We’ve all been spending quite a bit more time at home recently.
Even with phased reopenings for businesses and public spaces, and a little more flexibility on time spent in our communities, we’ve found comfort in our living rooms, made messes in our kitchens and turned our nooks into work-from-home offices.
With a summer that’s bound to have some form of social distancing, that time spent at home will extend into the summer evenings, and you’re bound to want to kick your feet up outdoors.
Whether you have a small apartment balcony or a large back patio—maybe even with a pool and kitchen too—here’s what you need to know about redesigning your outdoor space.
Sallie Lord of GreyHunt Interiors shares her tips on how to bring your interior feel outside, how to prioritize the needs and size of your space, and what makes spending time beyond the walls of your home just so special. Highlights from our conversation below.
If a reader is considering redesigning their outdoor space, how do you suggest they start the process?
Well the biggest thing that I recommend for people is to look at other designs to get inspired if they’re going to try to do it on their own, or to call a professional. And there really is no difference when you get to the outside. I think a lot of people think, “Well, it’s not interior design, it’s outside, so we’re on our own.” But you’re not on your own. Most interior designers are known for our good tastes and pulling things together, working with spacing, creating visual flow. You’re going to still want that expertise for the exterior because when you start to add outdoor sofas and things like that, your costs can go up and you want to maximize your dollars to make it look like you spent what you did, or make it look like you spent way more than you did.
So I still recommend that, but also just looking for inspiration. Are you a family that would really benefit from having a fire pit table, or is that not a good idea? Maybe you have little ones and you’re concerned about that. But everybody’s needs are going to be different, you know, some people want to sit there for hours and hours and hours. Are you better having cushioned furniture, or are you more of an in and out person?
For example, my parents are looking for deck furniture right now, but they want low maintenance, just super easy. So you have to take that into consideration, what kind of family are you? Are you one that is willing to entertain and willing to bring in cushions or cover cushions when it rains? Or are you a family that just wants it ready to go when you want to head outside and the sun is out?
When it comes to designing, how can readers bring their interior design style into their outdoor space?
What I like to do is really transition to the outside from the inside, and carry your look out there. I don’t like when it’s kind of that hard visual stop. Rather than specifically inside and outside, it should all feel like an extension of one another. And it actually makes the interior seem larger because it’s visually extended. So if your style is like mine, I love black and white, you would carry that on to the outside. For example, I had a client who had a green, black and white interior theme, and when we did the exterior, I continued the theme of the colors outside as well. When you were in the house and looking out, it was such a beautiful continuation and looked so fresh.
What are your personal favorite features to put outside of the home?
Swings. I love porch swings and stuff like that, since they’re dreamy to me. I also love cushy couches that get the comfort of an interior, but you get the beauty of an exterior. I do love fire pits, and I think that there’s something magical about them. Whether it’s one you build, like we have one that’s kind of back in the woods that we have built and it’s huge, or if you don’t have much space and have a fire pit table, I love that as well. I think there are so many options that everyone can take advantage of.
When it comes to being weather-friendly and durable, what do you suggest readers should know?
Of course with outdoors, everything has to switch to performance. We’re doing so much better with companies doing performance fabrics, such as Sunbrella, Fabric Hut and Kravet. They have really put out some gorgeous fabrics for exterior and we are starting to get much more of a selection like we have in interiors.
But it’s also important to note that it’s an investment. Nobody wants to just throw thousands of dollars away and cushion covers. I will say for me, I do have some decorative pillows that I sacrifice to the sun gods, meaning I don’t take them in and out. I keep them up all year long, even in the winter, and I let them be snowed on and everything. Then when they get gross, I let them go. But I get so much joy in seeing them outside and looking pretty, so to me, it’s worth it.
How can readers add a little bit of extra decor and style to their outdoor space?
Of course you want to be very smart and selective of what you put outside so that you don’t have things ruined, but for instance, if you have an outdoor coffee table, something that’s weather-resistant, you could get a marble tray with, say, a white planter and a beautiful plant inside. The marble is not going to go bad, and then you can get that coffee table vibe.
If you have something like a bar cart, be conscious about what you’re putting on there. You’re probably better just to leave it open for the most part, maybe with a nice plant, a container or something along those lines, but then when you have your party, you can have a quick go-to kit that you can set up and take right outside.
For little things, you can even take a flat or low, shallow bowl—now keep in mind, you will have to clean it out—and put black rocks in it, and use that as decor. There are a lot of options, you just have to think a little outside the box.
What’s one thing that readers may not consider, but should, when designing their outdoor space?
Watch your scale. A lot of times I see people do a lot of little things and don’t do the bigger pieces, and it’s just like interiors, you need different scales. So make sure that your scale is appropriate for your space. I’ve seen huge spaces where they put small-scale furniture on it and it looks very off. So make sure that if you have a large area that you’re accommodating as such. And comfort is king. You want to make sure that if you’re putting in the investment, it’s actually comfortable to sit in. Some of these things, even if they’re good prices, they are rickety when you sit in them. They’re not going to give you a good ROI because you’re going to have to replace them.
Lastly, what makes spending time outside of your home so special?
I think it’s just being with your friends and family. Aside from it being mentally and physically beneficial, I think it’s a spirit lifter. Especially with everything that we’ve just experienced with COVID-19, I think people are realizing how important it is that we have a retreat for ourselves, and our homes are our retreats. They calm us and excite us, and that’s how it should be. We should be excited to be in our homes because we love what we’ve done with them and how it makes us feel. And yes, it should also be able to calm us, and I think that’s the same with the exterior. You should be able to get excited because your friends or family are coming over, but also sit down and enjoy each other’s company.
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