Outdoor Rooms

Sizzling dinners on the grill. Parties on the deck or patio. Relaxing by an outdoor fireplace on cool evenings.

Outdoor rooms and living spaces continue to increase in popularity as cost-effective and stylish ways to expand a home’s living space, year-round.

The real estate market might be depressed, but recent research from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has revealed that adding outdoor living spaces is one home improvement trend showing no sign of slowing down. Approximately 42 percent of homeowners surveyed report having a finished outdoor room, up from 35 percent in 2005.

Whether they use their outdoor living spaces year-round or only during warm months, most homeowners with finished outdoor rooms report they use it at least a couple of times a week or more (76 percent), while 28 percent use their outdoor spaces every day. A third of those surveyed report using it year-round.

Danita Treiber of Oasis Pools in Charlotte says that many new homes have outdoor kitchens, and families want to upgrade their outdoor furniture so the same comfort level they enjoy inside is enjoyed outside. This is reflected in upscale patio dining furniture and a whole new range of sofas and lounge chairs for outdoors.

“Outdoor rooms are an effective way to extend your home’s footprint and your family living space without major construction,” said Katherine Whiteside, best-selling garden author and outdoor living expert.

Outdoor rooms have also become more fully integrated into daily life. Sixty-four percent of homeowners report spending more time in their outdoor living spaces than they did a few years ago, according to the new PERC survey.

Here are some helpful tips for creating your own outdoor room you can enjoy year-round:
It’s all about ambiance. Arrange outdoor furniture in cozy and inviting ways — such as around an outdoor fireplace, fire pit or chiminea. Position lighting or gas lamps to add great visual effects. You can uplight a tree or statue to create a pleasing background focal point.
Comfort is key. Choose comfortable furniture. Consider adding a propane-fueled mosquito eliminator to keep away insects. And if you have a pool or hot tub, heaters can add year-round appeal.
Privacy is important. You can build a simple privacy fence and grow sunflowers next to it if you live in a suburban area. If you’re in an urban area, consider ways to block views from above. A big market umbrella is a great way to create privacy.
Protect your family and guests from the elements — sun, rain and cold. For chilly evenings, consider a propane tabletop heater, which is only two feet tall but heats five feet in diameter.
Throw something good on the grill. Today’s propane grills are equipped with accessories that make sizzling appetizers and main courses fun and easy. These days, you can get a grill with an adjacent burner, a rotisserie or even a wok.

“An outdoor room can be a great way to express your creativity while giving your family and friends new spaces to enjoy around your home any time of the year,” said Whiteside.

For more advice about creating and enjoying your outdoor room, visit www.usepropane.com.

Elaine Heitman is the Executive Editor of Charlotte Parent Magazine