Think style, luxury and a splash of decadence — it’s the new look in contemporary outdoor lounge areas. Many modern entertaining spaces in the new millennium not only have cosy alfresco dining areas, but more and more are including warm, inviting outdoor spaces that rival our interior lounge rooms for style and comfort.
When relaxing by day, outdoor lounge areas provide a peaceful haven to escape to. Take a dip in the pool and then while away the hours in sumptuous comfort in your outdoor lounge. At night, they become an essential part of the sophisticated outdoor entertaining experience.
After dining, family and friends can take their desserts and coffee and move over to the outdoor lounge area, so there’s no need to cut your evening short and head indoors to snuggle up on the lounge to watch television or listen to music. These days, many exterior lounge areas are fitted with state-of-theart sound systems and LCD televisions designed for outdoor use.
Enjoy more family time
The trend towards the inclusion of outdoor lounge areas in both landscape and home designs has been driven by homeowners wanting new ways to spend more time with family and more time outside, says landscape designer Mark Perriman from Mark Perriman Landscapes.
“More families are looking for additional functional areas where they can gather together and spend time with each other,” he says. “This sense of connectedness is also about the whole ambience of being connected to the outside,” he adds.
If you are considering redefining and extending your outdoor living spaces to include a lounge area, there are several things you need to think about. First, give some thought to what you intend to use the area for — this includes issues of comfort, convenience, function and flexibility, says Mark. For example, will it be for elegant entertaining or will it be a space that needs to cope with teenage children and their friends? How many people will the area need to accommodate?
Get the location right
You also need to look at how your outdoor lounge area will link with your house and the transition areas between it and your interior living areas — not to mention how it links with other key outdoor features such as alfresco dining areas or a pool. This includes consideration of the orientation of your home, says Mark.
“In a lounge area, you are looking for comfort and shade. You would also need to position the lounge area to capture cooling breezes in the hotter weather, and in a location where you could add heating with an open fire or fire pit so you can maximise use of your lounge area during the cooler months of the year,” says Mark.
When designing your lounge space, if you are in close proximity to neighbours, think about screening it for additional privacy. Some modern architectural designs use screens that cleverly roll back into a side pelmet — you can open up or close off a section of your outdoor living space with ease.
There are also screens that create bold design features. There are myriad styles available constructed from a variety of materials including timber, stainless steel and razer-cut marine ply. “Screens can provide aesthetic ambience and functionality for screening as well as privacy,” says Mark.
Furnishing the space
These days when furnishing your outdoor lounge areas, you really are limited only by your imagination. You can virtually bring anything you have indoor to your outdoor environment — as long as it is functional and can tolerate exposure to the elements to some degree, says Mark. Of course, there’s no shortage of furnishings that look like indoor pieces that are specifically designed to be used outside.
If you buy good quality, you will find that most outdoor furniture is durable as well as UV- and water-resistant. And you’ll find that contemporary and classic outdoor furniture collections offer ample options for every situation and every budget.
Before you select your furniture, consider how many people will be using it and look at the size of the space. Do you want to add a coffee table or occasional tables? Does the furniture offer dual functionality? Some seating, for example, can also serve as storage space. Cushion boxes are a good example of this, with more styles coming onto the market all the time.
Keeping the look clean
Looking for furniture with simple clean lines is the key to designing an outdoor lounge area that will look good even when fashions change, says landscape designer Rob Carlile from Vision Landscapes. “The look is more formal, more structured — and it’s a look that won’t date,” he says.
To take outdoor relaxation to deliciously luxurious lengths, you can opt for sumptuous outdoor sofas or stylish daybeds. Family and guests can relax in comfort and style in lounges constructed with hardwearing synthetic fibres or natural timber. Some are also equipped with sheer, filmy curtains for that romantic resort-style look or screens for additional privacy. Add a range of scatter cushions and throw rugs for extra comfort and colour.
Team a plush two or three-seater sofa, with a couple of single-seater lounge chairs for a more traditional look. For larger spaces, modular lounge settings provide ample seating for guests. They offer versatility allowing you the flexibility to change the shape and design of your lounge.
Fine-tuning the details
Colour palettes featuring coffee and chocolate tones and some shades of grey are popular choices in contemporary lounge styles. Make a style statement and accessorise your furniture with scatter cushions in rich, vibrant reds or orange; crisp, clean whites; or cool shades of green.
When you have decided on the lounge that’s right for you and your family, arrange the seating to capture the best vantage points of your exterior entertaining space and views of the garden. The positioning of your lounge room furniture should be in close proximity to the outside dining area, pool area and kitchen areas.
To define your lounge space, or divide an area, add planter boxes. These can be store-bought planters or planters can be made to size from, say, Besser block that is then rendered and painted. Choose plants that are hardy and low maintenance. “You’ll find a range of bamboo through to yuccas, grasses and succulents,” says Rob.
Lighting for atmosphere
Lighting is another key element to create a cosy ambient outdoor lounge area. “Lighting helps to create the ultimate wow-factor,” says Rob. “It helps to set the mood. Gone are the days of the big fluorescent lights — you’d flick the switch and everyone would run for cover,” he says. New-look lounge lighting is soft, warm and inviting.
Downlights offer subtle lighting and can be dimmed to suit the mood. You can also opt for low-voltage lights fitted in your garden. Stainless-steel half-moon lights in planter boxes and soft blue lighting in decking in outdoor lounge areas creates a cosy space, he says.
You can also find a number of outdoor floor and table lamps shaped like interior lamps as well as stylish pendant lights for that genuine inside feel. And there are moulded lounge chairs, tables and pots that can be illuminated at night to add an arty feel and a novel touch to an outdoor lounge area.
Getting the look right
When designing your outdoor lounge area, visualisation is key, according to Rob. “Look through magazines and put pen to paper, jotting down the sort of elements you’d like included in your lounge area,” he says.
Rob also recommends sourcing the expert guidance of a landscape designer. “Everyone has a picture in their minds of what they’d like to create, and we can help them to put that into play,” he says.
To complete your look, add some signature pieces. Think about the unique features you want to include in your lounge space. A soothing water feature, a striking piece of outdoor art, wall art, or bold accent plants — all of these will individualise your outdoor lounge area.
Once you have designed your living space, accessorise it with designer ware, a selection of soft furnishings, candles and other decorative items to suit your personal taste and give your outdoor lounge room a real indoor feel.