How to Improve Your Outdoor Lifestyle
The kids may be heading back to school, but we still have many weeks left to enjoy the outdoors here in the Midwest. What do you need to improve your outdoor lifestyle? Do you have enough chairs and are they comfortable? Is your dining table big enough? Do you have a big umbrella for shade and enough drinks tables? Maybe a new fire pit would be welcome as we transition into the chillier temperatures of fall. And how about improving your outdoor lighting?
I am a huge fan of spending time outside with my family. That that includes barbecues, hanging out with my best friend, Dreamy Pie, reading in a big, cushy lawn chair and gathering friends together for a refreshing gin and tonic, with a lime twist! Because I like to be as comfortable in my backyard as I am in my home, I put as much planning into my outdoor furnishings as my indoor design.
Today the “buzz” about backyards is to make them an extension of your interior design style.The exterior represents you, and it should mirror your personality as much as the interior does. In the photo above, an expansive pool with mosaic tile exterior is the centerpiece of these clients’ terraced back yard. The whimsical cup chairs I selected are constructed of durable glass fiber reinforced concrete and perfectly placed for poolside people watching.
Issues to Consider When Planning an Outdoor Space
Whether you are adding furniture or starting fresh outdoors, there are a number of key design issues I always consider:
- What do you and your family and friends like to do in the backyard? If you enjoy stretching out for a nap or to read, you will need a sofa large enough that your feet don’t hang off the end. If you want to chat with friends, include a conversation grouping with tables for snacks and beverages, sunglasses and electronics. Umbrellas are important if there isn’t enough shade, and a fire pit is always a plus. It generates warmth and is an inviting focal point for chatting and make s’mores.
- How large is your space? I can’t overstate the importance of scale. Too often I see oversized outdoor furniture in a small space or undersized pieces in a large space. I wouldn’t put a tiny sofa in a huge great room, and I don’t do that on patios and terraces, either.
- Layout and traffic flow. Leaving enough space so that people can easily get in and out of the space and walk between pieces is important, especially if people are carrying a beverage. It is also critical to provide easy access in and out of the house.
- How much seating do you need? Think about how you use your outdoor space and who uses it.
- As the days get shorter, lighting becomes more important. It adds atmosphere, curb appeal, creates a unified look and improves safety and security. I divide outdoor lighting into three categories: ambient, task and accent. Options include ceiling fixtures (if you have a covered patio) and wall or post lights, hanging lights and under-lighting for steps.
Choosing Durable Pieces
Once I create the plan, I consider specific styles and materials. Choosing pieces for your backyard can be a bigger challenge than for your interior because the items must withstand the elements. One of my go-to materials for outdoor furniture is glass reinforced concrete (GFRC). Surprised? Most people don’t think of concrete as being aesthetically pleasing, but GFRC is changing that mindset. Just check out the cocktail tables in the photo above! I chose a trio of industrial-chic, gear-shaped tables made of GFRC. The tables can be fitted together to form a larger cocktail table or pulled apart as I did for individual drinks tables. My clients love the combination of futuristic technology and nineteenth century design.
GFRC’s strength comes from the interaction of the glass fibers and concrete. Those two elements combine to make the material stronger than its component parts. GFRC also is weather- and crack-resistant and is considered one of the longest-lasting materials on the planet. Surprisingly, this material is exceptionally lightweight. Glass fiber reinforced concrete can weigh 75 percent less than traditional concrete, That makes it a versatile material that also is easier to ship and install. You can learn more here: BenefitsofGFRC.
Another key player in the vignette above is texture, from the stone exterior walls to the woven chairs and the more subtle weave of the cushions. A durable outdoor rug anchors the space and adds to the feeling that this could be an indoor grouping.
Choosing Color Palette and Textures
To ensure the flow of the home from indoors to outdoors, I continue the same color palette and style of the home, but I may change up the accent color. For this client, above, I chose neutral tones with bright blue accents that pull together the pool and the “dry” areas. All of the pieces are fairly low-profile so they don’t interview with the open landscape.
Because they entertain large groups, my clients wanted extensive, comfortable seating options on their terraced patio. On this level, the chairs and sofa can accommodate seven or eight people beneath the shade cast by the over-sized umbrella. To round out the space, a handmade, glazed ceramic accent table stands ready for a book or electronic gear.
Feeling inspired? Please contact me to learn more. And to see all of the photos from this whole-house project, visit my portfolio here: RedefiningTexasLiving.