Let’s Take it Outside

Let’s Take it Outside

Walls, ceilings and other indoor structural elements provide design cues that can help guide choices when decorating a room. Not so much when it comes to designing outdoor space. There, inspiration must come from a thoughtful homeowner.

One popular strategy is to strive for a consistent look indoors and out, choosing the same colors and styles so one area joins almost seamlessly with the other. Plants are a good way to tie indoors and outdoors, says Chicago landscape designer Craig Jenkins-Sutton, owner of Topiarius.

Choosing a style of outdoor furniture that’s consistent with your interior furnishings helps, too.

“If you’ve got a contemporary home, try patio furniture with more geometric patterns and clean, simple lines. For the Victorian homes, you could go more billowy and lush,” Jenkins-Sutton says.

But everything doesn’t have to match perfectly. “For me, there are two primary strategies: monochromatic or contrast,” said Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design in Santa Monica, Calif.

For example, for outdoor living space near a garden with bright tropical plants – red, orange and yellow – choose complementary colors for furnishings and accessories – green, blue and purple – to create visual excitement.

Choose a monochromatic palette for a quieter, more restrained look. “I had a client with an aquamarine pool tile. Rather than find the obvious complementary color, like a yellow or green, we kept everything close to monochromatic, neutral creams and tans and lighter shades of that tile that were already in the landscape,” Barnard says.

Avoid Literalism

Whatever you do, don’t go too literal.

To make a man made pool and lawn area blend into the landscape, “Don’t try to make the pool look like a pond and the lawn look like a valley,” says Dennis Stevens of Lindeman/Stevens Landscape Designs in Los Angeles.

Choose “woodsy” furniture and accessories that downplay man made elements, Stevens says.

Custom furniture is ideal for creating a look uniquely suited to an individual space. If your budget won’t stretch that far, there are lots of tricks to cut costs, Barnard says. For example, put higher-end, weatherproof fabric on low-cost outdoor furniture, or splurge on high-quality throw pillows and other accessories to dress up an ordinary patio set.

Even something as simple as interesting place mats and dishes can give a plain table a cheap makeover.

Remember, plants and landscaping are as much a part of outdoor design as furniture. Springing for exotic flowers, shrubs and trees in key spots can make a big difference.


Photos courtesy of Topiarius

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