Great Outdoor Rooms | Midwest Living

Great Outdoor Rooms

Picturesque spaces. State-of-the-art kitchens. Fragrant flowers. A pillowy chair in the sun. With amenities like these, the best room in your house could very well be out of it.


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Fresh Air Invitiation

Dinner party guests at Tom and Diane Marxer's St. Louis home have come to expect two things: mingling in the Italian-style courtyard, and a menu including bruschetta or pizza cooked in the courtyard's wood-fired brick oven.

"Additions" such as the Marxers' courtyard kitchen and dining area can bring surprising comforts to the outdoors.

Two of the couple's passions--Italy and entertaining--inspired this often-used outdoor room, with its wrought iron gates, European lanterns, custom brickwork and Italian-style landscaping. French doors in the dining room open to the courtyard, allowing traffic to easily flow.

A 10x10-foot open gazebo, which they dubbed "the Forum," has a finished floor, halogen spotlighting and canvas panels. The Forum has hosted poker games, cocktail hours--even a jazz trio.

Nearby, a pergola doubles as a third room, and entrance to the detached studio. It connects the studio to the courtyard, creating ease of movement between indoor spaces and the Marxers' inviting outdoor rooms.

Inspiring details

Alfresco cooking The Marxers built a brick pizza oven. Outdoor kitchens, whether built-in or movable units, frequently offer amenities such as multiple burners, serving areas, refrigeration and sinks.

Personal touches A love of Italy is evident from the wrought-iron gates, to "Villa Firenze" (House of Florence) carved into a pillar. Don't be afraid to display your personality or interests--just as you would indoors.

Cool solutions A ceiling fan spins in the peak of the gazebo, and the canvas panels can screen the sun. Create cool comfort with a shading trellis or umbrella or by planting vines and trees. Other options: a standing fan or an inexpensive misting system.

Sensory delights Lanterns and other casual, but effective, lighting make the Marxers' space great after hours. You can pump up comfort with piped-in music, candles, side tables, smooth and easy-to-navigate paths and floors, and quality, comfortable outdoor furniture.


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