As the spring weather slowly warms up and freezing rain and snow appear to be left behind for the next few months, it is time to turn our attention to the upcoming season of road construction outdoor living. Designing spaces to live outside and revel in the warmer weather is even more important here in the northeast where we celebrate that we survived another winter and the gray, pre-spring months!
On my “must have” list for anyplace I live, is a slice of outdoor space. Whether you have a pocket sized balcony, a patio, a covered or screened porch, or a deck, make the most of it so you can enjoy the beauty of nature for a few months.
Arranging an outdoor space uses the same principals as arranging an indoor space – scale, color, and balance all apply. Here are a few key ingredients to keep in mind:
Start by creating a seating group of outdoor furniture…chairs, sofas, sectionals, gliders, swings, and hammocks are all fair game. The design options for this are endless; powder coated aluminum, wrought iron, teak, or all weather wicker are just a few, and, like any good room, the furniture design should complement the architecture. Outdoor cushions (and a place to store them if the space is open to the elements) and throw pillows can add more comfort, color, and softness. Anchor your seating group with an indoor/outdoor area rug in a size that ties the conversation group together, add umbrellas or awnings for shade or shelter as needed, and some well placed tables to set down drinks, snacks, or a good book.
If space allows, add some dining space for alfresco eating – this can be as simple as a bistro table and two chairs that do double duty with your seating group, or a full size dining table with chairs or benches. A bar cart type piece of outdoor furniture can be handy for serving food and drinks, and don’t forget to plan room for outdoor cooking with whatever budget and space allows - anything from a grill to an outdoor kitchen!
To extend the use of your outdoor space to after sunset, plan on appropriate lighting. Some options include wall sconces, embedded railing, wall, or stair lights, lamps or chandeliers in sheltered locations, or strings of festive outdoor patio lights overhead. Accent landscape lighting can be used to highlight garden features and provide a bit of ambient light as well. Lighting can be from candles, or electric or solar powered fixtures – just make sure any electric fixtures you use are rated for outdoor/damp locations – electrocuting yourself or your guests is less than ideal…
The thing that is best about an outdoor room, is the ability to easily include plants as part of the décor. I LOVE having pots and wall baskets overflowing with flowers, ivy, and herbs on my deck. Not only do they create a wonderful setting for the outdoor room, they provide fresh herbs for cooking just steps from my kitchen door! Container gardening is easy and generally earthworm and slithery creature-free. Vary the sizes and heights of your pots for interest and balance, group them into clusters, add wall baskets or window boxes, and hanging plants for more height variation. While variations in sizes or shapes of pots is desirable, some cohesiveness in material and style of pots is important. Pay attention to colors of pots and plantings to ensure that the garden elements of your space work with the other elements. Plan for a convenient water source as well - having a hose hookup installed on your deck or patio will make maintaining your plants a breeze.
your finished space with a few friends and some chilled beverages!