“It’s all in the details…. designing your Outdoor Spaces to become Outdoor Living Rooms”.

by Erin Paige Pitts

As the warm weather approaches, we turn our attention to our yards, gardens and outdoor spaces.  When planning your spring garden, ordering your seeds and plants….  Include your “outdoor spaces” in your planning.  You can take existing outdoor spaces (I.e. Porches, decks, verandas..) and turn them into “Outdoor living Rooms”, rooms equally as comfortably furnished and aesthetically pleasing as any interior room. 

Designing Outdoor Rooms doesn’t require a different skill set from designing regular interior spaces however, it does require the knowledge of products, finishes and materials that can look beautiful, be comfortable, and withstand the elements of wind, water and sun.

Let’s take the typical interior and break it into parts and compare it to how you would design an Outdoor Room of equal design. 

The first thing that every Interior room has and not all exterior rooms have is a sense of structure.  People like structure.  It gives them intimacy and a sense of scale to relate to.  Some ways to incorporate structure onto your outdoor spaces would be to build pergolas, add columns, lattice, even large planters with trees or tall plants. (Images).  Options for adding something overhead to protect you from the elements are retractable awing or adding greenhouse glass atop your pergola. 

The second thing that help makes outdoor spaces become an Outdoor room is comfortable furniture.  The options in outdoor furniture are vast and meet every design style and functional requirement.  Some options are teak, synthetic resin rattan, aluminum, cast, and more recently fully upholstered lounge product. Keep in mind how you intend to use the outdoor space, and plan accordingly.  Also, allowing the spaces to have multi-functions will make them more useful to you and your guests.  Depending on the size of your space, incorporating a mix of lounge chairs, and dining height tables and seating allow for outdoor meals, games or an impromptu office space.

Equally important is the outdoor fabric you choose for your cushions and upholstered furniture. This is where the options explode.  There is virtually an outdoor fabric equivalent for every indoor fabric.  There are your standard twills, terry cloth, patterns to name just few. There is also a vast range of price points associated with outdoor fabric.  Sunbrella, the name mostly associated with outdoor fabrics uses proprietary polymer chemistry to every step of the production process – fiber formation, yarn manufacturing, weaving and finishing.  In recent years, many other fabric companies have introduced outdoor or performance fabrics.  Some of the more design oriented fabric companies are Perennials Fabrics, Ralph Lauren, etc…

The fourth element is floor coverings.  Adding an outdoor rug to your outdoor room is not only soft, warm and forgiving to bare feet; it also helps define the space.  Just like you would use an area rug over your hardwood floors in your interior living room, you should likewise use a rug outdoors. The most durable material for outdoor rugs is polypropylene. Polypropylene can take a ton of wear and tear, does not absorb water or moisture, it is highly stain and fade resistant and can be scrubbed down to clean.  Some of the outdoor rug lines I like to use when designing Outdoor Rooms are Dash and Albert and Stanton carpet’s “Anywhere” and “Bella” Collections.  (images)

The fifth element is draperies, or as referred to when they are outdoors “Cabana Draperies”.  Cabana draperies can also help define your outdoor room and add a bit of sophistication at the same time.   You can use any outdoor fabric for your Cabana draperies but make sure you use drapery hardware that is suited for outdoor use.  You can hang your draperies from the underside of your pergola or deck.  They need only be one width of fabric (unless you plan to close them, in that case you may need more) and they should have a good solid anchored tie back to keep them from blowing in the wind of summer thunderstorms.  (images)

The sixth element is lighting; candle lighting, solar or electrified lighting.  When the sun goes down, you will still want to use your outdoor spaces so make sure they are properly lit.  There is nothing more ambient than the light produced by candles so, fill your space with hurricanes and lanterns. I love largely scaled lanterns that allow for several pillar candles at once- the more the better.  Over your seating grouping or dining table hang an outdoor rated pendant or chandelier. Adding various lighting types will make your space feel complete. Another clever lighting option is Soji Lanterns and Soji string lights.  They are elegant solar powered lights that provide an ambient glow to your outdoor living area day in and day out. Because they are solar powered, there is no hassle with power cords and cables. Solar cells collect sunlight during the day to power the lantern during the night. 

Now is the time to start this planning before the season is upon us!  Good planning will result in a beautifully executed Outdoor room that you will enjoy for years to come!  If you need help creating the outdoor room of your dreams, feel free to email me at erin@erinpaigepittsinteriors.com or www.erinpaigepittsinteriors.com