Exterior Spaces

Importance of Exterior Spaces and their Design

Why is an outdoor space beneficial to the family?

Outdoor spaces are not only aesthetically pleasing but are great to incorporate into one’s day-to-day living.  An outdoor space, small or large is filled with a great range of stimuli that deserve to be experienced.  Here are some of the health, social and financial benefits of utilising  outdoor space in a pleasing  way.  Improvement in health and happiness has been recognized and show a positive relationship between green spaces and sea proximity to general well being.

The advantages of children having the opportunity to play in natural environments include quality time with the family, the development of social skills, language and comprehension, physical activity, increased exposure to sunlight, improved physical and mental health and environmental learning.   

Time spent outside contributes to reducing stress, promoting good vision, boosting your immune system, and decreasing symptoms of depression.

Exterior spaces in a home, house or building

Outside spaces exist in different shapes and sizes; some very small and some quite large.   The names of these outside spaces are sometimes misused or confused or used differently in different countries and architectural styles.  This is a very basic description:

A balcony is an elevated platform on the outside of a building at first floor or higher levels and enclosed by railings, balustrades, walls or screens.  Some balconies are a little larger than others.  However, this space allows for a romantic dinner for two or for children and pets to get some fresh air.

A front yard or front garden is the portion of land between the street and the front of the house.  This is often ten feet, and tiled and thus a yard, but can also be larger and covered by a lawn, with flowers and trees and thus a garden.

A back yard or back garden are similar, but located at the back on the building.

A detached or semi detached villa enjoys a garden that surrounds the building at ground floor level.   These gardens often include a swimming pool, a BBQ deck, patios possibly with a pergola structure, sometimes a tennis court, and a vegetable garden within the grounds.  This garden size various from approximately 500 sq meters to 2500 sq meters or plus.

Courtyard / quadrangle is a space or a courtyard that is a rectangular, square or oblong space in plan, the sides of which are entirely or mainly surrounded by parts of a large building and usually located at ground level.

In very old buildings, the idea of a courtyard, was to catch the sun and wind and circulate it around the building to generate heat, and eliminate humidity. All windows were south-facing.   Some modern quadrangles resemble cloister gardens of medieval monasteries called garths, usually square and enclosed by covered arcades, much like those seen in college or university campuses.  Most are open air, but some modern ones have been roofed with glass structures.

A veranda or verandah is a roofed open-air gallery or porch, attached to the outside of a building.  A veranda is often partly enclosed by railings and frequently extends across the front and sides of the structure.  A Veranda and a porch are similar in structure, and both are at the ground level with a roof and partial enclosure.   The difference is that a veranda can surround the house whereas a porch is strictly an extension to the front-side of the house.

A porch is a covered shelter projecting at the front of a house or building entrance.

A patio by definition is a paved outdoor area adjoining a house, generally used for outdoor dining or recreation,but can also be detached from the main building and may have has a roof or pergola.  Easy access to the indoor or an outdoor kitchen is an important consideration.   It is a larger area than a porch.

A terrace is built at ground floor level and is an ideal space for a get-together, children’s party, or greeting family and friends.   However, in modern architecture, a terrace can also be built over a flattened roof at first or even second floor level, as an open air extension to a living room or even a bedroom.   And lastly, the penthouse outside area is also referred to as a terrace.

A deck is a flat, usually roofless platform adjoining a house. Decks are typically made of wood and are elevated from the ground.  It can include spaces for BBQs, dining, as well as seating.   Decks are generally enclosed by railings and sometimes may be covered by canopies or pergolas.

Large condominium apartment complexes often have large communal garden and playground areas.  These are situated within the complex grounds, and are for the exclusive use of complex residents.

Communal outer spaces

Unfortunately, not all house owners have properties with appropriately large  balconies, outside spaces and gardens to accommodate their family’s needs.  Therefore, it is of great importance to have communal outer spaces as parks, tree lined walkways, and children’s playgrounds available within a neighborhood.   

Some outer space structures

Pergolas, gazebos and pavilions are all structures built over outside spaces.

The three biggest differences between gazebos and pergolas are in their visual structures.  Gazebos are typically round or octagonal, while pergolas are square or rectangular. Gazebos have a roof, while pergolas have cross beams, but no roof.  A pergola is more often built over decks or patios.  And a pavilion is a large structure for big events as a wedding and entertainment event.

Factors that enhance outside spaces

Outer spaces should have easy accessibility to the different parts of the building.  For example, a dining patio should be in good proximity to the kitchen…

If views from the property are limited or not so pleasant, then it is paramount to create attractive scenes within the outer spaces to simulate the mood.  However, if panoramic, sea or country views can be easily seen from the outer spaces, they should be given their rightful importance.

Whether outer spaces are small or larger, maintenance is of great significance.  Landscaping, zoning need to be efficiently designed.  A badly maintained space may be worse than an empty space.   A swimming pool should have a self cleaning device, pool water well chlorinated and well circulated / filtered automatically between the pool and the pool reserve tank.    Continual cleaning up of foliage and general debris should be done, to avoid drain blockages during rainy times.  Trees need to be trimmed and pruned and fruit or vegetables harvested and not left to rot.  Electronic devices should be installed to deter rodents, pests, and insects.

Trees should be planted in the best locations to create beneficial shade areas or where they can be beneficial in reducing the sun’s heat on a buildings.  Evergreen trees give continual mood throughout the year, and fruit trees are an advantageous addition.   Trees may also be planted in areas between neighboring properties  to create attractive Privacy walls.

In spacious outer areas, an outdoor bar or a wood fire / BBQ area are common amenities.

Planning of landscaping and zoning of outer spaces; furniture and fittings

The first and most important step, before starting out to organize outer spaces is to choose a theme to create a mood; and adhering to one theme will create flow and harmony throughout the outer areas.   It is also important to bear in mind affordability before starting out, in order to keep specific budget limitations.

Select the furniture and furnishings wisely to suit the mood, in both colour, style and durability.   Select the correct materials and make your outer space special, your escape area.  Benches placed in the shade of trees create a welcoming environment.

Foliage – trees, flowers and plants should be carefully chosen to create intelligent zoning and landscaping, and also return a bonus for one’s hard work.   Trees absorb carbon dioxide from which they produce oxygen, fruit trees, certain plants, and herbs produce fruit, flowers, beautiful aromas from herbs for kitchen use, greenery and a beautiful scenario.

The appropriate lighting , sound, aroma, shelter and shade all help to create a perfect ambience to fit the theme mood chosen.

Water is an essential commodity for cleaning, maintenance, watering of plants and trees and other uses, so water access points should be placed well around the outer spaces to facilitate these functions.  There should also be good comfortable access for refilling the pool with fresh water by external water bowsers when the water needs changing from season to season.

Landscaping and zoning of the outer spaces need to be carefully planned choosing efficient and hardwearing tiles, wood, attractive pebbles and / or turf, creating interesting areas and pathways to fit around the greenery and trees.

And finally outer space, is a place suitable for relaxation, a place to reduce stress, ideal for children to play and be healthy, and a house extension, with the possibility of entertaining family and friends, and at the same time being an investment.