How to decorate your patio, porch and other outdoor spaces
After stay-at-home orders took effect last year, homeowners began heading to their patios, porches, backyards and balconies — any place they could expand their living space while enjoying the fresh air and privacy. As a result, outdoor spaces became oases – gardens were planted, hammocks were hung, and patio furniture was installed to mimic the look of interior rooms.
“It was the year of the outdoors, and I’m sure it will continue into 2021,” says Mary Maydan, director of Maydan Architects in Palo Alto, California. “In a way, COVID has changed outdoor living. … Everyone notices how much they want their outdoors to be attractive and connected. indoors have moved outdoors. With restaurants limiting indoor dining and many entertainment venues closed, “the backyard is now a way to ‘get out.'”
Tara L. Paige, a mother of two living in Dallas, says when the pandemic hit, her attention immediately swung outward, in part because she needed a break from not having his entire family at home 24 hours a day. “With everything shut down, I decided to tackle the patio as a way out of our own four walls.”
Refreshing her outdoor space was something she intended to do, but she never seemed to get the chance — until the pandemic gave her the time. “We bought our 9-acre forever home last year, in part because it had a nice front porch, side patio, and back patio,” she says. “So I had all the time in the world to make the most of it.”
In April 2020, Paige’s new hobby inspired her to start the Black women who love outdoor living spaces Facebook group as a way to document her progress and connect with like-minded women. Within just a few months, the page had over 200,000 followers. Shortly after, she launches The chic patio, a website where she and other outdoor enthusiasts share makeover and DIY projects for their balconies, patios, sheds and other outdoor spaces.
Paige’s first “pandemic project” involved spray painting an old patio set and adding new throw pillows. “A can of spray paint is like pixie dust for DIYers,” she says. “You can spray paint something and give it a whole new look even if you don’t want to go through the sanding and scraping process. It’s easy.”
The key to making the most of any outdoor space, she says, is making it feel like home. “Think of an outdoor living room the same way you think of your indoor spaces,” says Paige. From the pillows to the lighting, it’s the details that make the space cozy. “Even indoor pillows can be sprayed with Scotchgard, so they become water resistant. Just be sure to turn the cushions regularly to prevent nesting and discoloration (of insects).
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She also recommends anchoring your outdoor living room or dining area with an area rug, just like you would indoors. “I’m not a fan of plastic mats because they’re so light the wind blows them away, so I use a regular mat and just spray it” with a fabric protectant.
Having the right lighting is also important. “It really sets the mood,” Paige says. “I’m a big fan of solar lighting because it gives the right amount of glow at night so you can still see people and move around. I even have a solar chandelier hanging from a tree above my outdoor table.
Another easy way to take your outdoor space to the next level is to think about the sounds you’d like to hear when you’re outdoors. Consider adding a soothing water feature like a fountain. “It’s a pretty inexpensive way to add another layer to your outdoor space,” says Paige. For lovers of podcasts and music, outdoor speakers with Bluetooth technology make it easy to listen outside.
As important as simple changes can be, some homeowners have chosen to tackle larger projects that require construction. Among the most popular are outdoor kitchens. “We’re not just talking about space for grilling, but also space for a sink and stove, basically everything but a dishwasher,” Maydan explains. “It’s like people are thinking about how to spend their whole lives outdoors.”
Gardens and greenhouses have also grown in popularity, with some retailers seeing record sales last year. This is not the first time that Americans have turned to Mother Earth to help them through a crisis. During World War I and World War II, the “Gardens of Victory” grew because of food shortages. Today, the pandemic has transformed the farm-to-table movement into a yard-to-table movement, with vegetable gardens sprouting up all over backyards. “It’s a way to connect with nature, to be creative, and to deal with stress too,” says Paige. Gardening is also a great activity for all ages, providing a way to bond with loved ones.
For those who live in areas with a wide range of temperatures, greenhouses allow for year-round gardening. “People see them as a warm place, so why not create a heated seating area for you to hang out in during the winter,” says Maydan.
Record sales of patio heaters and fire pits mean more people than ever are enjoying the night sky. “One thing I like to do is create multiple zones for different activities, so you could have a sitting area with a fire pit for s’mores in one corner and a reading nook or a spot for stargazing in another. “, explains Paige.
Wherever you have seating areas, Maydan says it’s important to have easy access to them. “Try to use stepping stones to make a path,” she says.
When it comes to adding trees, shrubs, and flowers, “look at areas where you might want year-round privacy or shade and plant accordingly. That way, you’ll always have privacy, comfort and something beautiful to look at.
Whether you decide to make big changes, small ones, or something in between, there’s never been a better time to get the most out of your outdoors.
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