You’ve probably seen the front porch portraits that have been making their way across Facebook and Instagram and the like. They are cute ways to capture outdoor family life during the coronavirus pandemic, when traditional indoor portrait sessions are out of the question.
Well, all that porch posing got me thinking: We really are connecting in new ways to our homes during these times of social isolation.
Especially as the weather continues to warm, people are venturing outside of their houses and spending more time in their yards and patio spaces, porches and pools, etc.
This has spawned a new appreciation for (and interest in) outdoor living spaces. After all, these outdoor areas really are an extension of our homes, especially when given the chance to shine.
A well-designed outdoor space can serve as a gathering place for family. It can also help create harmony between your interior and exterior, providing visitors a glimpse of the atmosphere and design tastes inside.
And this is especially true now (well, except the visitors part!). I like to think of it as a silver lining to all of this madness.
So, long story short, I thought this would be a good opportunity to spend some time on this blog talking about how to maximize the potential of your outdoor living space.
Now, I do want to note — I know many of you are juggling A LOT right now. A big outdoor renovation is likely low on your priority list. I totally get that.
In this blog post, I want to focus on the small additions or design tweaks that you can make, without spending too much effort and or money on it.
The goal is to better organize and highlight the spaces that you are already using, so that you can appreciate them even more.
Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Ok, let’s get started with some ideas.
SPRUCE UP YOUR FRONT STOOP
If you think of your home as an extension of yourself, then you can think of your front entrance as the gateway to all of what makes you “You” — your interests, tastes, lifestyle, habits and more.
And when you think of it that way, you realize this outdoor space is a pretty important element of your overall home design.
Now, you don’t have to try to capture your entire design theme with your front porch. But you do want to keep your overall style in mind, and make sure this space complements the rest of your home.
And you definitely want to make your front entrance attractive. It is, after all,where most first impressions are formed.
So, here’s a quick laundry list of elements you can consider when trying to spruce up this space:
Hang a wreath: Adding a wreath to your front door is a quick and easy way to make instant impact. And it doesn’t cost much, so you can go really seasonal here and switch to a new wreath every three months or so.
Add a doormat: A doormat is a welcoming, grounding touch. And with so many options out there, this is a great way to express a little personality. Maybe you go sassy, or maybe you use your doormat to spread some holiday cheer. Be creative.
Use Planters: An assortment of planters can act as a great transition tool, creating a seamless shift from your yard to your patio or porch. They can also add depth and dimension to your entrance. If you already have an irrigation system, see if you can get some drip lines added here so that you don’t have to worry about a watering schedule.
Create Seating: There’s nothing more inviting then having a place to rest weary legs somewhere near a home’s entrance. This doesn’t have to be anything grand. If you have the space and the budget for it, you might want to consider a more formal arrangement of a few chairs and side tables. Or if you want to add a homey feel, maybe you consider a front porch swing. But this could also be as simple as adding a few outdoor cushions to a stone ledge or maybe placing a sturdy (but cute) garden stool near some of your planters. It’s as much about ambience here as utility.
DEFINE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACES
Think about the inside of your home: every section of the house has a purpose, and the design flows from there. It looks good because it feels good and it feels good because at the end of the day, it makes sense.
Well, our outdoor spaces should be treated in the same manner.
If you have a haphazard landscaping and hardscaping arrangement, the design will suffer as a whole, no matter how compelling each individual element is.
The key is to think in terms of grouping and use.
Section off pieces of your property, and for each, ask yourself: How will the space be used? For cooking, dining, relaxing, entertaining, or all of the above?
If you have a larger property, you can define several smaller spaces throughout the yard. Maybe you have a fire pit and sitting area for entertaining. A table and chairs for a breakfast nook. Some lounge chairs for relaxing with a book (with or without a pool). A small fountain next to a garden to attract birds.
Even with a smaller yard, you can find ways to better define certain areas. I promise you, it will almost always result in a more cohesive design and inviting space.
ELEVATE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE WITH NATURAL ELEMENTS
One of the best tricks for elevating an outdoor area is to highlight the best of what Mother Nature has provided us.
When decorating any outdoor space, I always try to bring in the following natural elements: earth, water, wind, and fire.
Let me explain further.
Earth We talked earlier about planters. I’m a big fan. They can be colorful and arranged in so many different ways. In other words, they are the most flexible way to bring even more earth notes into your outdoor space. If you are feeling more ambitious, you could also consider some raised garden beds or even just some potted herbs.
Water There is nothing more soothing than the sound of running water. If you have a pool, consider a waterfall feature or accessory. Find yourself spending hours reading in your garden? Consider a small fountain or koi pond. Obviously, there’s a range here — from simple and inexpensive, to more elaborate and costly. Find what best suits your purpose and lifestyle.
Wind Just like water, wind can be a very soothing sensation. If you have a porch or sunroom, consider a big circulating fan. Do you have plenty of natural wind where you are located? Strategically place a few windchimes around your home. I am relaxed just thinking about it!
Fire Fire pits are really popular these days and for good reason. There’s something about fire that makes people want to gather round and share stories and maybe sip a few drinks. If it’s in your budget, you might even consider an outdoor fireplace. The beauty of the fire element is it can be enjoyed year round.
USE THE SUN STRATEGICALLY
Consider your house and yard and its relationship to light. Yes, I know this sounds a little ambiguous. But once you start noticing the light and shadows around you, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Where does your house sit relative to sunrise and sunset? Are you an early riser who likes to sip coffee in the morning sunshine? Consider carving out some space on the east side of your property for a little breakfast nook. Do you prefer the glow and calming aura of a sunset? Maybe there’s room for a hammock or Adirondack chair on the east side of your home. Do you have a pool or patio area? Make sure you have some strategically placed umbrellas. Or, for a bigger project, consider adding a pergola, which can be a great way to add filtered light.
One last step now that you’ve better organized your outdoor spaces: You want to make sure they are comfortable. And this means adding textiles. There are so many outdoor fabrics available, from rugs to cushions to curtains. Go wild here. Seriously. If it is in your budget, there’s no better way to make your outdoor space warm and inviting. And if you go with a reputable fabric like Sunbrella, you know you’ll be able to enjoy it for years.
So there you go! Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought and maybe a bit of outdoor inspiration in the midst of this pandemic. These are difficult times, but it is nice when we can find new ways to enjoy our homes, both inside and out. Again, it’s all about the silver linings! And remember, I’m always happy to help you with any of your design needs or questions. Just email or call me — I’ll be eager to talk further!