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HomeHomes
Published: Wednesday, 4/26/2006

Backyard rooms can be cozy and useful

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their outdoor living space, says television host Susie Coelho, is not filling it with enough stuff.

In her HGTV show Outer Spaces, Coelho performs outdoor-room makeovers, creating everything from a South Seas oasis to a prairie-themed back yard.

Leaving enough room for flow is important, she says. But if you fill the patio with a lot of items, you will feel like you re in your living room indoors. You want the outdoors to be styled with the same amount of effort as the indoors.

It s amazing what you can fit.

People used to be satisfied with a table and chairs and some potted plants on the patio. Now they want outdoor living rooms, soothing spaces that are fully accessorized and themed.

Cozy and comfortable, that s what people are after, said Julie Bull of Sterling Garden Center in Columbia, S.C.

For interior designer Laurin Johnson, the outside living area in her back yard is as important as the inside one.

An outside room needs to feel just as warm as an inside room, she said. When you come out here, you re away from the rest of the world.

Over the back patio of her home, she built a roof with rafters held up by columns at the two far corners. A ceiling fan stirs the air above a seating area; outdoor drapes soften the windows to the indoors.

The seating area includes a settee and three chairs with cushions covered in outdoor fabric. The pillows, however, are covered in indoor fabrics.

You don t have to use all outdoor fabrics. These have been out here for years, she said of the pillows.

At the back of the garden hangs a large mirror, with candles sitting on the bottom ledge.

Every garden needs a surprise -- something you don t see the minute you walk into the garden, Johnson said.

Outdoor throw pillows

Why they work: Pillows allow you to bring colors and textures into a room easily and inexpensively.

Where they work: A few throw pillows can be placed on a sofa, bench or chair.

Best bets: Outdoor fabrics such as Sunbrella won t mildew or fade.

Make note: If the pillows aren t made for the outdoors, they ll fade in the sun. But you can pick up pillows for $10 apiece. If you get a season of enjoyment out of one, your money will be well spent. Or, take the pillows inside when the rain (or pollen) falls.

Check this out: The Cypress Striped Pillow in Sunbrella acrylic fabric and a Scotchguard finish from Crate and Barrel is $29.95. Inexpensive throw pillows can be found at discount stores.

Rugs

Why they work: Rugs can define the area of an outdoor room along with pulling the look together.

Where they work: On decks or patios beneath seating areas

Check this out: Many companies make outdoor rugs of polypropylene that stand up great to the elements and look like indoor rugs.

Make note: Sisal or jute rugs are popular choices for outdoors. If they are in a protected area, they will last for several seasons. If a rug gets wet, shake it out and hang to dry.

One-of-a-kind pieces

Why they work: Just as in your indoor living room, unusual pieces and accessories are what transform an outdoor space into a real outdoor room.

Where they work: Think about how you arrange pieces in your house and let your imagination go outdoors. Think trunks, stacked vintage suitcases, baker s racks, old bathtubs ...

Best bets: Ironworks -- from garden art to statues on a side table -- hold up great in the elements.

Make note: Some items -- such as baker s racks treated for outdoor use -- will be able to withstand the elements. If not, drag them back into the garage when the party s over or rain is expected.

For unexpected touches, use items such as willow fencing hung as blinds to add shade; or burlap for table covers.

Lamps

Why they work: Candles are perfect, but they aren t the only way to light up the room. A table or standing lamp can cozy up an outdoor seating arrangement.

Where they work: Use lamps on side tables or serving tables. Standing lamps also work well anywhere. A special, whimsical shade can add a burst of color or be a conversation starter.

Best bets: Be sure the lamps you use are recommended for outdoor use. Some are recommended for partly enclosed environments -- meaning they can be used outdoors on a porch or covered patio.

Make note: Many companies sell lamps that look as if they belong indoors yet are made to handle the weather.

Some, such as the Camille by Shady Lady ($320), are recommended for partly enclosed environments and are U.L. listed as suitable for wet locations. Or you can opt for outdoor lamps that look like streetlights. Unless you re savvy with wiring, you ll need an electrician to connect the standing lamp to your power source.

Think art

Why it works: As it does indoors, artwork conveys a personal style, along with adding punch to the surroundings.

Where it works: Hang artwork from fences or walls surrounding the garden. Use other pieces as garden statuary or on side tables.

Best bets: Anything goes. Hang wrought-iron stepping stones on a brick wall. Line a fence with a collection of hay baskets. Many artists make pieces designed especially for outdoors. Art galleries and garden centers are good places to start.

Check it out: Cut the legs off an iron trellis and hang it on the wall. You can find single-, double- or triple-paneled trellises, so you re not limited if you have a narrow space that needs a touch of art. And you don t even need to put plants on it.



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