May 23, 2013

Outdoor rooms!

t's time to set up your porch, patio, or outdoor space to enjoy warm days and balmy evenings! Your outdoor space can give your home another place to entertain and a living space with a different feel.  Here are  5 of my favorite ideas to set up a space that can take you right through fall.

1) Create a boundary.  Carve out a space from the rest of your yard. Use potted plants as a divider...larger plants or those on trellises create the illusion of walls. I Hang a sail cloth 'roof' and outdoor drapes; a trellis will give the appearance of a doorway! Trees and plants can serve as your boundary and be enhanced with LED string lights.  Define the seating area with a hardscape material like gravel, pavers, or a rock border, or simply lay down an outdoor area rug. Many stores sell easy-to-assemble decking that locks together creating a patio. Using polypropylene rugs is ideal for outdoors, but a covered area can tolerate sisal, cotton or other blends. Umbrellas are handy 'roofs' and also serve as a place to hang lights.

2) Add light. Iron stakes with candles under glass holders, torch-type lanterns, and hanging candle lanterns are all easy to find and use. String lights can be hung from trees, the trellis, or even from yard stakes and install quickly to provide instant, warm light. If you have a structure, consider installing an outdoor rated fixture or even a hanging candelabra. For tabletops and to light the paths, use hurricanes with real or flame-less candles, candles in jelly jars, and floating candles in dishes.  Consider safety first in what you choose.  

3) Furnish wisely but be creative.  An open-air space needs furniture that will stand up to sun and showers. For long-lasting pieces that you will use for many years, teak, all weather wicker, and aluminum are available in many styles and price points.  For a great DIY piece, use a planter as table bases and glass or even a concrete paver as the top. A granite remnant makes a durable top for a chest-turned-server.  Benches are ideal to mix into the seating, and can provide storage for cushions.  Trays on stands are easy to set up and look inviting with a pitcher and glasses.

4) Soften it.  Using fabric - pillows and seat cushions - will make the space cozy, even if you opt for plastic stackable chairs. Sun resistant fabrics are easy to find in ready-made cushions and pillows. Handy at sewing? Your fabric options are almost endless and you can customize the style and patterns. Use tablecloths and colorful napkins to dress your table; cotton is easy to wash.  The sight of a covered table is inviting and you can customize with fabric remnants, layered or used one at a time. Skirt a bench for a dressy look. Hang drapes where you can. Polyester sheers are inexpensive, and even if they are used in a non-covered area, may be able to be washed and re-used. On partially covered patios and balconies, I use cotton or cotton-linen panels that are easily taken down at the end of the season and used for years. I always add a throw for cooler nights.  There are easy care, luxurious blends at!

5)   Bring on the decor. Add decorative elements as though designing an indoor room. Hang elements on a wall, from a tree, or even from a stake.  Glass hurricanes look wonderful filled with shells, plants, or just candles. Ceramic bowls, vases and planters will make the space look finished and may also be used for food, flowers or just decoratively.  Tables look great with centerpieces so be creative in what you use. I have a plant stand that I layer with plates, and fill the plates with seashells, candles, or plants. Baskets work well to store items like extra pillows, a throw, or magazines and books. I have a lidded basket that's large enough for seating, and topped with a pillow, becomes an extra seat.