The best parties used to end up in the kitchen, but if recent trends are any indication, they’ll soon move out to the patio.

Builders and design pros can satisfy that demand by helping customers create outdoor rooms that their friends and family will truly want to spend time in. Here are four ways to start planning the perfect outdoor room.

With outdoor-rated equipment, backyard cooking goes far beyond the grill. A built-in island with a grill, side burners, cabinets, countertops, and hidden gas lines gives the feeling of a true kitchen. Photo: Propane Education Research Council.

1. Develop Seamless Transitions. People want consistency throughout the look and feel of their home, and Paul Nigon, Western U.S. sales manager for the Outdoor Greatroom Company, says that shouldn’t stop at the threshold. “Someone with a contemporary indoor living space shouldn’t go with a tropical Florida-style outdoor room,” he says. “You want a seamless transition so design elements will carry from inside to outside.” Fireplace and fire pit designs are available in a wide range of design styles, so homeowners can easily outfit their patio spaces anywhere on the spectrum from highly traditional to ultra-modern.

2. Consider the Whole Space. Another way the outdoor space can mirror the home’s interior is by having the layout of outdoor rooms reflect interior spaces. “An outdoor room can be as simple as a grill and a dining set,” Nigon says. “But there are all sorts of shapes and sizes of outdoor rooms.” A deck or patio can easily be divided into cooking areas with a propane-powered outdoor kitchen and dining space and a separate lounge area with a propane fireplace, fire pit, or stylish outdoor heater.Translate the feeling of an indoor room to the patio by taking advantage of walls and seating areas. Fireplaces and propane heaters can keep these spaces cozy even on chilly fall nights. Photo: Second Nature Outdoor Living.Likewise, Hector Dominguez says outdoor living areas aren’t just used for cooking and dining. “We have customers that really spend their entire days outdoors,” says the marketing executive at Austin, Texas–based Sharp Propane. “That’s where they work, that’s where they play. They spend most of their time outdoors, so we provide them with propane for outdoor heaters, lighting, pool and spa applications, and a lot more.”

 

Translate the feeling of an indoor room to the patio by taking advantage of walls and seating areas. Fireplaces and propane heaters can keep these spaces cozy even on chilly fall nights. Photo: Propane Research Council.

3. Add Creative Touches. Kitchens, fireplaces, pools, and spas are among the largest and most popular applications for propane in the back yard, but the design opportunities don’t end there. At Second Nature Outdoor Living in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, operations manager Jeremiah Sliffe says the company has installed dozens of propane- and gas-powered appliances just this year, but they haven’t all been grills and fire pits.
“We’ve done some unique fire columns and a few water features with propane or natural gas flames that come up right through the waterfall,” he says. Sliffe says these decorative features create beautiful dramatic touches that can be centerpieces of the living space. He adds that Second Nature has had projects in which fuel lines were run to pool cabanas, allowing homeowners to install small water heaters in their outdoor living space. “It’s really fun,” he says, noting that nearly anything you can use propane for inside can also be taken outside.

4. Take Advantage of Consultations. Dominguez says the team at Sharp Propane often works with landscape architects and contractors to properly site outdoor propane appliances for their customers. “Propane technicians have expertise with the products and the local building codes, so they’ll be able to share a lot of information on the best way to locate a grill, the pool heater, the fireplace, et cetera.” Consulting with experts when propane or gas is involved helps ensure all elements of the outdoor living area will work with the aesthetic and safety needs of the design.

Courtesy of PERC (The Propane & Education Research Council)