We talk a lot on this blog about how to decorate the inside of your home — I am, after all, an interior designer. But as summer reaches its peak, I also want to spend some time talking about your outdoor living or entertainment space.
Because your outdoor space has every right to be as comfortable and as beautiful as your indoor space. And an interior designer can be your best friend when it comes to creating that chic outdoor living-look.
First, let’s talk about one advantage we have living in the Midwest: We have a relatively short winter, and summer seems to last forever. That means we have boundless opportunities to be outdoors. So I’d encourage you take advantage of that, and make the backyard or patio an inviting place to go.
The key to this, in my opinion, is treating the outdoor space with the same amount of respect as the rest of the home. Equal thought, attention and perhaps money should go toward the outdoor decor and layout.
When you make this your guiding philosophy, you’ll automatically find yourself on the right track toward elevating your outdoor entertainment or living space.
Now, let’s delve into some of the finer details.
Consider Form and Function
As with any living area, you’ll want to first jot down some notes. Ask yourself the following questions:
How do you plan to use the space? For lounging, entertaining, or cooking? All of the above?
Are there any limitations you’ll want to take into account? (This question is particularly important for your outdoor space, because there are certain things — such as the weather, and topography — that you don’t have much control over.)
What is your home’s architectural style?
Do you prefer sun or shade? Which direction does your house face relative to the sunrise and sunset?
When do you anticipate being outside the most? Mornings? Afternoons?
How many people would you typically need to accommodate at once?
What is your plan for adverse weather, and for mosquitos and bugs?
What is your favorite view from your house, or your most-loved spot in your yard?
Once you’ve gone through these questions, take a walk outside with your answers in hand (or maybe use your walk for inspiration as you answer these questions). If you remember, this is something I also recommended when designing a sunroom. It’s an important step, because it helps you determine exactly how your needs and wants will fit with your particular space.
Yes, this sounds like a whole lot of practical planning when you are eager to get to the fun of designing. But I’m telling you — the latter cannot be successful without the former.
Make a Wish List
Keep that pen or computer handy because it is now time to make a list. Before you groan at the word list, I promise you — this will be fun. Write down any and all features you could imagine incorporating into your outdoor space. I’d suggest you start by dreaming big — this is your ultimate wish list!
Once you’ve reached the margins of your page, go back to your answers from above and start narrowing down your options based on the more practical concerns that you’ve already considered.
This is the best way to stay pragmatic but also ensure you aren’t leaving anything out that is truly special or unique. It also helps you incorporate the different features in a way that is functional.
For example, if a hot tub is on your must-have list, you’ll want consider whether you have a good space for it close to your house. Because in cooler temps, nobody wants to run through frigid air to take hot soak! Same with your outdoor patio table. In an ideal world, you’ll want to place it somewhere that allows easy access to and from your kitchen. You will appreciate this the next time you are carting several trays worth of drinks and food out to your patio!
Here are some possible wish-list items to get you started:
✧ Fountain or other water element
✧ Fireplace or fire pit
✧ Dining table
✧ Chaise or swinging chair
✧ String lights, lanterns or chandelier
✧ Draperies or other tapestries
✧ Grill or outdoor kitchen
✧ Hot tub or pool
✧ Trellis or pergola
✧ Ceiling Fan (or other weather control features?)
Outdoor Living Still Needs a Theme or Focal Point
Once you’ve done the homework above, give me a call. I can help you figure out the perfect design style for your outdoor space, and can also steer you toward some reputable products. The nice thing about the outdoor living space is it doesn’t have to match your home’s indoor decor. Here, you can go a little wild with color or style, as long as you are keeping with your property’s overall aesthetic. To get an idea of the endless possibilities, check out this slideshow.
One tip: Pick a statement piece, then build the design from there. (You’ve probably heard me say this a few times now, but it is a trusty piece of advice that works for almost any space — indoors or out!). Don’t forget that your outdoor lighting is a big part of your design. The same applies for any artwork, although you’ll want to stick with something more durable for the outdoors. More on that topic below.
Weatherize Like It’s Your Job
Retailers and wholesalers are well aware of our thirst for outdoor living — in fact, they’ve been tuned into it for quite awhile. So there is no end to the amount of outdoor-friendly products and fabrics that are out there for you to choose from. Sunbrella is an excellent no-fade option for cushions or rugs, but it’s not the only one, so explore your options.
This applies not just to your fabrics, of course. You’ll want to make sure everything you incorporate into your design is wind and water resistant. This is very important when it comes to lighting, and any other electrical product, such as a ceiling fan. Any questions, don’t be afraid to consult an electrician. (If I am designing your space, I can guide you through this as well).
You will also want to consider your plans for the winter. What comes into the house, and what stays outside with covers? Are you bothered by the site of a bunch of covered furniture or outdoor appliances? If so, you’ll want to take that into account when planning your space.
Don’t Forget the Plants and Hardscaping
The best outdoor spaces make ample use of nature’s gifts — and also find ways to highlight them. Take a trip to a good garden store and find some beauties that will fit in well with your surroundings. Anything goes — ferns and tropical flowers, ornate planters, string lights, stone pavers, you name it. Make sure to talk with the experts at the store so you are familiar with the care instructions for anything you decide to bring home with you i.e. Perennials vs. annuals, sun versus shade preferences, watering and root system needs, etc.
(The key to a green thumb is following directions!) Or, if this sounds like more of a project than you are willing or able to take on, consider hiring a reputable landscape architect. They are basically the interior designer for your yard — shall we call it an exterior designer? Either way, they will help you blend your landscaping with your outdoor entertainment space, for a cohesive overall look.
These are just some general ideas to get you started. As always, I’d encourage you give me a call so we can talk over your options and the scope of the project you have in mind. If we start our planning now, we can hit the ground running come springtime! Or perhaps you’d like a mid-season refresher on your current outdoor space. Either way, I’m here to help.