How to Create an Outdoor Space You’ll Want to Hang Out in all Summer Long

Landscape master Scott Shrader shares his secrets to putting the “great” indoors



We asked Scott Shrader, author of the new book The Art of Outdoor Living: Gardens for Entertaining Family and Friends (Rizzoli New York, $50) and the landscape designer behind L.A.’s beloved Gracias Madre patio (as well as the man to whom Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi trust their outdoor environs), to share his tips for a charmed outdoor space.


Go With the Flow
For a seamless interior/exterior flow, ask yourself these questions: What is the house missing to better access the exterior? Can simple connections be established for a fresher way to live? Can I easily get to my outdoor dining room for entertaining from the kitchen? And how do my materials blend from one space to another while relating to the indoors?



Get the Point
Connect spaces through focal points. I emphasize axial views, from the front door through the house, from the living room to the side views, and so on. Usually, I create a central focal point at moments of entry. Often I use fire or water because those are real attractors.


Let It Glow
Lighting helps define a space, the atmosphere and mood. For the outdoors to feel warm and inviting, it needs to be well lit. Think about using trees to light from; placing small MR11 LED 2700K downlights crossed through branches in larger trees helps mimic moonlight. Use uplights to focus on the most important elements.



Cover Up
A good canopy is crucial. Typically, people feel most comfortable when they have some form of covering overhead, such as an umbrella, a tree or shade. These “outdoor ceilings” provide shelter, create a sense of human scale under the endless sky and can also hide lights and space heaters.

“Keep people outdoors all year round by keeping them warm and fed and providing comfortable seating — everyone appreciates comfortable seating”


Stay Put
Keep people outdoors all year round by keeping them warm and fed and providing comfortable seating — everyone appreciates comfortable seating. Think about the seasons: What could be blooming in summer that really enhances an outdoor experience? Is your outdoor dining room trellis covered in jasmine — or even better, figs, so you can easily pick them while cooking in you outdoor pizza oven? Why not? Make sure your guests are well nourished outside, because, if not, they’re headed right back in.



Feature image: A quintessentially Californian scene outside a house in Rincon Point, for which SCOTT SHRADER collaborated with architect CJ PAONE. Photograph by LISA ROMEREIN.


This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of C Magazine.

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