Design Dilemma: Five Secrets to a Great Outdoor Space
Summertime means spending more time outside, in the outdoor spaces of our homes that are pretty much ignored during the winter months. But whether that outdoor space feels inviting, comfortable and practical will depend on how well you’ve done your planning. HonoringÂ just a few principles can help you create a pleasant outdoor space that you can enjoy all summer long.
Here are a few tips:
1) Create spaces for intimate chats AND large gatherings. Your space should be able to handle multiple situations, whether it’s an afternoon iced tea with a friend, a morning out sunbathing alone, or a large dinner or cocktail party. Arrange furniture into groups that can handle all situations, or invest in stackable and double-duty furnitureÂ pieces that can be pulled out easily to accomodate larger groups.
2) Create both shady and sunny spots. There are times you want to lie in the sun and other times that you want to take refuge from it. A good outdoor space will provide places to do both. A space isn’t working well if it feels barren and forbidding in the heat of summer for lack of shade or too cold to enjoy on cooler summer days because the sun can’t get through.
3) When it comes to plants, investigate those that shed least. If you don’t want to engage in major clean-up of your outdoor space on practically a daily basis, you’ll want to avoid plants that shed blooms or leaves continuously. For example, while pine trees can provide wonderful shade, continuously falling pine needles can also make for constant sweeping and raking. Talk to your local garden center about plantings best suited to be planted near an outdoor patio.
4) Don’t forget the lighting. People sometimes forget that lighting outdoors is just as important for setting ambiance as lighting indoors. Since patios often get use in the hours after sundown, plan a multiple source lighting scheme that will provide a feeling of intimacy and romance, but also allow you to see what you’re doing. Popular options include lights on a string, as well as candles. A patio light on a dimmer switch will also allow you to create a mood.
5) Treat plants as sculpture. The major difference between indoor and outdoor spaces is greenery. So make full use of that difference by investing in lots of plants in bold sculptural shapes. Plants will quickly set the tone of your outdoor space, providing color, shape, texture, and even a beautiful smell. (Think jasmine). Plants can be used to camouflage a less than ideal location (as a cover up against a bad view), can provide privacy when your neighbors are a bit too close, and even set a tone of formality or informality.