How to create an idealistic indoor/outdoor living space

Colorado’s summers are unrivaled—especially in the mountains, when pleasant temperatures and long days entice us to spend as much time outside as possible. Most of our clients like to bring the outdoors in, and some of our favorite designs have specialized in creating the ultimate  indoor/outdoor living space. For the last several years, our clients have asked for larger, covered outdoor rooms in lieu of a singular deck or patio. Homeowners want outdoor spaces that feel like a continuation of their indoor living spaces and crave fully covered, yet not enclosed, outdoor areas. Below we’ve outlined our step by step process to creating these spaces our clients crave. 

First, we develop a vision for the space. Where will it be in relation to the home, what time of day do you anticipate using it most, and how many people should it comfortably accommodate? “If the outdoor space is north facing in the mountains, we talk through ‘comfort items’ such as heaters and fire pits to ensure people stay warm regardless of time of day or year,” said Partner and Owner Sarah Tiedeken O’Brien. “On the Front Range, we discuss protection from wind and sun in order to create layers of usability with varying outside spaces. Given the potential for hot, summer days, we also like to layer in water for cooling.”

In addition to the “where,” it’s important to consider the time of day and how you and your guests will interact with the spaces. Function becomes very important. For instance, a west-facing primary suite patio lets you enjoy morning coffee without the glare of early sun. For evening use, positioning the main firepit area on the south or west side guarantees beautiful sunset views.


Hot tubs are also an important element of indoor/outdoor living. Many don’t realize the variety of options – above ground, integrated into the ground and so on – and the consideration to take in the placing of the hot tub. For instance, a  hot tub off of the primary suite may be convenient for you, personally, but could be less convenient with guests. We encourage clients to keep bigger hot tubs on a more casual entertaining patio, perhaps off of the recreation room. Our team also likes to create mini mud rooms, landing zones or changing rooms as we consider the flooring to ensure hot tubbers have a comfortable transition.


It’s also important to create a flow that includes layering the space from indoors to partially outdoors to completely outdoors. This avoids the feeling of being thrown into total exposure outside and also intimately connects the two spaces. A cozy roof cover works well, as does utilizing partial dividers such as fireplaces and TVs or partitioning of the space with vertical elements like columns or heaters. 

One of our favorite elements is large opening walls. Our team loves installing floor-to-ceiling, bi-folding doors that open up an entire wall – and summer is when these walls truly shine! “These walls create a wonderful flow that makes a space feel connected,” said Tiedeken O’Brien. “It’s a real ‘wow’ moment that’s very special for our clients.”


Once you’ve decided on the “where” and how to transition, it’s time for the design. These spaces should feel like outdoor rooms, not just a hanging deck. Defining the space with the use of shading, lighting and heaters helps manage the scale.  This can include covered roof additions, trellis elements and retractable awnings. Any of these elements will help to ground the space and keep it from visually and experientially “falling off the house.” 

Color palettes and aesthetics can ease the transition between interiors and exteriors. When you open that big wall, it should feel like the two spaces become one. Layering in soft seating and rugs creates that true outdoor “room” while a built-in kitchen makes it a multifunctional space. Hanging heaters and fireplaces can help make the space cozy year-round. 

Also consider the indoor furniture that’s closest to the outdoor “room.” For the room that’s right next to the hot tub, put indoor/outdoor fabric on the inside sofa to ensure you can really live in it. This will also give your guests peace of mind. In the same vein, make sure you get performance fabrics for all indoor/outdoor fabrics to connect the indoor and outdoor spaces seamlessly and effortlessly. 


Finally, don’t overlook outdoor furniture as you plan for your furnishings. It’s just as important to have high-quality, good looking pieces outside to match the level of your inside furnishings given you’ll be looking out over them regularly as you take in those views. 

For examples of Vertical Arts’ indoor/outdoor living space designs, visit Our Work and click through some of our recent projects.