We approach our outdoor spaces with as much intention and planning as indoor ones, which results in a comfortable, well-appointed spots that invite lingering. Here are our best tips for engaging all five senses in your space!
Design with the View in Mind
Of course you'll want to arrange your outdoor furnishings with the view in mind, but be sure to consider the view looking from indoors, as well. It's often best to at least plan the outdoor spaces along with the indoor ones so that the views out the windows are maximized, and not compromised by a bulky furnishing set. Instead, the entire space should be treated as one, even if they are executed separately, to be certain your outdoor plans don't block the view from indoors, or worse -- create an undesirable one.
Create Functional Zones
To make the most of your spaces, consider the many ways they will be used, and furnish accordingly. Obviously, it makes the most sense to place the eating zone and any outdoor kitchen appliances as near the indoor kitchen as possible and designate the rest for other uses. If you have children, a spot to sit while supervising outdoor play will likely get tons of use, especially if it includes a small table for a cup of coffee (or glass of wine!). If the space will be used by a crowd, provide ample seating. Small ottomans or benches that can be tucked away when not in use are as handy outdoors as they would be in your living room.
Once you have thoughtfully laid out the furnishings, plan to outfit the space as comfortably as you would indoors. Gone are the days of rough, papery outdoor fabric, as performance fabric has come a LONG way, and is just as beautiful as its natural-fiber counterparts. Performance options now have a similar hand as linen, velvet, and more, so there is no excuse not to treat your outdoor space with the same intention as your indoor rooms. Great options also mean your outdoor spaces can carry the style of your home, creating a truly cohesive design indoors and out.
Add Ambient Lighting
One of the most impactful aspects of outdoor design is lighting. In the same way that you would not host an intimate dinner party with your dining room lights on full blast, it's unpleasant to wind down outdoors by the light of flood light! Solar landscape lighting, bistro-style string lights, and candles placed in sturdy containers are all great options that don't require hard-wiring but will make you and your guests want to linger.
Treat All Five Senses
Comfy seating and pleasant lighting are a good start, but for the ultimate outdoor space, remember all five senses! You may not be able to fully drown out the sound of that nearby highway, but burbling water is a universally appealing sound that can be achieved pretty easily through a small fountain. I've had my eye on a kit that runs on solar power and will turn any large vessel into a bubbling fountain. As for smell, consider fragrant plants when planning your landscape, even if it's little more than a pot filled with herbs. When your space is in use, gently crush a few stems with your hands to release their scent. As a bonus -- mosquitos dislike the scent of many herbs like lavender and rosemary. As for taste, that's up to you, of course, but I've found that it is hard to go wrong with a charcuterie board. If you're in a warm climate, this is the perfect time to try out some harder cheeses, as they will soften and be easier to eat (and tastier!) when exposed to a little heat.
Bonus Tip: Gather Your Goods
Everything you'd like to use to create a true outdoor haven may not thrive with constant exposure to the elements, but keeping it on-hand makes impromptu outdoor hangs much easier. So, designate a safe storage spot filled with all of your entertaining essentials in a place that is convenient to your outdoor space, but sheltered. Things to consider keeping on-hand: shatterproof glassware, a tray for bringing snacks to and fro, candles (plus a lighter for real ones and extra batteries for the faux variety), a throw or two for chilly evenings, and a Bluetooth-compatible speaker for instant ambiance.
All photos by Amy Bartlam
If you'd like our help pulling your outdoor space together, get in touch by filling our our design inquiry.