Spaces for Outdoor Living


While exterior living spaces can offer opportunities for memorable experiences, a home’s overall program begins with the design of the house itself.  With good architecture, the relationship of the house to the outdoors and the spaces that transition from interior to exterior are all considered in the design process. An outdoor program is ideally not created independent of the house itself, for the two are inextricably connected.

Patrick’s Master’s degree is in urban design and town planning, and everything that he learned academically is now applied on a different scale to each home the firm designs. One of his first urban design projects was revitalizing Faneuil Hall as part of the team at Benjamin Thompson & Associates in 1976, which touched indoor/outdoor programming in a commercial and public regard. What was learned working on that space is directly relevant to the firm’s residential work today.

First, Patrick learned to blend the indoors and outdoors completely to make the transition from one to the other all but disappear. At Faneuil Hall, large garage doors that raise to open retail spaces into pedestrian corridors were used to blend this transition. Similarly in today’s residential work, the firm calls for collapsing doors that recess completely into the walls on pool cabanas to open the structures to backyard aquatic activity. In addition, at Faneuil Hall, the same paving material was consciously used inside and outside. The firm now employs that trick in outdoor living spaces, typically running bluestone as both hardscape and flooring all the way through a program without a change of grade.

In addition, Faneuil Hall taught Patrick the importance of moments of delight which were intentionally programmed throughout its outdoor spaces, like circular granite scenarios where a juggler might stand or a space where street performers might appear. Today in the firm’s residential work those moments of delight are incorporated as well, perhaps a in a motor court with a space for sculpture, in a quiet hidden patio behind the bustle of a party barn’s fireplace, or with a pitch and putt right beside a homeowner’s office. These whimsical ingredients are all considered as part of spaces for outdoor living.

Another lesson learned from Faneuil Hall was to think about outdoor living as a year-round experience. When Faneuil Hall was originally designed it was intended to be a vibrant destination 365 days a year, seven days a week, with daytime and evening programming. As a result, in the firm’s homes today, outdoor areas are considered not only for warm weather months. The placement of a pool and also an exterior fireplace, for example, are each considered relevant to the entrance into the home. That transition is considered in the summertime, in a snowstorm, and also through crisp fall weather, all with the goal of clients enjoying their outdoor living spaces all year long.

Exterior programming begins with the home, and as such, the firm typically puts forth the first cut design and leads on hardscape because it is so integral to the design of the house. Structures are consciously placed on a site and clients’ views—perhaps a view corridor from the interior out to the water, or out to an exterior living space—are set. Once those are established, a landscape architect may be brought in as part of the team to enhance the outdoor realm. Delineation of space can happen with structures and topography, and plant material can assist in elevating the entire experience. Especially when working with a significant change in grade, a landscape architect can be a tremendous asset.

Imagining new indoor/outdoor living space for your own property?  Contact us to learn how we might make a seamless transition from the interior to the exterior with moments of delight to enjoy year-round.  In the interim, we invite you to find meaningful inspiration in our portfolio. 


Originally posted July 23, 2020.

Revised July 13, 2023.