THE HIPPEST ROOM in the home right now is the one without walls, so if your garden or rooftop still bears that faded, old plastic table and some mismatched chairs, it's time to get moving for a summer makeover. Alfresco living has become so popular that contemporary decorators are spending as much time and effort on their outdoor space as they do indoors. And it's by no means a spartan existence out there. Comfort and luxury abound in the huge range of outdoor accessories that encompass everything from designer furniture to complete kitchens and cocktail bars. Architect Adrian McCarroll says the trend marks a major lifestyle switch in Hong Kong, where garden or terrace space has long been viewed as a decoration - something that looks nice, but isn't really used for anything. 'Over recent years, space has become more precious,' says McCarroll, of Original Vision. 'As increasing pollution - and, more recently, Sars - puts a greater focus on clean air and the outdoors, the general appreciation of relaxing outside has increased. This, coupled with a heightened awareness of living styles from overseas - especially Bali, Thailand and the Philippines - has created a demand for making more of outdoor space. 'Integrating the outdoors with the interior adds a special dimension to the home and, if executed sensitively, creates a feeling of being at one with nature. Once the line between inside and outside becomes blurred, a space feels larger, brighter and more friendly,' he says. Turning your yard or rooftop into an inviting outdoor living space requires certain design principles that vary according to your environment. In Hong Kong, the summer can be either friend or foe, says McCarroll. 'The sun in summer can be extremely harsh and render the most beautiful space unbearable,' he says. 'Well thought-out shading devices should be incorporated in any design to provide areas where sitting out during the day is possible. This may take the form of blinds, louvres, awnings, canopies or umbrellas.' As used in Bali and Thailand, a structure such as a bale or sala (open-sided pavilions) can be incorporated. Ideally, part of an outdoor space should offer shade from the sun as well as shelter from a downpour, McCarroll says. At night the outdoor space can take on a completely different character. It's here that creative lighting forms the main component in design. By subtly lighting the perimeter and key features, the whole garden becomes an extension of the living space. Water is calming and cooling and can be incorporated in many ways, from a swimming pool to a simple vase containing small fish, which adds a tranquil aspect to the setting. If you have a pool, give it a resort feel with timber decks (which help soften the effect and are cool under foot), luxuriant fabric canopies and designer sun lounges. For those with the space and budget, include an outdoor kitchen with BBQ, fridge, sink and counter space. Barbecues Galore has just brought to Hong Kong a top-of-the-range outdoor kitchen that surpasses many indoor ones. The Australian-made Ivis series from Beefeater comprises a modular arrangement of cupboards and drawers built around a barbecue and roasting hood, with options that include stainless-steel benchtops, refrigerator, sink and wine cooler. These kitchens cost up to $220,000. '[Outdoor kitchens] are becoming a trend,' says Barbecue Galore managing director Rhonda Gretton. 'In America, many recreational vehicle parks have them and other countries are following suit as more people enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. They have even started to become popular in places like Dubai.' Janice Ortmann, director of outdoor furniture retailer Resource Asia, says people are now prepared to spend the same outdoors as they would on their indoor decor. 'They expect their creature comforts - and are prepared to pay for them,' she says. Basic outdoor components should include durable, versatile, well-designed furniture, an umbrella for shade, good lighting, attractive plant holders and a bug eater for the mosquitoes. 'If you want to dine outside, there are tables and chairs made of wood, textilene mesh, aluminium or stainless steel, or the popular hularo (synthetic fibre),' says Ortmann. 'If you just want to sit out with a glass of wine and some snacks, then a sofa with a couple of comfortable lounge chairs with footstool would be appropriate.' Popular outdoor designers include Dedon of Germany, whose Orbit line of hularo chill-out cocoon loungers has been its biggest hit of the past year. 'Brad Pitt bought five and we've sold loads of them in Hong Kong,' says Ortmann. Gloster from England, best known for its teak furniture, has designed a contemporary range in stainless steel or hularo and teak, while Tuuci has a fashionable set of umbrellas. Gandia Blasco furniture from Spain and the Fermob range from France are also names to look for. Even the lack of a garden or rooftop needn't stop Hongkongers from enjoying the outdoor lifestyle. A small balcony can be transformed into a special place for two with just a couple of easy chairs and a folding table. A service yard off the kitchen can become a verdant breakfast nook by adding a retractable awning and a planter box. In the case of one Repulse Bay home that has no outdoor space at all, Original Vision fixed balustrades to the outside of the building and linked them to the living room by floor to ceiling windows. 'Our clients might not have had a balcony or terrace, but they can still enjoy a connection with the outdoors,' McCarroll says.