Homes designed with outdoor living in mind have always been popular in parts of the world that enjoy temperate weather all-year-round. It’s not hard to find beautifully designed terraces, back patios, pools, or even open-air dining rooms and living rooms that blur the lines between inside and outside in states like California. But as energy efficiency and eco-friendly design play bigger roles in residential architecture, northern regions are beginning to make better use of their outdoor space as well, bringing big views and natural atmospheres inside.

Low-emissivity glass has made some of the classic features of indoor / outdoor spaces economical in colder climates. Large glass walls and prominent architectural windows no longer have to raise heating bills in the winter, while smaller interior living spaces are encouraging more homeowners to make better use of the outdoors in all seasons.

Outdoor Living Is Changing Residential Architecture

Photo by Harold Leidner Landscape Architects

Indoor / Outdoor Living

Plenty of indoor / outdoor living spaces take inspiration from Southern California designs, including poolside terraces and modernist spaces. In northern climates, though, outdoor spaces can become all-year-round paradises by looking to Nordic décor ideas, good use of evergreens to shield from winter winds, and outdoor heating options like fireplaces or heaters. Salvaged wood furniture and heavy blankets help make a quaint, cozy outdoor space where you can enjoy a warm cup of coffee even on snowy days. Fairy lights and lanterns also provide lighting on early holiday evenings and make hosting Christmas parties a delight. Bargain hunters can also find plenty of used Nordic patio furniture on online classified sites like Kijiji.

Outdoor Living Is Changing Residential Architecture

Photo by Forte’ Homes Construction LLC

It’s not just homeowners who are making better use of outdoor space in the colder months, either. As more and more people opt for condo and apartment living in urban centres, the balcony is enjoying a renaissance in terms of design, and all-season use is making smaller spaces more livable.

Outdoor Living Is Changing Residential Architecture

Photo by Flavin Architects

Back Patio Entertaining

As much as smart furnishings and heating can transform outdoor space in the colder months, it’s summer that will really see traffic on your patio. Back patios are ideal for hosting parties, especially when you can open up your home free of divisions between the inside and the outside. You can create a seamlessness that keeps people socializing without dividing the party into two. Whether your want to go with salvaged wood and cushioned seats for a winter-friendly space, wrought-iron, European-inspired tables and chairs, or classic cottage country styles, finding used outdoor furniture online can let you experiment with styles or keep different sets for different seasons.

Outdoor Living Is Changing Residential Architecture

Photo by Growsgreen Landscape Design

Covered or Uncovered?

If soaking up the sun is a regular summer activity for you, an uncovered back patio will keep you happy. Even the easily-burned will appreciate it on cool summer nights, but with the evenings stretching out longer and the afternoons reaching scorching levels, a covered back patio can keep you (and your guests) shaded and cool while you enjoy that mojito on the back deck. Depending on where you live, a covered back patio can also help protect you from scattered rain showers. Summer showers often breeze through for half an hour or less, only for the sun to come back. A covered patio means your cushions won’t still be soaking wet; while some homeowners have built-in shelter, you can also a deck canopy to keep you protected.

Outdoor Living Is Changing Residential Architecture

Photo by Dafne Vijande

As outdoor living becomes a bigger part of residential architecture in colder climates, expect to see exciting innovations in architectural design, landscaping, and decorating that make the most of winter lifestyles and local flora. Houses and apartments that blur the line between the interior and the exterior, exposing your home to natural beauty and cozy backyard patios, are no longer restricted to the Sun Belt.