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Use What You’ve Got

Use What You’ve Got

It’s smart to work with existing features on your property when you pick where to place your outdoor living space, writes Caleb Pearson, of Pearson + Projects.

By: Caleb Pearson

24 October 2023

Creating an attractive outdoor space can transform a home from humdrum to heavenly.

With summer knocking on the door, many of us will be cleaning the BBQs and getting ready to invite people over for an evening meal. Making the most of the warmer weather and longer days, Kiwis love eating, entertaining and relaxing outdoors.

If you’re thinking about this there’s a good chance your tenants are also mindful of it too. If you don’t have an outdoor living space on your property, you might be surprised how simple and cost effective it can be to start out. You don’t have to go overboard to create one.

An outdoor living space is simply an area that extends your indoor lifestyle into the outdoors. Somewhere you can do what you would inside your home, outside. This would include space to relax, cook, eat, entertain, socialise. It makes your home feel larger as it creates extra usable floor area (although reliant on good weather). Here are some simple and easy steps to create an outdoor living space.

Outdoor living spaces create additional useable lifestyle options.
It’s important to start with a solid and level flooring.

Start With a Floor

At its simplest, this outdoor space has suitable flooring creating a defined area for you to use for outdoor living. From there you can go to many levels to make improvements in looks and function, but to get started flooring will define the space.

This could be as easy as landscape edging with stones placed down over weed mat. Alternatively, creating a paved area, or for more permanent and higher cost options you may choose to concrete, tile or deck an area. Regardless of the material, it’s important to start with a solid and level flooring for any courtyard as this is the foundation from which you can add.

If the outside area can be built adjacent to a door to the house, and even better a door to a living space or kitchen, the outdoor area will feel more connected and get used more.

Edging with weed matting and stones can be cost effective.

Adding Walls

Adding sides will help define the space as well as adding the practical function of shelter. It provides a vertical element and helps show exactly where the edges of your outside living area are. Walls do not have to be solid or impermeable, but rather it’s the impression of an edge that provides definition to the area.

It’s smart to work with existing features on your property when you pick where to place your outdoor living space. Using the side of your house is a good starting point, or against an existing fence. If you are on a slope, a retaining wall on one side to create a level area would become a wall. A simple form could be a planter bed where perennials grow, a raised vegetable garden (great for picking herbs for the BBQ), or hedging.

Pergolas provide shade.

The Roof Option

To turn an outdoor living space into an outdoor room, a roof will make that difference. This element adds a greater cost and a “nice to have” feature but provides a new feel and added benefits.

If you are against your house, you may be able to partially use your existing roof overhang or build off the house. The roof does not have to be solid. In fact, in many cases it’s preferred not to be solid. A pergola, a trellis, and even vines or climbers added to this, can create a great roof, offering good-looking shade. If you do go to the extent of adding a full roof, the space can be used whatever the weather.

Create an outdoor room by adding a roof to your space.


To take an outdoor living space to the next level, consider a few of these extra elements.

  • Lighting. This will allow you to use the area into the night and can add to the feel of the space.
  • Planting. A courtyard is often made of solid surfaces, so softening this with greenery and plants can make it feel more inviting.
  • Furniture. While loose furniture will come from your tenants, there may be an opportunity to create built-in furniture. A built-in bench seat has a practical element as well as providing a vertical to define the area’s edge.
Loose furniture, provided by your tenants, finishes off the look.

An outdoor living space does not have to be expensive or large, but placed in the right location and with a good base could become a highly used and valuable addition to your property. These areas can easily be staged and added to as time and money permit and as you receive feedback from your property manager or tenant.

Start with picking a good location and building the floor; extra elements and features can always be added.