Outdoor Space Design

By Dotty Brothers | March 20, 2024
Outdoor Space Design

When you think about building your dream home, it’s easy to get hyper focused on the inside: the various rooms, potential layouts, surface finishes, interior design, all that good stuff. But spare some space in your imagination for the outdoors as well. Modern custom homes--especially here in the Brainerd Lakes Area--are as much about outdoor life as indoor, letting you be as comfortable living, cooking, dining, and entertaining outside as you are inside your home.

Planning for the outdoors spaces begins early in the design/build process, with the lot assessment. Broadly, this is the part of the process where we figure out where to place the home on the lot. We consider the views of and from the lot, where the sun will be during what parts of the year, the natural landscape of the lot, and the best practical spot to build. But this is also when we start planning for those outdoor spaces: patios, decks, and firepits, for sure. But also outdoor living rooms, places for a TV or other entertainment, an outdoor kitchen, maybe even a pizza oven.

Outdoor Kitchens

The same way kitchens have come to be the center of home design, lifestyle, and entertainment, outdoor kitchens are taking a similar role outside of the house. These kitchens can be created in a wide range. They can be somewhat humble and modular, maybe a grill and a smoker with some tables between them for prep and staging. But they can also be full-on kitchens, with a sink, ovens, built-in chopping block--basically just as elaborate as an indoor kitchen, but al fresco. Even pizza ovens, which used to be expensive luxury items, can be replaced by a smaller,  propane-fueled version. But there is something showstopping and remarkable about a large, Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza oven, and once you get it started you can crank pies out like a pro.

Gathering Places

You can’t go wrong with a cozy patio, a deck with an amazing view, or both. These are outdoor living spaces that can really showcase your lot and its natural beauty. We regularly build dream homes on any of the wonderful lakes in the Brainerd Lakes Area, so it makes sense to showcase the lake. No matter what, you want to have plenty of places to sit. This can range from a bunch of outdoor furniture to something as simple and easy as a section of tree trunk that serves as a stool. For low decks that don’t require a railing, a bench that runs continuously along the outer edge can accommodate a whole bunch of people while still blending perfectly into the deck itself.

Patios and decks are often centered around a focal point, and it seems like nine times out of ten that focal point is fire of some kind. This could be a built-in firepit surrounded by durable adirondack chairs, a free-standing fireplace that anchors a corner of the deck, a field-stone statement fireplace ready for a mountain lodge, or anything you can imagine. But there’s nothing quite like sitting with friends and family around a fire while the stars come out on a warm summer night.

Pergolas or Gazebos

It’s worth thinking about outdoor spaces that aren’t strictly a part of the house, too. A stand-alone pergola or gazebo can be a great solution when you have several great views and want to embrace them all. For instance, you might want your home and deck to be up on elevation, and a patio nearby for dining, snacks, drinks, and access to the house. But if you have a great spot that overlooks the lake, and is much closer to it, a separate pergola or gazebo might be a great solution. Including mosquito netting in the design will help keep Minnesota’s state bird away, too.


Do you want to host movie nights without giving up the fresh air? The right mix of AV equipment can make for magical gatherings outside. This can be a space designed to accommodate a big screen for a projector, or a place to hang or set a TV. There are outdoor TVs made to stand up to being outside, but given how much lighter TVs are than they used to be, the easier method might just be to designate a place to mount or set the TV in your outdoor living space, with enough seating for your watch party. Given Minnesota’s usually frigid winters, moving the TV in for the season is probably going to extend its life, even if it’s in a sheltered location.

Minnesota’s lakes, landscapes, and seasons offer beautiful surroundings. Your custom dream home should work so you can find the same enjoyment outdoors as you do indoors. Dotty Brothers can help you get the most out of your home and your lot. Contact us to get the design/build process started on your dream home.

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