It’s that time of year again – time to dig out the patio furniture and get ready for warmer months. But, what’s that you found? A few torn folding chairs and a wobbly plastic table? It might be time to rethink your outdoor area.
The first step in redecorating your outdoor area is to assess the space. Larger areas will benefit from outdoor furniture that defines the space. Smaller spaces require a more refined approach.
Planning your outdoor space
First, decide whether you will be tackling the project yourself or if you will be hiring a designer. Both options have their upsides – DIY projects allow for a more hands-on approach, while hiring a professional can relieve some of the stress associated with larger projects.
Sarah Barnard, a Los Angeles-based designer at Sarah Barnard Design, recommends keeping three things in mind when choosing a designer for your outdoor project: portfolio, personality and references. All designers should present a portfolio of their work upon request. Be sure the designer’s experience complements your vision for the space. Just as importantly, if you find the designer’s personality off-putting, consider someone else. Additionally, ask for references and take the time to contact them.
“If any part doesn’t feel right, keep interviewing,” explains Barnard. “And remember that design fees are typically commensurate with experience, so while you may be able to find someone who promises to do the job for substantially less, this is usually an indicator of inexperience which can result in much larger problems once the project is in session.”
For DIYers, determine how the space will be used. If the area will be an extension of the dining room, plan for a table and chairs. Conversely, if the space will be used primarily for lounging or entertaining, outdoor sofas and loungers may be more practical.
Next, highlight your home’s best features, such as the exterior paint or architecture. This will help in determining the overall style to proceed with. “Give attention to the foundation of your outdoor experience before attempting to decorate with furniture and/or outdoor drapery,” says Barnard.
Large Outdoor Areas
Bringing the indoors out is what’s popular this spring. Everything from sofas to lighting to decorative accents are available for outdoor use. Larger outdoor areas make it easier to take advantage of the multitude of furniture options available. Dining sets like the Madison Outdoor Patio Furniture Collection Set provides a pop of color while allowing for maximum seating.
If you’re struggling with deciding where to place furniture, Jason Cameron, host of DIY Network’s “Desperate Landscapes”, recommends selecting a point of focus and building the outdoor living area from there.
“Start with a natural focal point, such as a healthy green lawn, large shade tree, or relaxing water feature,” he says. Define an entertainment area using the same principles you would if you were decorating your living room. Choose an outdoor sofa, loveseat, end tables and a cocktail table to create an outdoor living room feel.
Alternatively, sectionals create a clean, defined space and offer plenty of seating. Add an indoor/outdoor rug for a warm, welcoming feel.
Khoi Vo, principal of Khoi Vo Design, suggests incorporating water, fire and greenery to create the ultimate outdoor escape. “The sounds of a water feature drown out unwanted noise while helping you find your center,” he says. “A fireplace or fire source, especially during the night, helps to create a warm sense of place.” Greenery provides a sense of grounding, Vo adds.
Even if you don’t have acres of land to work with, you can still make the most of a small outdoor area, whether it’s a patio, rooftop deck or impossibly small balcony. Avoid overwhelming the limited space by only filling it with items you love, Barnard says. Choose streamlined items with slimmer-profiles so that your space feels less cluttered.
“Choose a few substantial elements to highlight and let everything else be a soft-spoken supporting player,” she adds. “Be careful to plan for negative, or empty, space in your design to maximize the illusion of visual expanse.”
Most importantly, the space doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be your own.