This time of year I really can’t get enough of my outdoor spaces. Everything is blooming, the birds are singing and there are soft breezes with mild mornings and sometimes a little chill in the evening. The perfect atmosphere for impromtu entertaining or enjoying time with a friend, spouse or that quiet time you need daily for yourself….outdoors!
As with most homes, we often have ever evolving projects as our ideas are spurred or our budgets permit. What I find interesting in observing my neighborhood over the past 25 years, is that unless they have put in a swimming pool most people don’t use their back areas past their deck or patio and to be honest I rarely see them out on those either.
We love to entertain and so even at our very first home when we had no budget as we celebrated my husband’s first Father’s Day…we got some used brick from the local nursery and installed our own little slice of heaven. We used it a lot during the 4 years we lived there.
Today I may scare you with the crazy wild suggestions I make! I mean I think I scared myself the day the furniture for our deck arrived. For years we only had a couple of 4 seater tables on our huge deck and in one moment, my husband and I picked out two sofa sets, a fire pit, a table for 8 and a lounger!!!
So I am going to show you how to extend your outdoor living space using the same principles you already know and use on the inside of your home. They will just be more casual and there won’t be any walls in between them.
1. Consider Your View
If you can see the entertainment space right off of a room, be sure to complement the colors from the inside of the home in what you select for your outdoor furnishings.
I have had my deck furniture for about 4 or 5 years and of course the colors trends change yearly so I tweak the color with accessories. My rust colored cushions now wear a bright aqua and white pillow. The good thing about the marketplace is that when colors change they change everywhere so you can accessorize with rugs, lamps, dishes, pillows…seriously just about anything.
I added an aqua and coral (almost rust) rug to this seating area.
Aqua Candles and a glass jug that also pulls aqua.
On the inside is my breakfast room and kitchen. Having just redone our kitchen, we had updated our wall color to a soft green/blue and though I purchased these gorgeous chairs for our dining room, once I saw them in person I knew they had to be a part of my kitchen. They are bright and cheery and have aqua and coral in them as well as other colors that I will play off of throughout the year. But for this time of year, my outdoor furniture complements them beautifully.
Also consider the view from the conversation area. If you have private areas, gardens, water features, or something that is lovely to look at, that would be a great opportunity to enjoy that space more by putting out a conversation area.
2. Build a Conversation Area
Having a place with just seating and a place for a drink or hors de houvres is the perfect set up for a conversation area.
As with any conversation area that you have in your home, the same thing goes for outdoors. There should be something you settle around whether it be a coffee table, a fire pit, a bar….people just feel more comfortable with a little something in the center of the conversation.
Seating can be sofas, specialty chairs, bar stools, loungers, any type of seating that has some comfort will do nicely. We have the plastic adirondack chairs at our lake home because they stack nicely when we don’t have guests, yet they are a very relaxing comfortable seat to use. If you have a front porch, a swing and/or rockers are also great choices.
Pick different kinds of seating for different areas. Choose for comfort and style. Pick a color that you can live with because these pieces are your biggest investments, especially the cushions.
3. Consider the Weather
Depending on where you live there are always things to consider with the climate as well as bugs.
We have two conversation areas built under shelter, so that even if it is raining we can still sort of be out in the elements and enjoy the fresh rain smell or the cooler air that it brings.
We also have spread large umbrellas throughout our areas though as time has gone on our trees now do a great job of providing shade from the heat of the afternoon sun.
For bugs, you can offer a screened in area. We also have a Mosquito Magnet which considering the threat of Niles Virus and now the newer one, having this piece of equipment is really a protection for your family and guests. The magnet runs off of a gas tank that you would use for your grill. You also need electric. It attracts the mosquitos to it and kills them.
I also have on hand in an outdoor cabinet or at the lake in every bathroom cabinet a couple of bug spray or cream options.
4. Dress It Up
Okay, I am a decorator and if you ever look at decorator’s homes many are way more colorful than those they do for their clients. You can’t love to decorate without loving color and texture and creative pieces…it just is the best part of the business!
So indoors if there is ever a chance you may sell, it is wise to keep things on a more subdued level. If you are like me and love color you can bring it out in your accessories which are inexpensive and easy to change out in a moment.
But outdoors you can get risky! You can use the things that make you happy. If you are all about Purple, outdoor seating areas is a safe place to let that color get some traction. If you have a theme you love or you are a collector, again outdoors is a place to let that love live.
You have your seating, so now you need to accessorize it. If it is a sofa and coffee table set up, pick out something like a conversation piece for your coffee table. Then build around it with some smaller items. I have used a large jug and some sea shells on mine.
Also if you are in a sheltered area, leave some magazines out and maybe a novel. It may be the ignition you need to take the time and sit outdoors and relax because I honestly think that is one of the hardest things for many of us to do.
Add a rug, add some live plants and flowers or herbs. If you have a place to hang an outdoor painting, sculpture, flag, or even thermometer…decorate the space as though you were indoors just using your outdoor items.
If you haven’t got a clue. Open up a magazine…Veranda, Coastal Living, Southern Living, to name a few and just try to copy your favorite picture of a porch, patio or deck. That is what they are photographed for…Inspiration!
5. Finishing Touches
So it is gorgeous, right? And you thought you were done, right? Well we do need to take care of the final details, the finishing touches.
I always try to incorporate as many of the 5 senses as I can into my decorating.
First is Auditory. Have some sort of sound available in your seating areas. We have several options.
- a fountain…the natural sound of water is extremely relaxing. We installed a tiny one in an unusable area below our deck and it is so appealing when we are in that area.
- music of course…we installed outdoor speakers from our theater system indoors, so we can here a ballgame, the Derby :), CDs, Pandora, etc. We also have Echo so if I don’t want to go to the bother of all of that and would like to have something close at hand I plug in Alexa and let her play me some spa music or relaxation stations.
Second is Tactile. In one of the spaces I keep really soft towels. In another it is the coolness of the plastic wired chairs or the organic feel of the wicker. The shells or coral or any other items that you have decorated with will also get touched so you can add texture in those places that please the hands.
Third is Taste. Have a great pitcher and glasses for outdoor lemonade, champagne punch or infused waters. Keep some frozen appetizers on the ready for guests that just require a little warm up. Also have a few go to recipes for a quick boursin or salsa. I love Mrs. Wagers powder salsa packets. You can add fresh or canned tomatoes, give it a stir and in 10 minutes you have a scrumptious fresh made salsa for chips!
Fourth is Olfactory or Smell. I have lavender planted next to one of my seating areas. Near another is honeysuckle. If we are gathered around a fire pit, the burning logs will do the trick. Just consider what you could use that may be in your outdoor area to bring a pleasant aroma to the conversation place.
Last is Visual, but I think we probably covered that in the decor section. It doesn’t hurt to give it another once over. Visually what else could you add or take away to make the space inviting.
The main point of this article is to encourage you to intentionally make spaces and I do mean more than one where you will migrate to the outdoors for a drink and conversation. We tend to make everything beautiful and then we seldom use it. So my advice is:
Plan a party if you have to. Invite someone over for dinner but definitely try to incorporate your outdoor space into your daily life.