How To Create The Ultimate Alfresco Living Space

Symmetry reigns in this Lake Forest, Illinois, garden by Hoerr Schaudt. "The strong central axis leads one's eye past an octagonal fountain, through an ornamental gate to the swimmwing pool and woodland beyond," says Douglas Hoerr, CEO and senior principal at the firm.
Symmetry reigns in this Lake Forest, Illinois, garden by Hoerr Schaudt. "The strong central axis leads one's eye past an octagonal fountain, through an ornamental gate to the swimmwing pool and woodland beyond," says Douglas Hoerr, CEO and senior principal at the firm.

Whether it’s a day spent luxuriating at the pool or taking a solitary walk in the woods, there’s no denying the healing power of nature. It’s a scientifically proven fact that people who regularly spend time in green spaces have lower mortality rates and feel less stress–as if one needs any incentive to delight in breathtakingly beautiful spaces, like this formal garden designed by Chicago-based landscape architecture firm Hoerr Schaudt. To create your own restorative green scene, we’ve gathered inspiration from spectacular pools, fire pits, lounge areas, and some of the season’s best new outdoor products.

PHOTO: SCOTT SHIGLEY.

GARDEN PARTY

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In her new book, Charlotte Moss Entertains, the celebrated hostess and interior designer chronicles her elegant, but laid-back approach to gatherings. Here, she shares her fondness for dining en plein air and her tricks for creating the ideal outdoor dining space.

“Childhood memories of picnics and dinners on the patio are among the reasons I love alfresco meals. As a designer, I approach setting the outdoor table as another chance to decorate. I collect whatever is available from the garden for centerpieces, such as topiaries, roses with tomato leaves, white cosmos with lady’s mantle or even just a handful of hosta leaves. There are a number of ways to create an intimate, enclosed space for dining outdoors: Vine-draped pergolas are one way to define an area. Adding potted plants to the corners of a terrace help to frame the space, while planted hedges impart an air of a secluded garden, lending a sense of mystery.”

PHOTOS: GARDEN PARTY OUTDOOR SCENE, PIETER ESTERSOHN; TABLE INSET, COURTESY CHARLOTTE MOSS.

NOW AND ZEN

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East Hampton, New York-based firm Landscape Details employed hedges to frame this property and create interlocking spaces for art and ancient artifacts the clients collected over the years during their extensive travels. Surrounded by a verdant backdrop of lush greenery, a stone pagoda statue sits at the end of a gravel path, providing a stunning focal point perfect for reflective moments.

PHOTO: COURTESY LANDSCAPE DETAILS.

GILT TRIP

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Chic side tables shouldn’t be relegated to interiors. Drawing on global inspiration for his outdoor collection, designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard created a sculptural perch that looks like a treasure one might find in a Marrakesh marketplace. Equally suited to hold mint tea or margaritas, it’s crafted from brass, which will oxidize when exposed to the elements, developing a darker patina over time.

PHOTO: COURTESY FRONTGATE.

LIT UP

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Brass brings a dose of glam to the Halle wall lantern designed by Ian K. Fowler. Made of aged iron and clear glass, the sconce features clean lines that complement a wide range of architectural styles. Whether placed near a front entry to greet guests or flanking French doors on a back patio, it is a versatile study in minimalist elegance that offers a touch of refinement to any exterior.

PHOTO: COURTESY CIRCA LIGHTING.

DOUBLE VISION

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What’s better than one showstopping place to unwind? Two, of course! For this decked-out bi-level chill zone, Beverly Hills-based landscape designer Christine London extended the interior spaces of a Los Angeles home to create exterior rooms for gatherings both large and small. The upper fireplace offers an area to convene before or after dinner, and sits adjacent to the outside kitchen and dining area, while the lower level is next to the spa and master bedroom for easy access on any night. “Utilizing a hillside that was previously inaccessible, the design creates interest in the level changes and gives the property diversity,” says London. “We wanted to design areas that could expand for entertaining or be intimate and cozy, according to need.” Mission accomplished.

PHOTO: ROGER DAVIES.

HOT SPOT

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Having a front door that opens to a side yard rather than a front yard is an unusual feature on any house. Barker Evans Landscape Architecture decided to make the most of it and turn the unremarkable side lawn of this Chicago-area home into an inviting courtyard. Now an outdoor dining space and a fire bowl greet guests at the door and sit adjacent to a new addition by Robbins Architecture. “The materials reflect the original limestone foundation, but the large dimensional cut pavers and pea gravel give it an updated, contemporary feel,” says partner and landscape architect Kris Barker.

PHOTO: STEVE HALL, HALL+MERRICK.

SIT PRETTY

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Striking in its silhouette, the Arla sofa from Made Goods‘ latest open-air collection features a dramatically curved high back that provides both comfort and shelter on breezy summer nights. Made of durable faux rope, the frame is designed to look like natural rattan, but made to withstand the elements.

PHOTO: COURTESY MADE GOODS.

HEAVENLY ANGLES

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This San Francisco urban garden from Arterra Landscape Architects was designed as much to be gazed upon from above as to be utilized and enjoyed–the main living level of the house looks directly down on this space. In addition, an existing stairway from that level down to the garden was set at a 62-degree angle. “Rather than fight it, we aligned the whole design with that angle,” says partner and landscape architect Gretchen Whittier. Graphic interest is created from alternating strips of stone paving with pebbles, while reflective orbs lend a sculptural element.

PHOTO: MICHELE LEE WILLSON.