First, there was the notion that your garden was like an extension of your house, a verdant, fragrant retreat where you could just hang out, whether you were actually gardening or not. And there was another, concurrent notion that gardens could actually have “rooms” of a type, spaces defined only by the plants they contained, or by trellises, distinctive water features, and casual seating.
Then, more recently, the idea of an outdoor room became much more literal for many. A kitchen—but outdoors. An entertainment center (these were once called cultural centers when they had books in them)—but outdoors.
Personally, I tend to prefer the earlier interpretations of outdoor rooms, but for those who entertain often, I can appreciate needing to go the extra mile. For example, my friend Gordon has just installed a cantina in the back corner of his large (for a city space) garden. What I like about it is that it is not visible when you walk through his garden gate, because his space actually is a series of outdoor rooms.
There is a room immediately to the left as you come in, defined by the front of the house (very much obscured by plants) the side fence, and a small, winding path lined with tall perennials and tall tropicals. To the right, another room features the large front pond (shown at top) with a seating area (screened by plants) adjacent.
Walk through an arched trellis and there is the back pond, the cantina and a more traditional patio seating area. As you walk through the garden you’re discovering these discrete spaces; you are not confronted with deckorama. There’s quite a bit of hardscaping, but somehow it’s still a garden.