Outdoor rooms on a basic budget

Basic outdoor room dining set.
ARTICLE Libby Schultz

Virtually any home can have some kind of outdoor room. For a few hundred dollars, it may be as simple as creating a level spot in the garden with a pretty set of furniture. Or if your budget runs closer to $20,000, you can achieve a more substantial room complete with an entry-level louvre roof.

How can I make my backyard a functional living space?

The first step is to decide the main purpose of your outdoor room, and how you plan to use it.

Is it mainly for cooking or alfresco dining? A dedicated space for entertaining? Or maybe you want to create a space that’s purely for privacy and relaxation. An outdoor room can also be a play area for young kids, or perfect for a teenage hang-out.

Interior Designer Celia Visser says it’s important to have a clear idea on this at the outset.

“Don’t expect your outdoor room to be a catch-all for everything. It’s just like any other room in your house…if you have a clear purpose and mood you want to create, the space can be designed to achieve that.”

Once you’ve drilled down the must-have items in your outdoor space, it will give you a clear idea on the space you’ll need.

Zones landscaping designer has a simple tip for sizing up your space. Draw up a sketch with the various items you want to include (e.g table and chairs, barbeque, sun lounger etc), drawn roughly to scale. Then allow extra space for traffic flow around those areas.

As a rule of thumb allow a minimum space of 4m x 4m if you want to fit a standard 4-seater outdoor table and chairs.

Four seater outdoor chairs and table with a view of the bay.
IMAGE Mitre 10


Where is the best location to create an outdoor room?

The next big question is where to put it. Ideally, you’d want a north-facing aspect that catches plenty of sun, is out of the wind, and has minimal traffic noise. And it should definitely be a ‘room with a view’.

Regardless of your budget you will need to know your site when locating your outdoor room. “Ask yourself a few questions before locating your space. Where does the wind come from? Where is the sun when you will be using the room? Or are you creating a space independent from the elements? Are there any levels to consider? Can you use the levels in the garden to create more interest for your space - stepping up or down, a slope as a backdrop etc.” says a Zones landscaping architect.

“Also consider what are the views to and from the space. Also think of upper level rooms, is there an opportunity to bring an unused corner of the garden to life?”. According to the landscaping architect, when locating an outdoor room or space you should take into consideration a number of things  including:

  • purpose of the room / what will be it be used for - this will often then determine your other decisions.
  • access to the space - are you creating something that is a destination in the garden and part of that is the experience of getting there? Or is ease of all weather access from the house important?
  • how does it connect with the house and other parts/functions of the garden? For example will the space be an extension of an internal room maximising indoor/outdoor flow? Is it an outdoor kitchen area as part of a destination entertainment or pool area in the property? Is it a quiet reading nook at the bottom of the garden?
  • outdoor rooms are places in the garden you will pause and remain for some time so consider how the weather will impact you - do you need all weather cover or shade from the sun or is the space a sun terrace to capture the last of the afternoon sun?
  • Will you use the space at night - consider lighting and heating options.
  • how do you want to feel when you are using the outdoor room - is it a place of relaxation and retreat or a lively space for entertainment and play?

“The opportunities are endless, your imagination is the limit and this shouldn't be limited by budget” says the landscaping architect.

How can I make my budget go further when creating an outdoor room?

Even if you only have $1,000 or less to spend, an outdoor room can be as simple as finding a sheltered spot in your garden to place some pretty outdoor furniture. Create a level surface with concrete paving; or for an even cheaper option, use materials like shell or pebbles. For the latter, make sure you install waterproofing plastic underneath, and have a depth coverage of at least 50mm.

If you have a bit more to spend, or are planning a larger project, you may want to read our mid-range project cost estimate and ideas, or high end project cost estimates and ideas.

The next step up might be to add a simple open-frame pergola, to create structure overhead. A basic open-frame 2.4 x 2.4 pine pergola will set you back around $800 for timber and fixings, plus labour to build.

A raised platform or low deck will give your outdoor room even more substance.

Low-cost options for screening the sides include trellis, bamboo or brushwood. Or for something a little more upmarket, Abodo Wood offers a premium timber screening panel, called Rhombus, that can be used vertically or horizontally.

Alternatively, you may save money by attaching your outdoor room to an existing structure – such as the walls of the house, garage or garden walls and fences.

How much do louvres cost?

Pacific Powder Coating offers louvres for all budgets. The Eclipse Flat Louvre Opening Roof is multi-functioning as it can be used for balconies, patios areas and pool decks.

The louvres can rotate nearly 180 degrees and they can match your home’s current colour theme and architecture. Made from Powder Coated aluminium and marine grade stainless steel fastens the Eclipse Flat Louvre Operating Roof is a durable all weather product. Complete free-standing systems start from $1,000 including the frame and control system.

Outdoor room with a chiminea

Outdoor furniture ideas

The big hardware stores are your best bet for kitting out your outdoor room on a budget.

For instance, you can pick up an affordable dining table-and-chairs combo at Mitre10 for under $1,000; including the 5-piece Como setting, or the 10-piece Portofino.

If you have a smaller balcony-sized space, the rattan-style Keter Corfu 3-piece setting is $549. Or for a cheerful garden setting, the Whitford includes a small folding table and two chairs in e-coated steel at just $199.

The big stores also have affordable versions of the trending outdoor accessories – including firebowls, chiminea, and hanging egg chairs – to help you add style on a shoestring.

With a bit more budget you can begin to create an outdoor room that can be used all year-round; for further information, read the mid-range outdoor rooms project estimate. Or for an outdoor that comes straight out of a hollywood mansion, read the high-end outdoor rooms project estimate.

Renovate Magazine Logo

This project estimate by Libby Schultz featured in Issue 018 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

Get in touch with Zones to discuss your landscaping project

If you would like to discuss basic outdoor room options and ideas for your outdoor renovation project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.

*Costs are rough estimates and are subject to change. For a fixed-quote accurate to your specific project, please consult your local Zones landscaping specialist. All Zones franchises are independently owned and operated.

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