Lights, Cabana, Action! Expert Ideas to Elevate Your Outdoor Living Spaces

(Above, Design by Studio Todd Raymond)

Are you dreaming of transforming your backyard into a private resort? You’re not alone. Lindsay Kissel, Sr. VP Product Management & Design at Miami-based Tuuci notes that with the increase of remote and hybrid work in recent years, her team has seen a desire to create resort-style luxury at home.

“From relaxing poolsides to fully equipped outdoor kitchens and living rooms, people want to spend more quality time outdoors in stylish spaces that feel like an extension of their homes,” says Kissel.

Poolside and general outdoor spaces will carry living room aesthetics to the outdoors, according to Kissel. Ample and modular outdoor seating and tables create instant focal points and gathering spaces. “Rather than seeing outdoor spaces as there for occasional use, they’re being designed as true extensions of the living space. There’s also an increasing emphasis on creating dedicated areas for more spiritual wellness activities, such as yoga and meditation,” she says.

We love this movement to inspire backyard bliss and reached out to a few experts to discover ways to elevate your pool area. Read on to learn how to create a slice of nirvana at home.

Interior designed by Studio Todd Raymond

A focus on furnishings

Designer Todd Raymond of Studio Todd Raymond wanted the vibe to feel more indoor and residential when he built a pool house for himself and his husband in the Hudson Valley. The pool house was set on the side of a gentle sloping hill and his design was a nod to the slope of the land and a simple and clean mid-century vocabulary. His modern interpretation illuminates key elements to unlock a poolside paradise.

Creating an indoor residential feel is a theme echoed by many experts. Full bars, beautiful lighting, gorgeous fabrics, and use of indoor furniture are a few of the ways Raymond created exterior eye candy. He used LED lights to make the structure that enclosed all the mechanics ‘glow like a jewel box,’ outfitted the pool house with surprising furnishings like an Italian coffee table and hung an oil painting to create an inviting space.

Kissel sees clients investing in high-quality, comfortable furnishings and design pieces that will continue to look great and function well through every season and several years of use. She advises to make discerning choices when it comes to more permanent pieces. For example, quality outdoor fabrics with the highest UV resistance will go a long way to protect your investment for years to come.  

“Modular, marine-grade components ensure your shade products will withstand the elements and allow individual parts to be serviced or replaced without disposing of the entire structure,” she says. Use planters and trellis screens to add privacy and help define the space. Also, think about heating and lighting elements that will help you enjoy the outdoors well past daylight and throughout the colder months.

According to Kissel, color is trending toward lush and comforting tones that ground us with a sense of well-being and optimism, like aquatic greens, warmer neutrals, earthy browns, and deep plums. “Exteriors tend to have more liberty for introducing bolder, more cheerful colors, including sunny yellows, bold reds, nautical blues, and optimistic pinks,” she says.

Vignettes for every mood

Christina Roughan of Roughan Interiors believes that the trend of people spending more time outdoors at home is here to stay. Along with outdoor kitchens and bars, she sees clients enjoying life in various backyard vignettes where people mix and mingle. On one end of the pool, people are lounging; on another, they are enjoying drinks under a pretty parasol while others are playing a game of backgammon in the pool house. “You can create a resort-like vibe where you never have to leave home,” she says, noting that you can live your best life steps outside your own home. When planning for outdoor space, she always considers fireplaces and firepits great gathering places.

Interior Design by Roughan Interiors

Roughan says that clients want to live within the square footage of their yards. She sees bathrooms in pool houses wired with extra attention and care for wetness. A teak and stone bathroom in a recent project reflects clients’ desire to raise the bar in pool house spaces.

Kissel also notes that technology has created gorgeous outdoor fabrics. Some of her clients use the outdoor fabrics indoors, as well. She tells us that the focus is on high-quality, responsibly made fabrics that resist water and weather, so outdoor spaces are always ready to be enjoyed.

“Warm, natural wood tones bring an elevated feel and relate to that quiet luxury aesthetic. Luxe textures like bouclés and chunky knits in pillows and throws can be incorporated for added comfort and packed away easily to protect them from the elements,” Kissel says.

Design/build by Cosgrove Custom Pools

Water and light

Anything with water movement is what Mason Cosgrove of Cosgrove Custom Pools sees as a way to upgrade your outdoor living. He observes that a lot of builders are trying to find ways to push the envelope to discover something that people have not seen before. Clients are thirsty for spa-like experiences in their backyards.

Smaller soaking tubs and cold plunges are popular. Water features are lovely additions to outdoor spaces that create beautiful reflection pools. “You’re no longer stepping into the water, but bringing the water surface to the patio,” says Cosgrove, who says water features look like a piece of glass.

If you need a place for the kids to do cannonballs, they can jump into a traditional pool, but custom water features raise the bar to a new level. “Not a lot of swimming pool contractors can do what we do. It’s like installing a piece of art,” says Cosgrove.

Design/build by Cosgrove Custom Pools

Using porcelain tiles in your pool can also elevate the look. Cosgrove uses 100% porcelain-durable, stain-resistant, frost proof tiles in many colors, sizes, and thicknesses. He sees a trend of using larger porcelain-format tiles across the country in warmer places and areas like Tahoe. He has even seen slabs as big as 10 feet by 6 feet. “It elevates the space to use one solid slab. It is a seamless look for someone with the right budget but not the easiest thing to accomplish.”

Cosgrove also sees manufacturers pushing the limits of lighting, noting that lighting can completely change the look of a pool. He does not like to see the lighting source, saying that the beauty, not the vibrancy, matters.

“Multicolor light shows can get Vegas looking,” says Cosgrove, who prefers a lovely blue or lavender hue and recommends getting dimmable lights. “When clients provide a budget to do something large, it is exciting. We can ask ourselves what we can do to elevate above all the others. I am excited to see what I can do with water features. They are so therapeutic. It’s a pretty long way before we run out of ideas.”,,,

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