6 Smart Strategies for Designing an Outdoor Space That Works Best for You

Even for the most savvy interior decorators, creating a well-appointed outdoor space can be a challenge. It’s often an undefined space with no walls or rigid boundaries, and the design has to contend with the elements (not to mention birds and insects). That’s a lot to consider.

But the key to designing a successful outdoor space, according to the interior designer Diana Apgar of Decorate the interiors of the dena network of individually owned and operated interior design franchises across the United States and Canada, is actually quite simple: approach it the same way you would any room in your home. the House.

This means considering your wants and needs for the space, sketching out a floor plan, and choosing a color scheme and style that complements adjacent spaces. In this case, it would be the exterior of a house and the surrounding landscape.

But one person’s dream garden may be another’s nightmare. To make sure yours is truly an oasis for you, the most important factor to consider is usage. Whether you plan to host weekly social distancing dinner parties or want to start a vegetable garden, here’s what to keep in mind when building your outdoor space.

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For the facilitator

outdoor kitchen

Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Designer: Cassy Young.

Seating is the most important ingredient when it comes to creating a comfortable place to entertain (a host’s best tip is to seemingly create extra chairs from scratch). Consider how often you plan to invite people over and how many seats you’ll need, and whether you’ll gather around a dining table, fire pit, or in a more relaxed living room.

Dee Frazier, who also works with Decorating Den Interiors, says to also consider what your usual group looks like. “Is it a couple? Two pairs? Two families?

She also suggests thinking about how furniture can be shared between different spaces. For example, borrow seats around the pool for an evening by the fireplace or choose dining chairs that will look good next to the sofa. Frazier also advises regular performers to opt for small tables and chairs that can be taken out when needed, then stacked and tucked away when not (although this does require storage).

diane agpar
Use zones to differentiate areas, such as separating a kitchen and dining room from a living room.

Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Creator: Diana Apgar.

Additionally, Apgar recommends using zones to differentiate between zones. Maybe an elevated deck is where you have the grill and dining table, but a few steps lead up to a stone patio with a bar. A small change in elevation can create the feeling of an entirely different room.

For the growing family


Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Creator: Kristen Pawlak.

When designing for a family, Frazier first considers the ages of the children. Then it’s about how the outdoor space will evolve as they grow (and as their parents’ need to watch them evolves).

Frazier recommends using different furniture configurations to accommodate parent-only, family-only, or kid-only activities. It could look like a cooking area with a grill, which is adjacent to a living room, which leads to the lawn and the swing.

If the family must be out at night, make sure each area has the proper lighting. Use landscape lights to mark the perimeter of walkways and patios, and add a pendant or table lamp above a dining table. In the yard, you can light up the trees and hang sturdy string lights (use poles to elevate the strands) instead of a functional but tough spotlight.

Apgar generally recommends a sectional sofa for families because it provides enough space for everyone to spread out, and the modular varieties can be rearranged and moved around as needed. Choose durable materials suitable for children.

“Go for convenience and coziness,” she says. “You don’t want something that could hurt someone – a wicker can be very sharp.”

For the gardener

square foot gardening by planting flowers, herbs and vegetables in a wooden box on a balcony

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Plants are crucial for any outdoor space, but if you want to make them the focal point, just throwing a few heirloom tomato plants in the ground isn’t enough.

While understanding the light conditions and maintenance required by something like a vegetable garden is obviously key to a successful harvest, you need to start with the square footage.

Frazier, an avid home gardener, says that even if you don’t have the land to accommodate a mini-farm, “there are always places where you can put planters. Just be creative. »

Consider a container garden along the side of the house or place a few tiered planters on the sunniest side of the porch. Work with existing structures and furniture and fill dead spaces with plants: add hanging baskets to a porch railing or plant flowering vines near a pergola.

All gardeners will need a place to store their supplies, which could be as simple as a potting table with a shelf and hooks or, for larger spaces, a small shed tucked into the corner of the yard.

For the budget conscious


Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Creator: Nancy Lucas.

If cost is a concern, Apgar and Frazier agree that the top priority should be high-quality furniture. “A lot of people don’t want to spend a lot of money on outdoor pieces, but you have to because they fall apart so easily when exposed to the elements,” says Apgar.

Frazier encourages customers to consider how and where parts are made, what the materials are (teak, stone, and galvanized metal are good choices), and what can be replaced or repaired if needed. To protect your investment, always use furniture covers, coasters and placemats.

“If you’re paying a decent price for custom parts, cover them when not in use,” says Apgar. “Even if your table has a durable finish, lay something down to protect it.” Outdoor fabric can take a lot, she says, but no one wants their new dining chairs stained with bird droppings or mildew.

If cost is a concern, the top priority should be high quality furniture.

For other economical decor, use potted plants on built-in garden beds, add throw pillows with washable covers, and scour flea markets or vintage stores for tin signs or oversized empty frames that can be hung from a fence without worrying about the elements. . And always hang a strand or two of fairy lights – it’s the fastest and cheapest way to add ambiance and make a space feel elevated.

For a small space


Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Designer: Suzan Wemlinger & Lisa Gramoll.

When real estate is limited, balancing how the space will be used with what will actually fit is paramount. Frazier says to always take measurements of a small area you want to furnish to avoid disappointment.

Start with your biggest piece of furniture you can’t live without, then see what fits. For example, if you add a six-person dining table, you find that you don’t have room for an herb garden along the wall. Or you may have to sacrifice the lounge chair if you also want a bar top and room to grill.

At a bare minimum, aim for at least two seats and a surface to put drinks on. Whether it’s a bistro table or a drum stool that doubles as extra seating is up to you, but as Apgar says, “when people are sitting outside , they probably enjoy a drink of some kind, whether it’s an adult or a child. kind.”

Apgar also recommends laying down an outdoor rug, especially if you’re working with a concrete balcony or patio. “It defines the area and brings color and pattern,” she says.

For use in four seasons


Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Designer: Barbara Elliott and Jennifer Ward-Woods.

No one wants to shut off an entire room in their home for one season, but few parts of the country enjoy a temperate climate that allows for indoor and outdoor living all year round. The solution? Adapt your space to the climate you are in.

Most features designed to protect elements can be easily incorporated into any design scheme. Apgar’s favorite trick is to install outdoor curtains. These can be used on a patio or pergola to block the sun, keep out the rain, keep the heat in, or keep insects out. “Curtains define the space, while adding privacy, sun protection, and color,” she says.

dee frazier
A shade source is important if you live in a place that gets hot.

Photo: Decorating Den interiors. Creator: Dee Frazier.

Colder climates will want a heat source – a fire pit or chimney is most common, but you can also mount heaters outside the house or on the roof of your porch, or place an umbrella heat lamp in the middle from your patio.

Where temperatures often exceed 100, a source of shade is most important. If you don’t have a covered patio or outdoor structure like a gazebo, opt for umbrellas, and the bigger the better. In buggy climates, a screened area is a must for Frazier.

“But often, all you need is a roof overhang,” says the Texas-based designer. “There’s nothing quite like watching a good thunderstorm from the porch.”

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