Products, ideas, and designs to expand living spaces outdoors.

Photograph by Alain Potignon

From expansive outdoor kitchens to high-tech pergolas and door-window systems, new products and construction techniques are extending a home’s living quarters into the surrounding landscape. Here is a roundup of clever ways homeowners are using technology to better connect with the great outdoors.

BioClimatic Structures’ pergolas create a close-to-nature environment but also control a space’s comfort level. The louvers on the Solisysteme Bioclimatic Pergola adjust remotely; protect a space from weather; and control ventilation, temperature, and light. Its sleek design is easy on the eyes, and dedicated gutters make it easy to maintain. The system can be used on residential or commercial properties, says BioClimatic co-owner Nicole Wehmeyer.

BioClimatic Structures’ pergolas create a close-tonature environment but also control a space’s comfort level. Photograph by Alain Potignon

In a California home, relating to the outdoors is an unlimited experience. When Malika Junaid, founder and principal of M. Designs architectural firm in Silicon Valley, built her own home, she relished integrating it into the site. “To be part of the surroundings, you need to open the house, where the house, its boundaries, and the site all merge together,” says Junaid. An homage to Star Trek, the spectacular steel-and-glass home retains a warm mood and buckets of personality. Moveable glass walls offer unhindered views of the natural landscape and a 60-foot swimming pool with a tiled floor – which extends from the great room to the outdoors – in a mosaic pattern of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” styled and created by Artaic.

Its materials are sustainable and maintenance free, and the programmed functions of its smart technology control light intensity by room and open curtains on a timer. When it rains, irrigation systems are set in motion. As Junaid says, “Our home is an integral part of our everyday life.”

    See more photos from the “Star Trek” house. |

LaCantina Doors seamlessly transforms spaces for unimpeded views. Photo by Pentaprism Studio

LaCantina Doors focuses on the way its clients want to live. “We strive to design systems that improve customers’ lifestyles,” says Lee Maughan, LaCantina’s general manager and vice president. The company’s innovative folding and sliding doors and windows—all designed and made in California—seamlessly transform spaces for unimpeded views of the outdoors.

LaCantina’s Combination Door & Window System connects the door systems to the pass-through window systems without the need for vertical supports, dramatically extending indoor spaces outward. Many clients are finding that the combination system is perfect for opening their kitchen to a patio.

In Austin, Texas, Ben Lasseter, partner and director of construction at Design Ecology, is often focused on creating outdoor kitchens. It’s not something he takes lightly. “In many designs, so much is overlooked, from practical demands to aesthetics,” he says. “You will maximize an outdoor kitchen’s use when its design is tailored to meet the client’s needs and lifestyle.”

In one design, the outdoor kitchen countertop matches the sleek granite with a sparkle of quartz used indoors, joining the two spaces. Alternative equipment is trending, including pot boilers for lobsters or crawfish, woks, and pizza ovens, making dining a more inclusive event.

An outdoor kitchen created by Design Ecology. Photograph courtesy of Design Ecology

“Instead of there being a boundary or walls between outdoor and indoor living space, there are fewer barriers,” Lasseter says. “People today are playing, eating, and cooking outside. Really, it’s become the fifth room.”
Ben Lasseter, partner and director of construction at Design Ecology

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