Indoor/outdoor living in a not-so-big backyard

Adding livable square footage to an existing home doesn’t always mean expanding the footprint, as this remodel proves!
A backyard swimming pool and deck connect to the house through a bifolding door
When Karen and Ed Koijane set out to remodel their home, they knew their outdoor space would be key. “We wanted to adapt the backyard to enjoy more of an indoor/outdoor lifestyle,” said Karen. “In our area, most of the older homes are quite small, and people try to utilize the outdoor space since our weather allows for year-round enjoyment.” The pair turned to architects Tony Garcia, AIA, and Jessie Whitesides, NCARB, of Asquared Studios for help creating the right design.

Here’s a look at the details that make indoor/outdoor living so seamless in their remodeled home.

Rightsizing the design

Part of creating a design that would suit the Koijanes’ needs in the shorter term, while their teenage son is still living at home, and into the future, was getting the scale of the remodel exactly right. “People often make assumptions about what’s needed to live,” Garcia said. Instead of taking those assumptions at face value, Garcia and the couple took a hard look at priorities and concluded “the existing perimeter was as much as they needed.” The resulting design brings the home up to today’s living standards with a more open layout, tons of clever storage, and a premium outdoor space.

Blurring the indoor/outdoor line

The right door was key to the remodel. A five-panel Folding Outswing door added to the back of the couple’s family room opens up an entire wall to sunlight, fresh air, and backyard access. Garcia designed a raised deck immediately adjacent to the house, so there’s no change in elevation when you step outside. And the decking material matches the tone of the floors inside, so it’s as seamless visually as it is physically. Best of all, when the doors are open, it expands the family's living space by uniting indoors and outdoors.
A bifolding door is opened to connect a family room with the raised deck outside
This Folding Outswing door has traditional-style panels with black frames inside and aquamarine frames outside. One panel can operate as a stand-alone door, or all five panels can be folded back for a complete opening.

Defining outdoor “rooms”

The couple’s urban lot might be modest in size, but it feels bigger. The reason? It features distinct spaces, including a lounge area that’s really an extension of the family room when the Folding Outswing door is open. There’s a small-scale “spool” (splashpad/pool) that fits the space just right. And because the couple loves cooking and entertaining, there’s an outdoor kitchen with a grill and an island that’s equipped with a sink, food prep area, and high-top seating. Changes in elevation, variations in flooring materials, and built-in planter boxes all help to define these outdoor “rooms.”
A bifolding door is opened to connect a family room with the raised deck outside
The aquamarine color chosen for the E-Series window and door frames helps bring to life the home’s Spanish eclectic style, which characteristically pairs light-colored stucco with a contrasting bold-colored trim.

Creating a distinctive aesthetic

The Spanish eclectic style of the home was one of the characteristics the couple wanted to preserve and enhance throughout the remodel. And Garcia didn’t just do that indoors, he also brought the aesthetic to the outdoors where he added details like patterned tile around the rim of the swimming pool, terracotta-style tiling in the outdoor kitchen, and aquamarine window and door frames. Even the grilles on the patio doors are a reference to the historic roots of this style.

While the Koijanes’ locale in San Diego makes year-round indoor/outdoor living possible, a warm climate is not required to create a strong connection to the outdoors. (Just ask Michelle Adams or Hilton Carter!)


Here are some takeaways from this project to keep in mind as you dream up your own indoor/outdoor space.

  • Consider hiring an architect: Working with architects helped the couple make the most of a modestly sized backyard while carrying through design elements from the home so it’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The overall effect is that the indoors and outdoors are united in one cohesive design.
  • Orient your space around an activity: This doesn’t mean you have to have a pool! The activity could be as simple as dining, gathering around a firepit, or enjoying your garden. Simply adding the right furnishings — and outdoor furnishing and décor options are more abundant than ever before — can make your outdoor living space more comfortable, so you’re more likely to spend time there.
  • The right door is your shortcut to an indoor/outdoor lifestyle: The Folding Outswing door featured here works well in a remodel, because it runs along a single track and doesn’t require an extra thick wall, which would be needed for a big door that pockets (aka disappears into the wall). The right door for you might just be a classic sliding patio door. It’s all about finding the right fit for your space, your budget, and your lifestyle.

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