Our Favorite Room

WHERE IT BEGAN: When you find a good home on the right-sized lot in a great location, you become concerned with refining, revamping and—if you’re a family with two young kids—expanding what you’ve got.

To realize their remodeling goals, the family who lives in this 1970s home, which had strong bones but was dated in style, called in Studiotrope Design Collective’s Joseph Montalbano and Kelton Osborn (now an entrepreneurial designer with his own gig, Quick Bend Design). The homeowners needed more family-friendly space and a means to enjoy the outdoors. (The yard, which neighbors a golf course, lacked order and a sense of privacy from nearby golfers.) “There was definitely this motivation to get more of a sense of connection to the outside from the inside,” Osborn says.

The solution—this outdoor living room—is near magic. The space connects to an adjacent indoor family room, also added as part of the project, and opens up the family’s home—and lifestyle—to the outdoors. With the help of large windows, a double-sided fireplace that faces both indoor and outdoor family areas, and an al fresco eating area, the outdoor space becomes an extension of the way the family lives indoors.

PERFECT TOUCHES: Instead of using walls and doors to define the space, Osborn invented a series of “shutters”—crafted out of powder-coated steel and set on rollers—that can be moved back and forth to achieve just the right amount of privacy and shade. A gas-lit fireplace warms the space during cool evenings, adding to the ambience and making the outdoor room suitable for three seasons of use.

For the flooring, Osborn chose a low-maintenance wood alternative called Brasilia by Trex (in Cayenne). “The homeowners wanted to keep the maintenance factor down to as little as possible,” Osborn explains. “That was one of the things that helped guide us with the materials we chose.” Cream-colored stucco and dark-charcoal roofing are punctuated by pops of color—yellow surrounding the fireplace and maroon for the windows and beams—that resurrected the home from a dated brown-and-white color scheme.

HOW IT WORKS:  In the end, the outdoor living area works with the indoor living room to function as one big family room. It’s a success for the family, Osborn says: “The homeowners use the outdoors a lot more. They dine out there and the children play tennis on the court. It’s become the center of the house.”


You have some open space on your property, and you’re feeling ambitious, but you have no idea where to start. How about right here, with a little help from architect Kelton Osborn?

Let’s start with site planning. What should you keep in mind when choosing the right spot?
For this project and a lot of other projects, start with the sun. It’s nice to have shade in the middle of the summer; in the winter, it’s nice to have that sunlight come into the space and warm you up. So you should look for a space that can offer both sun and shade.

What about lighting for after the sun goes down?
In this space, we chose lighting that’s on a dimmer for nighttime. There’s the capacity to have bright light if you need it, but if you’re having a dinner party, you probably want dimmer light.

With so many hard surfaces, how can you make an outdoor living space feel less like a patio and more like… a room?

Bring the landscape into the space if you can. Landscaping adds another layer of texture and richness to architecture, and it can help soften things if they’re too hard with just the architecture. It’s nice to have the color and softness of the plants.

The fireplace you designed here is very cool. Tell us about it.

I think it’s a really nice feature. It’s gas, so you don’t have to worry about the mess of a wood-burning fireplace. It’s another way to help define a space within a space; you could have more intimate seating beside a fireplace, and maybe that’s adjacent to a more public space that has a larger table for a crowd of people.

How can you connect an outdoor living space back to the home itself?
If the space is next to the house, having windows that look out onto the space is a nice way to get that visual connection from inside to outside. Especially if you’re having a party with people both inside and outside, it will give a sense of connection among people, even if they’re inside.

Categories: Architects, Landscaping & Gardening