Finding inspiration for your backyard digs is as easy as flipping through the pages of your favorite magazines and catalogs. "Inspiration can be as simple as the items you get in the mail every day," said Botkin. "Frontgate has a large amount of outdoor furniture and accessories, along with Smith & Hawken, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn."
Many of these mail-order catalogs offer a large variety of furniture styles, fabric patterns and colors to satisfy almost any design style, while the photographs of outdoor settings can get your creative juices flowing. And if the prices are a little out of reach, try snipping the photos and taking them to your favorite discount retailer as examples.
According to Botkin, taking what you know about creating a welcoming interior space and applying the same design principles to the exterior also is a great way to come up with fun ideas. Any magazine or book written about interior spaces can be used in the same ways when designing your outdoor oasis.
Including a variety of shapes, colors, patterns and textures can turn a dull patio into a warm hangout, but make sure to select appropriately scaled furniture to keep the space inviting. Stay consistent with a central theme in all pieces and each individual part will contribute to the look and feel as a whole.
To cap off the theme, find one eye-catching focal point. Whether it is a water feature, fire pit, unique cocktail table or a lush garden, choosing one item that is a main focus of the area helps to eliminate visual confusion and will develop a great sense of appeal.
Shown at right: Sequoia Porch Swing in hardwood finish
Working with minimal space? No problem. "The key to maximizing your small patio space is to select furniture and fabric patterns that are small scale," advises Botkin. "You can fill the space with the right-sized furniture and not make the area feel cramped or overloaded. Selecting small-scale prints also will enforce this same idea."
Another tip is to purchase furniture that contract to save space. Cocktail tables with ottomans that slide under the tabletop surface that you can pull out when extra seating is necessary, but tuck them away when not in use are a good option.
Botkin says that the number one mistake people make when revamping their outdoor space is adding too much "hardscape" but eliminating the natural landscaping of the area. "It is tempting to remove all greenery in a patio setting and replace it with stone flooring, cool deck or concrete," she says.
"But taking away all plant life can lead to a cold and lifeless space." Instead, keep your greenery as an effective way to lower ambient temperature and promote an overall sense of well-being.
"If you want your backyard to become a place that you, your family and friends want to retreat to, comfort is the number one priority. If the furniture is too hard, too soft, too deep or too shallow, you'll never make time to utilize the area." Make sure the furniture fits to your standards of comfort before buying it.
Shown at right: Outback Co. Palm Bay Wicker lounge chair with ottoman
Quality of fabrics also is extremely important. Dropping a little extra cash for quality fabrics will save you money in the long run. Aim for fade-resistant and water-repellent fabrics.
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