Creating Outdoor Spaces

It must be my Midwest roots, but as far as I am concerned one of the simplest pleasures in life is sitting outside. My cool glass of iced tea in hand, I am transported to another time listening to the wind whistle through the trees, the songs of the birds, with my golden retriever at my feet.

Do you have an outdoor space that is comfortable, functional and calling to you to sit and relax? It doesn’t take much space or time to create a great outdoor space. As a matter of fact, a small nook, porch or deck is easy to transform into a personal outdoor paradise.

Start with taking inventory of what you have inside and outside – Distressed wicker, wood and iron furniture look great outside. Do you have an old bakers rack you aren’t using anymore? If the pieces you select don’t have unity, consider spray painting a few of them to tie in the look. Here is a great article on reusing, repainting, and restyling furniture from home, garage sales and flea market finds.

Layout your furniture so conversation is easy when you might have a guest or two. Place tables so every seat has a place for a book or beverage. If you have a few like items and some mismatched items, separate the pairs to bring together the overall composition. Experiment with more than one layout – even design professionals don’t always like their first floor plan.

Consider options for shade – If the area isn’t shaded or covered, consider an umbrella and/or panels made of outdoor fabric. A shaded area can bring the hot summer temperature down as much as 15 degrees, making your outdoor space bearable when temperatures soar.

Adding life to your oasis – Potted plants are a must for an outdoor living area. To create potted creations that look like the pros, consider scale, color and texture. Potted plants that you are planning to place on the ground should be large in scale. If you do want to place them at floor level create a tiered effect with other pots. Think in odd numbers. Leave the smaller pots for your table tops. Your overall color scheme should be consistent in the plants and flowers you select, but do vary the color saturation particularly in the foilage. Also, remember to vary the leaf sizes, textures and height of the plants. If you are lacking inspiration, I love the artistry of the potted plants at Al’s Garden Center. Spend an hour or so walking the potted section of the nursery and borrow some ideas from the pros. I would also recommend paying attention to perrenials versus annuals. The potted plants on my covered deck come back year after year. It is a less expensive and a greener way to grow. If you get busy like I do, consider an irrigation drip system. It is also kinder to the environment and low maintenance.

Bring in indoor design elements – Consider a sisal or bamboo area rug to ground and define the space. Is there a place to hang wall art and create a focal wall? Set up a small water fountain to add a soft sound element to the space, and consider artwork that works with the spaces style and will wear in outdoor elements. Next, look for outdoor pillows and cushions to balance the color and add comfort to the space. Outdoor fabrics are outstanding these days.

Planning for evening – To plan for evening gatherings in your space, consider (you guessed it) lighting. If you already have an overhead fixture, install a dimmer on the switch. Home Depot has dimmer switch options from Lutron starting at $20. Ceiling fans with outdoor lights are functional in the daytime and nighttime. (Lamps Plus alone has over 100 outdoor use ceiling fans with light kits.) Candle chandeliers on a pulley system make a great statement and beckon visitors too. Uplights placed strategically will shine through your potted plants or trees and dance light on a wall or structure. Bring in candle lanterns, tea lights in groups, and hurricane vases. I recommend at least three light sources, even for small spaces.

Follow these steps, and create another ‘room’ in your Portland home worthy of entertaining – at least two months out of the year.

Incidentally, I wrote this post on my laptop’s wireless connection this morning while lounging in my little outdoor space.

I’ve enclosed a picture of my golden retreiver Kashmir, enjoying the weekend with me.

Angela Todd Studios For Custom Furnishings

Angela Todd

Owner & Principal Designer

Angela is the principal designer at her boutique interior design firm in Portland, Oregon. She is known for creating memorable backdrops that tell the story of fascinating and intricate lives.

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