Combining your outdoor living area with the indoor space in your home might seem like an easy task, but getting it just right in our British climate can pose a few challenges. We moved into our house about 6 years ago and with it came a reasonably large back garden which we intended to make the most of. It wasn’t just about improving the outdoor space, we also put a lot of thought into how the house would bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor living. As with any new home improvements, there’s always a number of key factors to consider: What would be practical? How would it be aesthetically pleasing? And, most importantly, what was the budget?
Practicality was high on the agenda, the house was lacking a porch, no utility room and no garage or outhouse. This posed a problem with young children as there was no where to store the pram, coats and nowhere to remove dirty shoes or wellies. So we needed a storage area that could be a little messy. The front of the house was an option but a far more complicated option due to planning permission limitations. So with easy access to the back of the house we decided to look into options that would provide us a practical and aesthetically pleasing extension.
This new space needed to look the part and fit with the existing design of the house. Modernising a 60s style chalet bungalow isn’t all that tricky when done right, but we’ve seen some rather poor design choices over the years and wanted to avoid these at all costs. We started by looking around the neighbourhood to get some inspiration with similar style houses.. Our direct neighbours to the left had gone for a single storey brick extension whilst on the other side a simple lean-to conservatory with double uPVC french doors.
Money, money, money. What could we afford or how much did we feel comfortable borrowing for our improvement. We invited builders and conservatory salesmen over to quote for these jobs and the pricing ranged from about £15k – £45k. We also looked into pricing for bi-folding doors and converting our living room and outdoor patio area into a seamless, level area with tiling and solid wooden floors. Finally we considered the ultimate budget option of simply adding a veranda or lean-to to the back of the house, thus bridging the gap between house and garden.
With all of this in mind here are my top 3 options and considerations for merging your indoor and outdoor living spaces.
Number one – a conservatory
This was one of our favourite options as it extended our indoor living area, providing another room to the house. It would be light and airy, potentially cost effective and provide views of the whole garden and beyond onto the hills. As with any large and expensive investment we felt it was important to do our own research before committing to anything. Here’s a few things you should take into consideration when buying a conservatory – how big would it be, what would the room be used for, what structural materials should be used and how do you go about choosing the right conservatory glass and blinds? I’d recommend taking time to research each of these factors on your own before speaking to the professionals. It will give you the upper hand when the sales guys start to bombard you with their technical spiel and allow you to negotiate a fair deal.
Number two – bi-folding doors
I love this idea. Opening up a large section of the house to the outdoors feels amazing, bringing new perspective, letting light flood into the house and perfectly bridging the gap between indoors and out. There’s something very satisfying about these door styles but only if the construction presents a seamless transition. Before you start thinking this could be a cheap option, it’s worth considering the following. What level is the house at compared to the garden? Will the garden require vast amounts of earth to raise it up? This can be a costly expense. Also consider the materials these are made from. Wood, uPVC, aluminium and composites all have their strengths and weaknesses so take some time researching these before you get set on the styling. How much construction works will the house require and what flooring materials will you choose? Indoor and outdoor flooring can be very difficult to match effectively so shop around and look for specific examples of what works and what doesn’t.
Number three – veranda
Verandas, sometimes referred to as lean-tos are the cost effective choice to consider. They can be a great way to protect you from the elements, extend your living space and provide suitable cover and seating areas to enjoy all year round. Whilst they don’t really offer you an extra room inside the warmth of a house they can look very attractive and there’s a host of outdoor heating you could consider. You can also incorporate different style lighting, hanging flower baskets, built in planters, dining tables, comfortable seating areas and hammocks if you want a really relaxing area! If you’re a little handy too you might have a go at making your own to save a few more £££. See how I made a veranda for under £500.
When thinking about this option you will want to consider roofing materials and styles. Do you want to block out the light or is the aim to let light in? Options might include glass, bitumen, aluminium, slate, wood and even copper. Another good way to help merge the indoor/outdoor gap is to add some outdoor power sockets and soft furnishings like sit on cushions and rugs.
In conclusion we decided to go with the 3rd option which was the most cost effective, practical and quite good looking. It also give us a flexible space should we change our minds further down the line. We only use this as a living space during the spring and summer months but should we decide to extend at a later date we still have that option. The best part is we successfully improved our house by bridging that gap between our garden and and indoor living room.
Check some more of my home improvements and DIY projects in some of these other blogs.