Our fantasy, as the weather gets warm? That we can just pick up our lives and move them outside. Which is exactly what our Ultimate Outdoor Living Room, unveiled at June 2012’s Celebration Weekend open house, in Menlo Park, California, is all about. Here, you could spend all day entertaining, lounging, reading, napping—even cooling off in the shower. But the design’s not just about indulgence. If you look closely, you’ll see space-saving touches (the tilt-up chaises rising from the deck), salvaged materials put to work (check out the bar’s countertop), and the efficient use of what is, after all, only 1,700 square feet of outdoor space.
Here, like 3-D wallpaper, mesh pockets filled with bromeliads, ferns, and purple heart hang in the dining area.
For before-dinner drinks or after-dinner s’mores, the space offers two connected—but distinct—sitting areas. This lower one is centered on a firepit built of paving stones. Indoor-outdoor cushions soften the built-in curved benches, made of decking that was heat-molded on-site into the right shape.
The bar zone
On the upper level overlooking the firepit, a sturdy cast-iron sink anchors the bar. The counter itself is made with almost-as-sturdy Asian hardwoods reclaimed from shipping crates.
Exotic water-loving plants like bloodleaf (a Brazilian native) and the carnivorous pitcher plant grow in mesh pouches that line the outdoor shower, almost disguising its purpose. The spiky red phormiums aren’t often associated with wet locations, but they’ll be happy enough in a spot like this as long as the drainage is good.
These chaises pop straight out of the decking. The back is hinged at the base; you just lift up the far end and insert the prop to hold it open. (If you want to use the area for another purpose, lower them so they’re flush with the deck.)
The yard’s deck curls up and over the nook like a wave, shading it from the sun. (You could also plant vines at its base, turning it into an arbor.) Both the rocking bed and chair, made of recycled wood and steel, are rugged enough to survive outside all summer.
The curves of the House Arc shed—and its integral wooden shade superstructure—echo the “wave” of the backyard’s deck. Its footprint is a mere 8 by 12 feet, and the steel-tube frame keeps the weight down to 3,000 pounds. Palo Alto, California–based architect Joseph Bellomo designed the House Arc with an eye toward supplying easy-to-build emergency housing, but the units are equally suited to providing extra storage, entertainment space, or even a guest room.
“The House Arc can be a backyard office, a yoga room, or housing in the most in-need places. It’s for everyone, everywhere,” says Bellomo.