How to design a double-duty outdoor retreat Add an outdoor living room to expand a small home Looks good and works hard Like many homes in Venice, architect Steven Shortridge’s 750 square foot place had almost no front yard—guests walked practically from the street into his bedroom. So he moved his front door and gate to an adjacent alley and added an entry patio. “I like that people come through an outdoor living room before entering the house,” he says.To make the 320 square foot outdoor area look larger than it is, he built a concrete patio 18 inches above ground level so it appears to float between the planting beds, and used low furnishings, not walls, to define dining and lounge areas.Working with landscape architects Jay Griffith and Russ Cletta, he planted queen palms, ferns, clumping bamboo, and purple plum trees around the perimeter for privacy. But Shortridge’s project didn’t stop with his own yard. Along the alley, as well as on neighboring lots, he planted (with permission) many of the same trees and grasses that edge his own property.“Neighbors were more than happy to let me do it,” he says. Locals, out for a stroll, love the greenery. And of course, Shortridge reaps the benefit of these distant plantings from his own yard as well: “Now I look out through the veils of green.”Design: Jay Griffith; jaygriffith.com. Russ Cletta; russcletta.com. Pinterest A piece of shade A sunscreen and light fixture are supported by a pole (wiring runs through it) set directly into the dining table. This greatly extends the usability of the space by making it comfortable during the day and bright at night. Framed Louvered windows add texture and, from indoors, frame the yard. Space saver Wide wooden stairs up to the front door serve as bonus seating for parties. Secret soak A hot tub is hidden away in a corner behind Australian brushwood fencing. Light it up The steel firewall backing a gas-fed firepit reflects heat and hides the parking area.