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    When it comes to outdoor furnishings, look for all-weather materials and fabrics. Photo Credit: Sunbrella® Fabrics

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    When designing your outdoor space, take into account all surfaces, including brick, stone, grass, plantings, fabric, wood and metal. Photo Credit: Sunbrella® Fabrics

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When designing your outdoor space, take into account all surfaces, including brick, stone, grass, plantings, fabric, wood and metal. Photo Credit: Sunbrella® Fabrics


Beyond the Grill and Lawn Chair

“The concept of the outdoor kitchen has drastically changed our thinking about outdoor spaces and the old patio grill,” says Winston-Salem, N.C., interior designer Martha Lowry. “Outdoor kitchens now rival home kitchens in terms of design, function and cost with refrigerators, elaborate grills and cook tops, ovens and bars.”

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  • Outdoor Oasis

    Creating your dream outdoor living space is easier than you think.

    by Cindy Hodnett

    Outdoor living—it’s one of today’s hottest design trends. And deservedly so. What could be more fun than extending your living space into your backyard (or front) and giving it a refreshing new look?

    Embracing a concept that has long been part of the European lifestyle, Americans are investing in furnishings for patios, porches and poolsides to create outdoor living and dining areas for family and friends. New innovative products and features are recreating this definition of “outdoor oasis” and blending functionality and style in weather-friendly package. Find out how you can incorporate these looks and concepts into your very own outdoor haven.


    Create a Plan

    Designing your dream outdoor space starts with a thorough analysis of your needs. Ask yourself how you plan to use the area: Are you planning to entertain? How much seating do you need? Are you looking for a quiet, contemplative atmosphere, or do you expect children and pets to be sharing the space? How many months of the year do you hope to utilize the space? Understanding your needs for the space will help you determine what it looks like and how it functions.


    Essential Design Elements


    “First, look for all-weather materials, woods like teak and cypress and metal pieces with powder-coated or baked finishes,” says Winston-Salem, N.C., interior designer Martha Lowry. “Fabrics made for outdoor use, like Sunbrella® and other synthetics, are now available in many patterns and wonderful colors, and companies have improved their manufacturing processes so the fabrics have a great feel.”


    “Lightweight planters that are made of polyurethane and molded into designs are great to add, as are terracotta pots and fountains with fired glazes,” Lowry continues. “Outdoor rugs and paintings have also come on strong, along with accent lighting and lighting for pathways and seating areas.”


    Outdoor spaces give you the chance to step outside your home décor comfort zone. You can use colors and patterns that are bolder or brighter than you normally choose for decorating.


    Try incorporating a theme for a cohesive look. Get an island-look with flowering tropical plants and foliage-print fabrics. Choose rich and earthy jewel tones and go wild with outdoor lighting for a sophisticated Moroccan theme. Or explore your classic side with a garden party look executed with wrought iron, climbing roses and shaped topiaries.


    “A mix of textures is a must,” says Lowry. “Take into account all surfaces, including brick, stone, grass, plantings, fabric, wood and metal. Comfortable seating grouped for conversation is a must, and don’t forget some tables for drinks or plants. Draping spaces with sheer fabrics gives the area a private cabana feel, and water elements are a nice touch, from patio fountains to fish ponds and streams. The sound of water creates a soothing and cooling effect.”           


    “Climbing plants like clematis or roses make great adornment for ordinary fencing and add a softening texture and shape to wood or metal,” Lowry continues. “Nature is a great inspiration and resource for creative ideas.

    Visual Cues

    “Keep outdoor spaces clean,” Lowry concludes. “Nothing is less inviting than dirty, rusty, buggy spaces. Pay attention to how the eye moves through a space; variation will help pull the eye through and give the sense of visual interest.”


    Lowry says that the evolution of outdoor living areas has prompted many homeowners to look at their outdoor spaces in a new way. She adds that imagination and a bit of elbow grease can help anyone create an outdoor oasis that matches their lifestyle.