6 Outdoor Decorating Dilemmas Explained and Solved!

On the first official day of spring all I can think about is summer.  It’s been an unusually cold and snowy winter here. I can hardly wait until it’s warm enough to sit outside and lounge on my deck over looking the garden. I love to barbecue and entertain friends and family.  The whole point for having an outdoor living space is to spend time outdoors. The key to getting everyone outside is by creating an enticing and relaxing out door living area and in order to achieve that you must use the space effectively.  Start by examining your outdoor space and consider the next six outdoor decorating dilemmas.

ZONE THE SPACE

To create an outdoor space that feels like it has purpose, sometimes it helps to establish a kind of enclosure – a feeling of beginning and end. This lets people know that certain areas are for use, while others may be simply for show. For example, a seating area in your back yard can be given its own floor that sets it apart from the lawn.  Whether  you have a patio, deck, balcony or veranda the first step is to define the space by creating “imaginary” boarders.  If you really think about it, your outdoor living space is the ultimate in open concept living and if you want to have a cooking area, a dining area and a lounging area it’s best to contain each.  If landscaping the area is not an option, than define each space by adding an outdoor area rug, outdoor fabric drapes and my favorite – plants.  The space can also be defined by the type of furniture and how it’s configured in such a way that it’s corralled.

THE VIEW

When you are relaxing in your well defined outdoor living room what do you want to be looking at?  Think about that before you start your outdoor decorating adventure. Unfortunately we are not all blessed with greenbelts or mountain views.  If you’re not crazy about your backyard or don’t want to be gawked at by your neighbours (come on, we’ve all done it) than it’s perfectly OK to place the outdoor sectional or conversation set, as it’s known in the business, facing your house.  Placing the furniture so it faces the house isn’t ideal, but if it’s between looking at a fence or the house, I’ll take the house, at least I can see what the kids are up to through the patio doors.  What ever is the best view you can create make it worth looking at by adding plants, a piece of art or some kind of water feature.  Having a table top firepit  is another option when you’re really stuck for space and a view.  If you don’t have much of a  view and you don’t want to look at the brick wall  setup the conversation area in the shape of a “U”.  This  configuration encourages discussion and provides the best view – which is each other (no, not hokey, I really do mean it). Of course a garden view is more desirable or if facing west than you have a sunset to look forward to at the end of each day.  I think when you set up your outdoor living space and it’s just the way you want it, than it, in itself is a beautiful thing to look at!

LOW MAINTENANCE FURNISHINGS

Spending time outside doesn’t mean you have to forfeit your creature comforts. Turning a yard, patio, porch or other outdoor area into a functional living space can be a rewarding task, and will expand your living space to the outdoors. With the right furniture you can make your outdoor space comfortable, inviting and spend less time maintaining it.  When you want to pull off the patio furniture cover the last thing you want to see is RUST or shattered plastic.  There are ways to avoid disappointing crappy outdoor furnishings that you have no choice but to throw out.  I always say, it’s not about how much money you spend, it’s about the informed choices you make.  

No matter where you live moisture will attack outdoor furnishings.  Here’s a short list of product specifications to look for when selecting low maintenance outdoor furnishings.

1. Choose aluminum over powder coated steel furniture.  Aluminum resists outdoor elements far better than powder coated steel.  It doesn’t matter how many coats of color spray the factory adds to a steel base it will eventually rust.  Aluminum is not only a superior metal it’s also lighter.  If the product description doesn’t say it’s made of aluminum than assume it’s steel and the price difference is usually a give away.  Furniture made of aluminum is about 15% to 20%  more expensive so most mass retailers usually carry patio furniture made of steel.   Aluminum furniture is not only available in it’s natural form, it can also be powder coated for color.

2. Resin wicker is another weather wearing option and it has that traditional warmth people like.  Resin wicker has improved dramatically over the years, so much so, it’s difficult to tell the difference between real wicker and resin wicker.  Make sure the frame that supports the resin wicker is aluminum, not steel. Resin wicker wrapped planters are great too because they don’t react to water either, unlike thin plastic or worse, clay.

3. If you want to go natural wood is the way to go, specifically, Teak.  Aside from the beauty of the stream line grain Teak tree resin typically has an oil in its Galih (Cambium/heartwood) that is highly water resistant. This content alone can protect Teak from decay, insects, and bacteria.  Thumbs up for no staining or oiling!  Teak can be sealed if you want to maintain it’s original color, otherwise it develops a grey patina over time due to UV ray exposure.  Finally, from a design perspective Teak is timeless.

4. Iron has been utilized for outdoor furniture through out history which is why some people are so drawn to it’s traditional styling. Iron is a dark grey metal which can be categorized into two major materials wrought iron and cast iron.  Basically, wrought iron is sculpted by hand and cast iron is made with a mould, there’s a little bit more to it which involves chemistry so we are not going into that here.  Naturally, labour costs are high these days so typically you will find wrought iron pieces will cost more, if you can find them at all. The easiest way to tell if the piece is made of iron is by using a magnet.   Iron’s big down fall is rust, however, it will take years and years before rust breaks it down.  If you don’t like the rusty look than keep a can of rust inhibitor near by. Iron can easy be sanded and painted, but that takes work, which takes time away from relaxing.  Iron is heavy but you’ll never find it has blown away into the neighbour’s yard.

What ever material you choose include some deep cushion seating for comfort.  When selecting  outdoor cushions the fabric and fill are really important if you want them to last more than one year. This is one time when you want man-made materials like polyester or acrylic because these materials stand up to all sorts of weather.  I highly recommend the Sunbrella brand (this is not a promoted post) because their products have never let me down.  Sunbrella products stand up to pool water, sun and after a rain fall they dry quickly! No one wants to sit on soggy cushions.

DECORATE OUTDOORS

So far we’ve reviewed the building blocks for outdoor living rooms.  The outdoor area should be an extension of the rest of your indoor decor taken up a level. Outdoors, green is your working neutral pallet so add other colors such as blues, yellows, or pinks to make your decor pop.  In the style that best suits the extension of your indoor decor pull in some colorful outdoor cushions, umbrella and dramatic accessories. These types of items are just the vehicle that help accentuate your style.  Consider how planters, plant type and color feature in the decor style.

If you enjoy entertaining than take it into consideration when selecting outdoor decorating items.  For instance you might want to keep a coordinating motif or color on serving trays, bowls or pitchers. Additional seating in the form of stools or garden benches is always a good idea and a great way to further enhance your outdoor decor style.

Coordinate your front sitting area with the backyard that way when you need more seating it’s available at the front of the house.  It’s easier to move stuff around when you coordinate (not matchy matchy) all areas of your home.

LIGHT IT UP

Experiment with outdoor lighting.  Load up on outdoor string lights while they are on sale after the holidays and you’ll have great outdoor lighting all year.  Good outdoor lighting is a safety requirement but it also adds a magical essence during the evening. Play with lights along the fence, small lanterns hung on branches, solar lighting on decks and large lantern collections on the patio. Stringing lights under a large umbrella looks great too and now you can find LEDs with battery packs so you don’t even have to plug them in.  Light the path directing people to where you want them to go and surprise them with glowing table lights and patio lanterns above.  Can’t you just see it now. So fun!

I find nothing seems to bring people together like an outdoor fire. It’s mesmerizing.  Whether you choose a portable fire pit or a permanent stone built open fire, either way, the fire will become the focus. If you don’t want to draw the wrong crowd like the fire department, make sure fire safety comes first, always have the hose near by.

NEED PRIVACY? CREATE AN ENCLOSURE

When we set out to relax outdoors we may feel like we are living in a fish bowl.  This is when privacy becomes a priority in order to enjoy the great outdoors.  Using plants to create privacy is by far my favorite way to create my little hidden retreat. Instead of the typical wood trellis consider drapes as another way to add shade and privacy. Pergolas are also a popular choice for outdoor living spaces, since they provide a sense of enclosure that still feels wide open and lets in plenty of sunlight. Many people incorporate vines and other plants around the pergola posts.

With a few unique items to consider, decorating your outdoors is similar to decorating any other room in your home. I hope in a few weeks we’ll all be out there in our outdoor living rooms with Sangria in one hand and a good book in the other, until then, cheers!

outdoor conversation set relax and have some wine

BTW, that’s not me in the photo (I never wear khakis, it’s just one of those designer things), but one can dream.

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18 thoughts on “6 Outdoor Decorating Dilemmas Explained and Solved!

  1. You have some really wonderful ideas and the photos have me thinking about what I can do with my patio. I know I would spend a lot more time outdoors if I reated a private enclosure and set up some lighting like what you posted. I live in Florida with a pool I never used last year. This would get me out there and in it 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • We live outside Toronto and we have a pool too. We only get to use the pool for about 5 months, which I guess is why we really do use the pool. Wish I had your problem. 😉

  2. This post is wonderful! It made me miss my cousins in Greenville, South Carolina. They converted their in-ground pool to saltwater a few years ago and built cabanas and a fire pit and outdoor living spaces to surround it. SO beautiful. One day, when I own a home… 🙂

    • Wow, sounds great. We live just outside of Toronto and have a pool and since our pool season is 5 months at the most I can’t even imagine filling it in. Thanks for commenting! Let me know if you have any decorating questions. 🙂

  3. Not only are all the photographs fabulous for inspiration but you provide some really good advice and tips! We went with the newer wicker outdoor furniture last year and have been quite happy with it so far. I also never thought to go with wicker plant pots but you are absolutely right. Need to pin this so I can go back to your ideas and information! Well done! ~Thea

  4. Can’t WAIT to get back out into the backyard! I can’t even remember what my furniture looks like, it’s been so long 😦 Following you so I remember to check back here when my icebergs melt.

    • I know what you mean. I’ve major clean up to tackle in the yard before I can start decorating, but I can hardly wait. Hey I went on your site and gave you a stumble I love the tea bag and tea towel idea. I never thought about making my own tea bags, dah! 🙂

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