Photo courtesy GW Oliver.

Room to breathe: Spectacular outdoor spaces make the most of long summer nights

For months, we’ve taken special care to social distance from one another in public. And at private homes, we’ve caught up with loved ones on driveways, on front porches and on back patios—all at arm’s length away. Never have we needed ample outdoor space more!

Ryan Cole of Ryan Cole Landscape Architecture created lush outdoor rooms for Scottie and Markham McKnight in Bocage neighborhood that might make anyone forget that the pandemic was the force sending us outside instead of our own desire to relax on these grounds. Cole’s use of furnishings and accent pieces is just as significant as the landscape itself. Italian pots add texture, stone columns with millstone tops take the place of traditional side tables, and terracotta roof tiles accent the walls.

Courtesy Ryan Cole Landscape Architecture

“Here I paired clean-lined teak furniture with light neutral fabrics,” says Cole. “To add an air of intimacy and privacy to the space, I added a large green screen of Burford holly.” Cole loves pairing white flowers with chartreuse foliage for bright pops of color. He chose both Lemon Coral sedum and Creeping Jenny for this effect. “In the end, your garden can be just as beautiful and interesting as any room in your house.”

And Cole isn’t the only one creating spaces outside that make you want to kick up your feet and relax awhile. Get inspired by a few fabulous outdoor rooms featured on the following pages. No face mask required!

Courtesy Ryan Cole Landscape Architecture

“When designing a garden master plan I like to incorporate the furnishings, artwork, containers, accent pieces and other objects into the design itself, just as an interior designer would do for the elements within the house,” says Ryan Cole. “This attention to detail is what takes a project to new heights, ultimately defining the garden and showcasing the client’s particular style.”


Lovetrolux Photography

Who says staycations are boring? No one with this backyard view. GW Oliver incorporated elements typically seen at world-class resorts to create an outdoor space that inspires. Fire bowls, LED lighting, a mosaic wet wall, and a vanishing edge where the water meets the palm trees ensure that every day can be a holiday here—morning, noon and night. Says Katie Oliver, “All of these elements blend together to create a five-star resort in our client’s own backyard.”


Courtesy Dixon Smith

When a family of seven wanted to create a space for dining al fresco, designer Hilary Kennedy with Dixon Smith Interiors knew that bigger was better. She incorporated a large seating area with a 12-foot concrete table that is as dramatic as it is indestructible. “Pick pieces and materials that are timeless, durable and low maintenance,” says Kennedy on stocking an outdoor room. “You want to be able to walk outside and enjoy the space whenever you wish, and choosing the right furniture and fabrics can allow you to do that.”


Jordan Hefler

Slung low and long, this outdoor space complements the homeowners’ midcentury modern house while fitting seamlessly under the branches of the 80-year-old live oak in the backyard. Pinnacle Construction incorporated natural elements such as sack finished brick walls, Ipe (Brazilian cherry) mantel and bench, and leather-finished black granite countertops for a long-lasting effect that will age well. “Outdoor spaces do not need to be immediately against the house. Sometimes it’s a better use of space to create a destination in the yard,” says Steven Gremillion, landscape architect with Pinnacle. “The objective was to make a beautiful outdoor space that allowed the client to entertain year-round with friends and family and still be able to enjoy their backyard when having a quiet night.”


Lovetrolux Photography

With breathtaking lake views, a pool and spa can often get overlooked. Not in this picturesque scene by Russell Pools and Bernhard Normand Construction. Here, arches and columns provide the framework for the natural landscape beyond, while the water features reflect the scene.