Trending now: the hottest cabana and outdoor room trends


In this article we focus on the latest trends in cabana and outdoor room design to enable you to choose the design components that will work for you and your property, and maximise your return on investment

For most people, their biggest investment will be their homes, and as the property market is strong, it makes sense to renovate rather than move. Not only is this a sound financial investment (spending stamp duty on yourself rather than giving it to the government), it also improves everyday living by increasing functionality.

The current trend with cabana and outdoor room design is linking them with other external improvements such as swimming pools, gardens and entertaining areas. For this reason, design companies that provide a total concept are becoming increasingly popular. This makes good design sense as it ensures consistent design and materials are used throughout and the overall project is well integrated.

Popular in these outdoor structures is designing adjustable external walls and floorplans to allow for changeable spaces. Sliding and concertinaed doors, movable internal partitions, removable external walls, retractable ceilings and awnings as well as louvres that can be opened or shut allow flexibility. This enables many cabanas to serve a variety of purposes, such as an o ice, gym, yoga retreat, artist’s room or spare bedroom, in addition to the usual entertaining space. Pool cabanas have come back into vogue. Tougher pool fencing laws restrict what can be incorporated within the poolside area and some smart design ideas have been created to visually integrate the cabana and pool. Using floor-to-ceiling glass in the cabana along the side facing the pool, and sliding doors that can be opened wide towards the home or entertaining areas, make the cabana inviting.

A pergola structure extending over the poolside area from the cabana can also integrate the pool and cabana while providing shade to the sitting areas around the pool.
The terms cabana and outdoor room can apply to a range of styles and configurations. An outdoor room may be as simple as a covered pergola with moveable lounges and a barbecue for entertaining. At the other end of the spectrum, it could be an elaborate cabana incorporating a luxurious bathroom and kitchenette facilities with day beds and a poolside wet drinks bar. The extreme options and everything between are popular and the ultimate structure is dictated by intended use, the available space and, of course, budget.

There is a growing trend to incorporate bathroom facilities in these structures. One reason for this is to allow flexibility of use — such as turning the cabana into
a guest bedroom at the drop of a hat. A simple bathroom may be just big enough to incorporate a toilet and small hand basin to ensure children don’t need to run soaking wet through the house to the inside loo. A more elaborate bathroom may also include a shower and spa set within the cabana or externally in a courtyard. Another approach is to place an outdoor shower at one end of the structure so swimmers can quickly rinse o pool water before they go inside. Using large pegs attached nearby for hanging clothes, robes and towels is also a growing trend.

The trend in outdoor kitchens is to incorporate a grill, wok burner or barbecue, double sink, fridges, dishwasher, a microwave oven and lots of cabinets to store towels,
pool toys or games. Modern alfresco kitchens recreate all the conveniences of the home’s kitchen, and fun items such as a pizza oven, bar and icemaker are all ideal for get-togethers with the neighbours, for dinner parties and family reunions. The continuing trend is for the outdoor kitchen to be individually designed to suit your needs rather than a cheap and cheerful prefabricated unit. The automated system is one of the biggest trends in outdoor design this decade.

In cabanas and outdoor rooms this can mean the ability to automatically create noise from installations such as a small fountain to drown out neighbours, or soothing music with weatherproof outdoor speaker systems. It can also include centralised control of lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, appliances, security locks for doors, and control of adjustable awnings and roofs to provide improved convenience. Su icient heat, shade and lighting are the di erence between constantly using your outdoor structure and using it only when the temperature is right.

Decorative shading and various combinations of umbrellas, canopies, curtains and screen enclosures are popular. Other favourites include fixed opaque roofs that let light in and adjustable louvred roofs that are waterproof when closed, but allow light through when open. Radiant heaters or fire pits provide both warmth and atmosphere as well.

Night lighting is being more correctly and extensively used these days, with LEDs replacing other types of lights. Enhanced ambience is also created using candles, torches and fire pits. Natural day lighting is important to develop an inviting place to sit. No matter what shading method you prefer, make allowances to let the sunshine in. When it comes to furniture, there has been a shift away from onsite fabricated products like fixed timber benches and daybeds with cushions, towards shop-purchased lounging furniture to create a plush and comfortable atmosphere to relax in. Furnish the space with weatherproof, padded reclining chairs, lounges and comfortable seating. Incorporating outdoor versions of interior furniture will help marry your spaces.

Colour and homewares help to individualise a cabana or outdoor room. Colour is becoming softer, with patches of vibrancy to act as a focal point. Colours used inside the home such as pastel blues, turquoise, brown, fresh yellows and greens are being teamed with bolder primary feature colours or black and white. This helps connect indoor and outdoor spaces. Homewares ranging from mass-produced items to one-o tailored items such as scented candles, sculpture and art are becoming increasingly important to complete the space. Given the current trend in Australia to renovate internal and external spaces and fuse the two together, it makes good sense to employ a professional to help with the overall development of your project.

About John Storch

John Storch is principal of A Total Concept Landscape Architects + Swimming Pool Designers, a multi-award-winning practice he established in 1993. John specialises in the integration of external areas for projects ranging from family homes to boutique and resort-style developments in Australia and overseas.

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