements on your home, it will really give you a great return on investment. When I talk about return on investment, it’s not necessarily the financial impact, but it’s how you’re going to use it from your family’s point of view, how often you’re going to get out there. That’s where you’re going to see the real return for you and your family.

When you’re starting to think about you’ve got a space that you can utilize a little bit more, there’s probably a good half a dozen different elements that you need to work through in terms of being able to create this area perfectly. So we’ll touch upon approvals, the size and then your materials, et cetera. All of these will go in a little bit deeper in other episodes.

Today, I’ll start off in terms of the approvals and I’ll put some links in the show notes where approvals are a funny thing and people often come to me with their own perceptions about I don’t need council approval or you’ve heard about CDC, which is compliant development through a private certifier or they’ve been told by Tom, the cheapy, “You don’t need to worry about it,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Trust me, I’ve heard them all.

From my perspective, most of our constructions that we do do actually go through a full DA. So that is where you lodge your application, you draft your plans, you put all your paperwork together and you lodge it into your local council.

People often can, I think, put the cart before the horse or almost just go through this backwards where they don’t want to touch council for a variety of reasons. I’ve heard a few nightmare stories and trust me, I can probably [inaudible 00:03:16] a death with plenty of stories from council, but where people try and design something around an exempt development criteria… An exempt development is essentially where if you can make the protocol from the state government, you can tick all those boxes, you don’t need to go through an official approval process, whether that is a CDC or a DA, but the downside to this is it is quite limiting I believe, and more often than not, people don’t get what they want. So they’re trying to put a square peg into a round hole.

My advice to my clients is forget about the approval side of things. If you’re discussing your outdoor living area with me or if you’ve got a good consultant with you guiding you through this process, they should be readjusting your North point throughout your discussion. So if you’re throwing up a suggestion, you want to build the pink Eiffel Tower and build it over an easement over your boundary line, that’s where I would put the brakes on a little bit and say, “Listen, it’s probably not worth going down that road for these approval requirements. Let’s sort of redirect you over this way.”

So design how it’s going to work for you and your family first. One of the first things that I really focus on is the size that’s going to work well for your family. Now sometimes you’re limited in terms of your size, whether it’s the size of your backyard or the space or sometimes you’re working around the natural confines of your home in terms of you’ve got a natural starting and finishing point. So you’re getting that flow from the structure, so it doesn’t look like you’ve just slapped something on.

But think about the size of your family, how often you entertain. Is it just the two of you? Are you just sort of designing these for cup of tea, morning paper, a small table setting, or are you a big traditional wog type family like mine where you say “Come over,” and 20 people rock up and you need the table size, you need the extra lounge, you’ve got the barbecue.

So all these elements mean that the air can fill up quite quickly. So often, whether we sketch it out on paper or you actually use the garden hose and the pot plants to step it out in your backyard to get a better visualization of space. And at that point there, if you’ve got the opportunity to steal a little bit more space without impacting other areas in terms of the aesthetics or going too close to boundary lines, et cetera, et cetera, I definitely advise you to take it because this is going to be your prime real estate.

You don’t want to be creating an area where the table’s too close to the wall and you’ve got to do a bit of a tippy toe dance around to squeeze past and you don’t get that flow and then therefore you’re not going to enjoy the area, you’re not going to want to use it. And again, it comes back to that return on investment.

So think about your size ultimately. And then also I always ask my clients is, is this the table you’re going to put out here? Often, people buy a new table setting, new lounge, et cetera, et cetera when they develop their new outdoor living area. So think about that. Go down to the shops, the outdoor living areas to have a look at the table size. Then don’t only just look at it in the shop where all the chairs are pushed in. Pull the chairs out.

Then generally you’ve got to allow at least a meter for your chair and then you’re going to allow some space around that, so you’re, again not tippy toeing around the table settings and your guests. So go and have a look at your table settings. Have a look at… Often, it’s quite fashionable at the moment to almost create an outdoor living area with different segments. And segments are referred to in terms of you’ve got maybe a more casual area where it could be sort of an outdoor lounge setting. Then you’ve got your cooking area, whether it’s an outdoor kitchen or your barbecue, and then you’re going into your more formal dining, so an outdoor table setting.

So a lot of people don’t have that space. But often if you do have a big area, that can help you by dividing the space up into segments. Then sometimes that can almost later dividing the roof into different areas as well too, to help differentiate. So there’s a few different ways that you can play with the design.

One of the other things I like to educate my clients on is their material choices. So we’ll take them through not only your roofing options, your flooring options, but then also your accessories. Accessories are important to an outdoor room, because then to me, it comes back again on that ROI or return on investment where accessories I class as blinds, heaters, fans, downlights, et cetera, et cetera. These are the elements that are going to make the area into an outdoor room and it’s going to make it into a space that you can use more of year round.

So for instance, think about your blinds. It’s not going to turn it into another lounge room, but in summer, it can block out your afternoon sun, making you a little bit more comfortable. Then in the reverse in winter, you can sort of cozy up a little bit more, block out the cooler breezes. So these little things will help you use the area day and night, summer, winter, rain or sun.

Always think about your accessories early in the piece. Some people get thrown in the trap in terms of “Don’t worry about them. You can always add them on later,” which is the case. But more often than not, I find that people don’t add them on later. And then to add them on, you probably got more expense, but then you’ve got the aesthetics to think about. You can’t hide your electrical or you’ve got to undo things. So it’s best to put these things into place early. That way, you can run all your electrical wiring. You’re going to get a better result from the get go.

Roofing options, there’s plenty on the market. We’ve got four that we offer our clients and they all… I think it’s the same for all building materials. There’s no silver bullet. So it’s a matter of educating you so you understand what’s going to work best for you. You want to take the right material and then combine it with the right design.

Design elements, you can consider in terms of how it’s attached to your home. Some people have got great height to play with. Other people, you can walk out the back and you’re touching the fascia. Therefore, that’s a conversation starter. From my perspective, how do we get height into this area?

In terms of how that relates back to your materials, for argument’s sake, louvers or opening and closing roofs enable you to control your light, therefore control your heat, create more shade in summer, et cetera, et cetera. So therefore, you don’t necessarily have to go to a gable design in order to meet those requirements of getting some air flow into the area, getting some nice height, et cetera.

So there’s pros and cons no matter which way you go with all roofing materials. From my perspective, get the right design with the right materials and then that will give you something that will look good but will also work well for what you’re after. Some people just go to [inaudible 00:12:02] with these things, and then ultimately they’re trapped when it’s built because they’ve got something that they can only use if the weather’s perfect. They haven’t really gone through that process early in the piece. And again, their structure isn’t really an outdoor room because they’re not able to use it all the time.

I’ve touched upon furniture, too, but I would often get people go and look at your furniture early in the piece because that will help you in that long run. Going back to materials as well, roofing materials. As I mentioned before, we’ve got four that we use. So our entry level is what we call our Premium Series Colorbond. Quite a basic entry-level roof sheet. It’s not like your traditional colorbonds that you probably remember. You know, you think of a fence panel. Still looks quite modern, quite stylish, but the upgrade from that is you go into your insulated roofings, you go then into your timber linings or your Gyprock exterior, Gyprock linings. Those type of products then work well in terms of helping you with your accessories. So you’re thinking down lights, heaters, et cetera, but giving you that flow, that indoor-outdoor type feel as well. Then we’ve already touched upon louvers as well.

Flooring, you can consider whether it’s concrete, tiles. You look at pavers, timber decking, et cetera, et cetera. And again, all these things give you a different aesthetic feel versus your overall budget. And when you’re considering the outdoor room, you’ve… What? We’ve got one, two, three. There’s half a dozen different options there you’ve got to consider. So going to your size, your materials and your accessories, approvals. Sometimes, you’ve got to rob Peter to pay Paul. A good example that I have was only last week, the week before, we were going through this scenario with a client sitting down, going through their proposal and they were looking at option A, of the insulated roofing versus option B and upgrading into a Timberline ceiling.

Now in their case, that difference equated to about $12,000, but they opted to actually downgrade, still keep the same design, use the insulated roofing, but the difference of the 12,000, the exterior blinds costed 10. So they still had a bit of change left over, but they got more bang for their buck.

So that’s what I talk about in terms of robbing Peter to pay Paul, they still got the same size, they still got the same design, they still got some of those elements they were after, but they got a little bit more for their outdoor living area.

I hope that helps you, gives you some ideas about creating the outdoor room for your home. As always, drop me a line, press subscribe. We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any questions. No question is too stupid. Remember, we’re doing this every day. This is probably the first time that you’re tackling a structure like this on your home. I look forward to seeing you next time. Ciao for now.