Get Out of the House: Create the Perfect Outdoor Space for Your Climate

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Open to the sun and protected from the wind, the Kipnis family's deck is the perfect place to enjoy an outdoor meal.
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Architect Nathan Kipnis designed his family’s deck to function equally well as a large dining area or small sitting nooks, which dog Buddy enjoys. The ­trellis that forms the deck’s open roof is par­tially solid to shade the indoors from the Illinois summer sun, and a large tree brings welcome shade to this outdoor room on hot afternoons.
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The sundial adjacent to the Kipnis's deck is both an attractive garden sculpture and a great way to stay aware of the cardinal directions and the movements of the sun.
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In Portland, Oregon, Janie Lowe and Ginnie Young use their walled garden year-round. The solid wall provides privacy, a windbreak, and a sense of security, and the sky views from the hot tub are dynamic. The mosaic around the hot tub is of broken-up, salvaged ceramic tile.
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Using minimal water, landscape architect Susan Raymond created an oasis outside her Arizona home that recalls the southwest's riparian areas. The fountain design echoes the standpipes in her flood-irrigated neighborhood.
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The wraparound porch is a perfect response to Louisiana's hot, humid climate.
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The spacious Cazayoux porch encourages outdoor dining; shade and breezes bring welcome relief from the sticky heat, and paddle fans enhance the cooling air movement. The deep porch roof helps shade the house in summer, which in turn protects the porch from the cold winter winds.
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Eddie and Faye Cazayoux love to eat meals on their porch. In the evenings, they sit in the willow chairs-an indigenous craft product-and watch the sun set over their pond. Three separate furniture groupings allow them-and their dog, Annie-to migrate for the best combination of sun, shade, breeze, and vista. Annie lounges under the porch in the heat of the summer, on her pad on the southeast side close to the wall during the winter, and on the willow furniture on the southwest side the rest of the year.
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The four open walls allow for cross-ventilation.
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A deck separates the screened porch from the house and offers a welcome sense of space and light.
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Architect Rick Harlan Schneider designed the porch so that each wall serves the needs of its exposure.
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The open plan of the porch creates a comfortable, cool gathering area and the 'butterfly' roof shades the porch and collects rainwater for the garden.
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The sound of moving water and the dichondra between the pavers—salvaged chunks of Susan Raymond’s removed driveway—cool both mind and body. Native Arizona deer grasses and wildflowers add further cooling by transpiration.

You can create an outdoor room that extends your season of al fresco living–wherever you live.


Climate: Temperate and wet


• Six-foot walls for privacy

• Sloped deck collects rainwater

• Clay tile stays cool on hot days

When Janie Lowe and Ginnie Young bought their home in Portland, Oregon, the dining room looked toward an unappealing alley. “We wanted a hot tub and privacy–a room we could live in and a place to sleep on hot summer nights,” says Janie.

They built a clay-tiled deck off the dining area, surrounded by six-foot walls. Janie and Ginnie do earth-friendly decorative finishes through their business, Yolo Paint, so they applied their artistry to the outdoor room by using stained, sealed thinset mortar on Wonderboard over the wood-frame walls and a mosaic of broken, salvaged tile around the hot tub. The deck floor slopes slightly to a gutter, which directs rainwater to their bamboo grove.

Located on the east side of the house, the outdoor room is a sunny, warm, breeze-protected place for coffee on cool mornings, yet it’s shady and cool by evening. “We’re out here almost daily, even in winter,” says Ginnie. “When it’s cold, we sit in the hot tub and look up at the sky. On hot days, we water the plants and the tiles, and that cools the whole space. We only close the French doors to the deck in winter.” With windows open on the other end of the house there’s great summer cross-ventilation, and the awning over the doors deflects winter rain.


Climate: Hot and cold extremes


• Courtyard aligns house with solar cycles

• Front of house shields courtyard from breezes and street noise

• Trellis lets in summer shade, winter sun

Architect Nathan Kipnis designed his house around a courtyard; he wanted his family’s home to function with solar cycles for daylighting, winter warmth, and summer cooling. Working with a west-facing lot in Evanston, Illinois, he devised an L-shaped plan with the street-facing wing protecting a generous, sunny, side yard. The kitchen, dining room, and family room face south onto a deck and the yard beyond.

The portion of deck adjacent to the house is protected by a trellis that’s half solid and half open, admitting sunshine in winter and providing welcome shade in summer. Nathan plans to grow Boston ivy on the trellis, which will create more summer shade and lose its leaves in winter for solar gain.

The house’s front wing shields the courtyard, making it feel like an entirely different world. The deck’s shape allows small seating groups near the house or a dining table in the extended center–a ­perfect party space.

In warm weather, Nathan’s favorite time to hang out on the deck is around sunset. “If it’s hot, the shade from the tree is really nice, and the front wing of the house shades the deck as the sun goes down,” he says. “Everything out there changes dramatically day by day, hour by hour.”

Desert Southwest

Climate: Hot and dry


• Fountain for moisture

• Riparian native plantings for transpiration

• Sycamores for shade

When Susan Raymond and her husband remodeled their Phoenix, Arizona, home, they created a patio that brings their favorite outdoor areas home. “The dining and living rooms have French doors that used to open onto a dead zone on the west side of the house,” says Susan. “It was hot and boring.”

The house is in a flood-irrigated neighborhood, where water flows up through concrete standpipes monthly. So Susan, a landscape architect, designed their patio around a standpipe fountain. “It’s a celebration of having water in the desert,” Susan says, “and a metaphor for abundance and overflowing happiness.” The water spirals around and forms eddies on the surface, recalling Arizona’s riparian areas, then flows over the edge. A shallow area at the pipe’s lip attracts birds.

The plantings, derived from riparian Arizona, cool the hot, dry summer air by transpiration. A fragrant sycamore tree shades both the patio and the house in summer. Native deer grasses and wildflowers grow around the fountain. And there’s just a touch of dichondra between the pavers. “It’s really nice to wiggle your toes in it for a cool, grassy feeling,” notes Susan.

The patio is embraced by a curving concrete bench, or banco; its thermal mass makes it warm in winter, while shade keeps it cool in summer. The patio pavers are broken-up weathered concrete, jack-hammered out of the driveway–a good reuse of construction “waste.”

“The patio is a beautiful place for entertaining under the stars,” says Susan. “And it’s a nice cool space by day. Even when we’re inside, we open the doors onto the patio and hear the cooling sound of the water.”


Climate: Hot and humid


• Open porch for shade and breezes

• Three seating areas for different weather conditions

• Ceiling fans for air movement and mosquito repellent

Louisiana architect Eddie Cazayoux believes a close relationship with the natural environment is central to human well-being, so he designed his own home in Breaux Bridge with a deep, open porch that wraps around two sides, providing shade and breezes. “On the weekends, our family is out there a lot,” says Eddie. “Typically we take our noon meal there. And every evening we sit on that porch and watch the sun set across the pond.”

Facing southeast and southwest, this porch receives prevailing breezes most of the year and is protected from chilly north winds in winter. With three different seating areas, the family can migrate in response to the patterns of shade and breeze.

The porch was also designed to help cool the house by shading the sunniest exposures and acting as an air scoop for ventilation. The porch and the siding are primarily made of cypress, a local material that’s inherently resistant to decay and termites.

“My favorite time to be on the porch is in a downpour,” says Eddie. “It’s wonderful to be in the middle of a storm with rain pouring down, yet be protected.”

East Coast

Climate: Temperate but humid


• Screened porch away from house lets sunshine into home

• “Butterfly” roof collects rainwater

• Four open walls for cross-ventilation

Because summers in the Washington, D.C., area are humid and bug-ridden, Elisa Rapaport and Michael Schoenbaum wanted to add a screened porch and deck off the kitchen of their contemporary colonial house. Architect Rick Harlan Schneider of Inscape Studio pointed out, however, that an attached covered porch would block their indoor sunlight.

Schneider’s approach was to “flip” the deck and porch, pulling the screened porch away from the house. The result is a playful cube with a “butterfly” roof that shades the space and collects rainwater for the garden and slats over the screened walls to provide privacy and welcome breezes.

Each wall of the cube responds to the needs of its exposure. Facing the neighbor’s house, the slats are wider and the spaces between them are smaller for privacy. Toward the yard, the slats are narrow and the spaces wide for greater visual transparency.

The porch is cooled by shade from the roof, an adjacent tree, and the wall slats. Having four open walls allows maximal cross-ventilation, and when a cooling boost is needed, the ceiling fan increases air movement.

The deck and slats are built from sustainably harvested cedar, the framing is environmentally friendly and arsenic-free Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)-treated lumber, the roof structure is metal tubing, and the canvas roof is acrylic rather than environmentally devastating vinyl.