Create the Perfect Outdoor Living Room With These 6 Design Tips

Outdoor living room under an awning on back porch

Designed by Emily Henderson Design / Photo by Sara Tramp-Ligorria

People put a lot of effort into creating a functional, comfortable home, with every room set up for their particular needs. An outdoor living room is the perfect space to lounge and entertain, which is why it's essential to curate a space that you and your family love.

Take some suggestions from design and outdoor professionals to set up a space you won’t want to leave. 

Consider Your Space

If you are fortunate enough to have a large yard, creating an outdoor area for just about everything is a little easier. Although you may want to create many al fresco experiences, it's important to not overwhelm your yard.

Whether you’re decorating a sprawling patio or a tiny balcony, creating an outdoor living space starts with a measuring tape,” says Kelsey Clark, a designer editor at Havenly. “Understanding exactly how much room you have to play with will determine your rug size, furniture selection, and the exact furniture configuration—pretty much your entire setup!”

Secondary to the size of your setup is its purpose. Ask yourself some questions—what do you want to do in the outdoor living room? Is it going to be a place for family time, entertaining guests, or both? Give thought to what you want to accomplish and then set it up accordingly. 

“If you love to watch movies with your family in the evenings, consider installing a TV on a covered deck or bringing a projector out to the yard,” says Dani Smith, a Utah-based interior designer.

“Find a long table and benches to encourage lingering meals. Install fans or heaters or fire pits to make your space more comfortable. Whatever you like to do inside, find a way to draw people outdoors and provide a similar, if not better, experience outside.”

Keep a Consistent Style

Moving your activities to an outdoor space doesn’t mean compromising on your core design preferences. With so many options for outdoor furnishings, including rugs, fountains, and other accessories, you are sure to find items that complement the looks you love inside your home.

“Anticipate needs as you would indoors—blankets, candles, and lighting for when the sun goes down and the bugs come out, plenty of table space to keep drinks within reach, and decorative accents for warmth and ambiance,” says Clark.

Create Boundaries

Setting up a living room on a patio or deck automatically creates a visual boundary with railings or stairs that signify a move from outdoor living to lawn. For some homes, that might not be the best area for a functional and fun lounge. Open space in your yard might be a better fit for the kind of outdoor gathering spot you have in mind. 

“Use a trellis or modular system to create an inexpensive structure to bring architectural interest to an otherwise dull space,” says Heather Eubanks, an interior designer at TDC Interior Design. “This structure can also serve to hang string lights, plants, or curtains. If you are renting, this is an easy solution that can be deconstructed, reconfigured, and re-used if needed.”

Boundaries can also be important for blocking out things you don’t want to intrude on your sanctuary, such as sounds, sights, and sun. 

“Create a visual barrier from unsightly views of interstates, parking lots, or neighbors with strategically potted plants, a green wall or trellis, hanging curtains, or if you can, a fence,” says Eubanks.

“Try a hedge between the air conditioner and the porch or patio or upholstered seating and hanging textiles to provide acoustic solutions. Is the evening sun uncomfortable or does it create too much heat? Consider a barrier like a solar shade, outdoor curtains, or a series of tall plants and trees to offer shade when and where you need it.” 

Set Up Zones

Divide your outdoor space based on the activities and those who will be using it. For example, be sure to set up a spot for long conversations or grilling for the grown-ups and another area where kids could play by themselves. If you have the room, give everyone a little bit of what they want and need. 

You might consider setting up a section of your outdoor living space as a kids’ zone with room for games and water play. Adding a storage box that blends in with your outside furniture can provide the perfect place to keep all the fun stuff when you are in between play dates.

Mind the Climate

Depending on where you may live, climates vary, so it's essential to keep that in mind when planning for your outdoor space. In order to make the most of your outdoor space and enjoy it more often throughout the year, think about what additions could extend the seasons.

“If you live in a hot, sunny location, you may want to invest in some shade structures, like an awning or pergola,” says Zahid Adnan, the founder and interior designer at “If you live in a cooler climate, consider adding a fire pit or outdoor heater to keep your space cozy and comfortable.”

Remember Comfort

Don't settle for uncomfortable outdoor tables or chairs just because they adhere strictly to a certain style. Comfort should be a top priority, so make sure to invest in quality pieces you and your guests can lounge in for hours.

“If reclining to enjoy the sunset is your idea of relaxation, buy an Adirondack chair or even a lounger,” suggests Smith. “If you like to drink your morning tea in the sunshine, you'll want an upright chair with a table to set your cup and phone. There is no law telling you to buy furniture in sets or that it needs to be purchased from the garden center at your local big box store.”