Life on the outside: our top 10 terraces


Article by Vivion O’Kelly

A terrace is a home outside home, a place to lounge outside your lounge. And the better you design and furnish it, the more you’ll enjoy it.

We have chosen 10 of our best terrace designs to feature in this article. Most, but not all, are poolside terraces, but all have one common design thread running through them. All have been designed and built to take full advantage of what nature offers, using various combinations of natural and manmade materials, and the extraordinary creativity of the UDesign architectural team, to change forever the way we look at terraces.

A terrace is now as much a key part of a house as any other space within its walls. It should be a natural extension of the lounge, architecturally and socially. Today, in luxury homes, the concept of the terrace as a separate entity has completely disappeared.

As we can see from the pictures below, these terraces are as different from the more traditional plastic-chairs-and-table layout as a politician’s promise is from a pot of home truths.

1-The Harmony Terrace

Our first terrace is The Harmony Terrace, that helps make the award-winning Villa Alcuzcuz so special. Few asymmetrical lines here, where no attempt has been made to disrupt the classic balance of the entire design. This is not an easy trick for any architect, whose natural design tendency is to create a balance that is both uneven and harmonic. Here everything is simple, and complicated. Simple insofar as the view from the front shows a central entrance area with equal-sized covered terraces on both sides and the pool in the middle. Complicated, because to achieve this perfect balance while maintaining visual interest throughout requires a great deal of skill and creativity, along with extraordinary attention to detail. This terrace is a triumph of architectural luxury and simplicity.

This building’s formal lounge terrace offers an infinity view over the pool towards the Mediterranean beyond:

Top Ten Terraces, Villas Alcuzcuz Marbella

The view with your back to the view: the Formal Lounge and it’s terrace:

Top Ten Terraces, Villas Alcuzcuz Marbella

This is a terrace for living in – it manages to clevery contain five distinct areas: the sunbathing area, the fire pit with comfy sofas, the TV Room terrace and the Formal Lounge terrace:

Top Ten Terraces, Villas Alcuzcuz Marbella

2-The Mountain View Terrace

High on a hillside above the Costa del Sol, this is a terrace designed and built to take full advantage of the view from Vista Lago Residences, while at the same time building a terrace that would be magnificent even with no view at all. The extension of the Mijas stone wall to the outside makes one hardly aware of exact position in the house – outside or in – while the overall layout has been designed to maximize the views.

A beautiful touch is the glass-walled pool beside the sunken conversation area, with the dining area in the background:

Top Ten Terraces, Villas Alcuzcuz Marbella

Simple low furniture to maximize the view:

Top Ten Terraces, Villas Alcuzcuz Marbella

A huge glass wall separating the inside from the outside slides open to make the distinction between the two irrelevant:

Top Ten Terraces, Villas Alcuzcuz Marbella

3-The Serenity Terrace

The glass walls of this villa in the heart of the Italian Riviera do nothing to impede the view of the serene and minimalist terrace, itself offering calming views across the wide gardens to the sea behind. Muted tones of black, white and dark bronze add to the absolute serenity of the aptly named Villa Serenity, allowing for quality time for reflection and reconstruction of the spirit. The simpler the design, the more complex the thought behind it.

A view to calm the worried soul:

Top Ten Terraces

Looking back, one looks into and through this almost transparent villa:

Top Ten Terraces,

4-The Kaleidescope Terrace

An orchestra of colour, shape and light, with the different light sources defining the colours. This is a space of visual delight, the colours chosen to fit in perfectly with the natural surroundings, and the simple geometric shapes are varied enough to sustain visual interest without visual clutter. Form, function and flair make for a harmonious whole in this poolside terrace, with multiple light sources reflecting beautifully on the still water.

The only element missing from this photograph are the people who will enjoy it:

Top Ten Terraces

5. The Elegance Terrace

The subtle lighting system defines this elegant terrace, where one whispers rather than shouts, in case the spell be broken. The thin blue line of LED strip lighting outlines the entire area, while carefully placed spotlights in the ceiling illuminate the seating areas just enough to make candlelight visible. The emphasis on illumination design might tempt one to disregard the subtle design of the furniture and fittings, and indeed the architecture itself, but discreet design, by definition, tends to convey emotion softly.

Quiet conversation with drink in hand – this terrace is the height of elegance:

Top Ten Terraces

The conversation piece here could easily be the unusually designed sofa on which the conversation takes place (custom-made by UDesign):

Top Ten Terraces

6-The Morocco Terrace

Our southern neighbours across the Straits of Gibraltar have a distinctive design tradition going back many centuries, and it is quite unmistakable in the Arabesque contours of the two wall coverings that dominate this subtle terrace. It matters little what else is there, because this smallish space, where the North African ceramics and even the wall lights complement the overall theme, has been designed to delight all the senses.

An interior designer could easily go overboard with such a distinctive motif, but in this terrace, just the right balance has been achieved:

Top Ten Terraces

7-The City Terrace

Having a garden terrace in a British home is, for the average Brit, a bit like having peanut butter on one’s jam sandwich. It is difficult to believe, then, that this beautiful terrace is set in the heart of the English capital; in Belgravia, to be exact. But here it is, a luxurious lounging and dining area in a vertical herb garden, walled from the hustle and bustle of the city all around it. This urban terrace shows very well what imagination can do, coupled with design excellence and a healthy disregard for the weather. It reminds us that there is nothing as delightful as a warm British summer.

The entire space is uplifted by the swirling floor design in black and white, the perfect contrast to the high vertical garden, and a very practical solution for all-weather usability:

Top Ten Terraces

The purple colour accent on the chair cushions is a perfect match to the green of the vertical herb garden:

Top Ten Terraces

8-The Cortijo Terrace

An interior courtyard, the sound of running water, and fresh air flowing naturally through open terraces and seating areas. Add to this the carefully positioned indigenous trees on two levels, along with subtle touches of Moorish arabesque in windows and ceiling, and you have a contemporary classic from Southern Spain. This is a terrace as any Moorish potentate would have wished, and that any modern resident would wish for: a heady mix of tradition, exceptional architectural design and contemporary luxury. Such is the stuff that dreams are made of.

The view here is reminiscent of the Alhambra Palace gardens in Granada, where perfect symmetry meets formal elegance to create an indoor patio that, once seen, is never forgotten:

Top Ten Terraces
Top Ten Terraces

The free-standing arch is a reminder that the Romans once inhabited this land, and the minimalism of the pool area is a reminder that nature itself provides much that we need in visual stimulation:

Top Ten Terraces

9-The Party Terrace

If ever a terrace was designed for partying, this is it. Lounging, dining, playing, relaxing and cooking areas with state-of-the-art entertainment facilities, a fully functioning club bar and an extensive pool area covering 200 square metres. Add covered areas that can be heated by real fires in cool weather and some of the best works of art in the world, and we have a sparkling design concept that most of us would drool over. This Marbella Hills terrace is certainly one of a kind.

The quirky mauve chairs in the dining area can be seen to the left, while the covered seating area is an eclectic mix of the traditional Moroccan living room and the bright contemporary concept:

Top Ten Terraces

The round mirror is, in fact, a hidden television screen:

Top Ten Terraces

A view across the pool towards the La Cabana Pool & Lounge area, named as such on a giant marbled slab:

Top Ten Terraces

A closer look at the outdoor dining area, where guests can eat and watch the big match at the same time:

Top Ten Terraces

10-The Bond Terrace

This terrace is the ultimate expression of ‘Life on the Outside’. Overlooking the curve of the Andalucian coastline, where one can relax in the high outdoors and watch one’s favourite movie in HD when pool play is over.

James Bond himself would have chosen to shake his cocktails on this terrace:

Top Ten Terraces

All architecture and design in this feature is by UDesign and developed by Bright.

All the furniture and accessories that appear here are available from the UDesign Showroom in San Pedro (Marbella). Visit the UDesign website for more inspiration.

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