Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Room Outside

I have a fascination with Japanese architecture. Each room is laid out with great thought and intention. Outdoor space is no exception. It is treated the same as any other room.

Japan’s winters and summers are relatively mild with only brief sessions of harsh weather. Fall and spring consume most of the year with warm days and cool brisk nights. Does any of that sound familiar to our local North Carolinians? We share a relatively comfortable climate. With a little shelter from sun, rain, wind and possibly insects the unconditioned outdoor room becomes the best in the home, office, or restaurant.

A successful outdoor space is one that has an intimate connection to the interior space. It has a delightful view of something calming such as a small garden, water, or a series of natural materials. It is large enough for the functions of the users such as working, eating, or playing but not so large that it feels expansive. Ever wonder why everyone crams into a tight room at Thanksgiving when there is an open room available? The presence of others provides a comfort and coziness. Why do the customers at a large restaurant choose the booth seating along the outer wall before the open seating in the center? The boundary or the edge often provides a psychological comfort and safety.

Always consider porches, patios, courtyards, and decks when designing space. They need to be laid out with as much intention as the interior spaces. They should be seamlessly connected to the conditioned interior rooms with flexible and enjoyable space. You’ll find they are a great source of comfort and, when defined by the bounds of constructed area, can often have little additional cost. Before you know it your least expensive room will be your favorite.

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