Kimberly Merritt has been decorating and designing interiors for almost 15 years. She writes a monthly column on home decor for NH magazine and a host of design web sites. Her firm, Beautiful Living Interiors, offers services in decorati...
With the warmer weather here, I look forward to finally using the other room in my home -- my outdoor room. Decks, patios and even a nice porch can extend and enhance our indoor living spaces and our lives. Find out what you can do to make your own little private haven!
What's needed to create a perfect outdoor atmosphere? The same things as you need indoors -- comfortable seating, a table or two to set down a drink or a good book, and some well-chosen accessories. Spruce up your outdoor living spaces this summer and entertain or relax in style.
20 steps to make your yard an oasis
Take advantage of a fenced-in corner of your yard and claim it as a cozy nook -- it will be intimate and inviting when you place an old iron bench or wooden glider there for quiet conversations or tea. (Also check out How to make your backyard a hangout spot!)
The great outdoors allows you to spread out and enjoy different areas of your yard and gardens. Place different seating and work areas throughout.
Lattice walls can help mask a bad view (or an ugly fence/wall) as well as provide privacy.
A trellis or arbor supports hardy climbing plants, and helps to define your space, while also offering some of the same advantages of lattice walls (as mentioned above).
Deep porches beckon you and your guests to linger a little longer.
Garden shelters/structures, such as gazebos and pergolas, provide just enough coverage from the elements and add character to ordinary decks. Even big-box retailers like Target, Home Depot and Great Indoors now stock gazebo patio structures (see the Jaclyn Smith Today Bay Window Gazebo at right), so setup can take just hours versus weeks to have a contractor to complete the job (or years for you or your spouse to get it done).
Set up a cooking station, such as those commonly found in summer kitchens. These open-aired kitchens typically include small wet bars, cooktops and barbecue areas. Grilling, serving cocktails or hosting a buffet becomes effortless when you have everything at hand.
Furniture cast-offs are great for outdoor use, too -- a few scuffs and dents add to the charm.
Don't be afraid to use plump pillows and fabrics outdoors. Simply cover seat cushions with water-resistant fabrics or take them in at night.
Fabric remnants can be used as tablecloths. No need to sew up the edges -- just tuck the ends under and let them puddle on the ground. Lightweight cotton throws and bedsheets can be used as well, while large dishtowels make great napkins.
Hang lanterns from fence walls and use lots of hurricanes for candles. Pot plants, herbs and flowers and place them on steps, on tables and in corners.
Accessorize your backyard with garden statuary and antique gardening tools.
Old shutters hinged together make a great screen -- one that's perfect for adding vertical interest as well as adding a surface for climbing plants.
Hang bird feeders and houses from tree branches and fence posts.
Mix up the formal with the informal when entertaining -- whether you're having tea in the garden, hosting a neighborhood barbecue, or planning a quiet moonlit supper for two.
Hang an iron chandelier from a pergola and dress it up with crystal drops.
No need to buy plastic plates and cups -- just use the real thing. Mis-matched china with floral patterns looks especially lovely.
Dress your table with low flower arrangements so they won't blow over.
String white lights through trees and along banisters for extra sparkle.
The best thing about outdoor rooms is that there's no need to redecorate -- from delicate cherry blossoms to bright sun-ripened fruits, nature will always take care of that for you!