How to Capture Luxury with Outdoor Design

Outdoor living is the fastest growing trend in luxury home design. The integration of landscapes, hardscapes and outdoor décor into the creation of one-of-a-kind exteriors is exploding.

As with any project, planning is key. Whether simple landscaping or infinity pools, outdoor space planning requires examining the reality of the space, desired use, and overall outdoor living goals. The personalization of the plan can draw upon individual style and inspiration from life experiences, heritage or vacation travels.

Outdoor spaces today may also represent a global perspective and take inspiration from international venues and lifestyles. Cultural experiences and architectural influences can create a diversity of style. These impressions often become a driving force in the creation of one-of-a-kind outdoor living venues.

The design philosophy I strive to follow is defined as capturing and creating “Artistry of Space.” With this philosophy, the homeowner’s design vision and our team’s knowledge and expertise come together to create personal outdoor spaces that are inviting, comfortable, safe and long lasting. The classic design principles of proportion and balance and expert space planning within each project can create exteriors that are not only beautiful but also deliver proven functionality.

For our team, the design process begins with learning about each client’s style preferences and vision for the use of the outdoor living space. This reflective phase should be included in any exterior project whether by the homeowner or with a professional. We spend a lot of time listening and creating a cooperative planning model to bring together the desired elements that work within the space and accomplish outdoor living goals. An example of our desire to respond to specific client requests is illustrated in the fire and water wall outdoor room design designed per our client’s desire for an over-the-top outdoor living space. The space was designed as an outdoor movie theater space including a television, fire feature, water feature flowing behind the television for a wow factor. The water actually flowed into a planter with agave plants located at the base of the wall.

Outdoor DesignThe goal of this project was infusing animation, sound, movement and fire into one outdoor space. It was built to be the ultimate outdoor theater. Even the seating was meant to accommodate a large number with the curving benches as well as the curving couch. All tile is translucent and back lit with LED.


In creating an outdoor design, capitalizing on the natural elements that abound is a strategy for success. Whether sun or water, fire or flora, the use of multiple nature-focused elements within an outdoor space can add drama and create greater overall appeal. Stone fountains to infinity swimming pools, fire pots to rock hearths; there are numerous additions that can be made to any outdoor space to emphasize elements in nature.

Exterior projects can vary greatly in scope. For some, the plan may end with the completed hardscapes or landscape. For others, pulling together the entire outdoor décor design with the addition of outdoor furnishings and accessories may be the goal. In today’s outdoor living category, there are so many options from lighting to outdoor rugs, from outdoor electronics to the very popular outdoor kitchen elements. Outdoor décor has come a long way from only a table and four chairs.

Whether designing hardscapes or selecting casual furnishings, creating focal points or color stories, exterior design can be crafted to mirror interior design with styles from contemporary to old world, traditional to casual chic. Changing up the design scheme to create contrast also can provide a unique feel to the outdoor area.

The creation of outdoor rooms is trending in outdoor design today. From simply how furnishings are grouped to the construction of space-definingstructures such as pergolas, columns, or full kitchens—the sky can be the limit with outdoor rooms.

Another growing trend includes the addition of modern technology from performance fabrics to designerhardscapes and beyond. By incorporating the latest in modern outdoor electronics, unique materials, trending color and textural elements, one-of-a-kind outdoor décor can be created. Fire tables, fire places and fire pots of all sizes and styles are extremely popular across outdoor living and serve to add warmth to any outdoor space.

For projects beyond the scope of the homeowner, the use of a professional design build firm or landscape architect is recommended. Safety issues involved with outdoor features as well as space planning or knowledge of industry standards can require the expertise a professional can provide. By being active within industry organizations and attending national and international trade shows, professionals also are able to keep current on what is happening in this category.

It is an exciting time in outdoor living. A combination of technical knowledge and creative passion can be the answer to “how to” successfully capture the excitement this industry holds.

Ryan Hughes is owner of Ryan Hughes Design/Build. He may be reached at

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