It's one of those rare pleasures when an interior designer gets to bring design to the outside. JBi was asked by a young family to design their outdoor space. It's a 900 square foot paved patio that's a completely blank canvas. The clients had some specific requirements - a hot tub, a lounge area and a covered dining area. They also wanted to the ability to keep some of the space open so their children could play in the space. The requirements are not so different from what we're faced with inside, right?

Now comes the fun part. How do meet all the requirements and design a beautiful, functional exterior living space? We'll here's how.

1. Think about flow first. As with any space, creating separate, single-function spaces is a great way to use the space. Place the dining area closest to the cooking area (whether inside or outside) so that when people are carrying food/drinks, it's within easy reach. Placing the lounge areas away from the house provides a destination for visitors to reach. In the first example we see the lounge area next to an outdoor fireplace. What a great way to spend a summer evening!

2. Provide shelter for those hot days. Okay, if you live in Portland, then we have a few weeks of really hot weather, so this is less important. But, if you live in the south, then providing relief from direct sun is important in making your outdoor living area comfortable. This retractable sail cloth screen is a perfect way to make the space flexible - provides protection from the sun on hot days and can be retracted for fall/winter dining. And, if you don't want to build a permanent structure, there are so many options for large market umbrellas that would work just as well.

3. Give the kids their own area too. With living and dining spaces figured out, don't forget about the kids. They need a place to call their own. A play structure or sport court are a great way to encourage active and creative playtime. Consider locating the area away from where the adults might congregate also.

Now that you have your outdoor living space figured out, it's time to start enjoying it!