PATIOS and terraces are among the most flexible and convenient of outdoor living spaces. And a well-designed deck can blend with virtually any style of house and expand the livability of the rooms that adjoin it. It can also transform a hilly or problem site into an inviting outdoor environment.
The return of the ``draw up a rocking chair and sit a spell'' porch has been heralded by architects and builders this year, and courtyards and balconies are often urban answers to the need for a bit of outdoor space in which to keep plants and grow gardens.
A unique plan book called ``Home Plans for Outdoor Living'' has just been published by Home Planners Inc. of Farmington Hills, Mich. It offers more than 100 home designs, each styled to make the outdoors an important part of the house.
Each plan shows how to unify outdoor elements and integrate them with the house and its interior - how to attain a balance between adjacent indoor-outdoor spaces in materials, colors, and style and scale of furnishings.
Paul Kitzke, editorial director of Home Planners Inc., says that the book was developed after the publisher and staff noted certain powerful indicators.
These included a growing consumer interest in outdoor living, an increase in at-home entertaining, and a leap in ``lawn and garden category'' sales over the past five years at home-and-garden stores and home centers.
``We decided,'' says Mr. Kitzke, ``that it was time to do a portfolio of plans that highlight this kind of outdoor living and the projects that promote it. We think there is no other book quite like it. A complete set of working drawings or blueprints is available for each plan shown, at prices quoted in the book. The plans can be used by do-it-yourselfers as well as by people who choose to work with professionals.''
Plans shown were chosen for their indoor-outdoor harmony. They represent a wide variety of architectural styles, from 18th-century Georgian to Spanish ranch style and 1980s contemporary.
Some include screened-in porches and entrance courtyards, others such recent amenities as greenhouses and open-air spas. All incorporate flexible outdoor living spaces directly into their designs.
Kitzke says new homeowners often concentrate on interior spaces, whereas planning the outdoor areas at the start can save both time and money.
``For instance, if a concrete patio is part of the final picture, it would probably pay to have it installed when the foundation is poured. Or the hole for a side-yard spa could be dug at the same time as the house excavation.''
Since today's homeowners recognize the pleasures of coming home to the outdoors, each chapter focuses on a different aspect of outdoor living.
A final chapter discusses the importance of awnings, walks, gazebos, fences and gates, trellises and screens, seats and benches, fountains and ponds.
The book is available through many bookstores, such as the Walden and Dalton chains.
It can also be obtained for $10.95, plus $1 postage, from Home Planners Inc., Department PR882, 23761 Research Drive, Farmington Hills, MI 48024, which is the country's leading publisher of predesigned-home plans and construction blueprints.