13 Tips for Improving Your Patio

By Joyanna Laughlin, Originally Published in Houseplans.com

This boulder-framed patio is just off the porch and beckons the homeowners and guests into the backyard. Plan 48-517

Creating the coolest, outdoor living spaces you can imagine is easier and less expensive than you might think. Here, architects and interior designers from around the country offer 13 tips to help you design the outdoor rooms of your dreams.

1. Consider your climate. Before you run out and buy furniture, consider that those dark pillows that work so well in a cooler Northern summer might be too hot in the Desert Southwest or that an uncovered patio that’s perfect for Southern California or Florida might not get much use in the temperate but drizzly Northwest.

2. Choose the view. Create purposeful views of nature with focal points. Or consider making an outdoor fireplace, fire bowl the center of attention. Garden art and outdoor sculptures also create visual interest and add detail.

3. Design your spaces. Visualize the different ways you plan to use your outdoor area, and design spaces to fit your uses (parties, quiet space, etc.) If you have children, include fun places for your kids and their friends to play and also fun spaces for you and your kids’ friends’ parents to enjoy.

4. Define boundaries. Find creative ways to define the boundaries of outdoor rooms. For example, curtains can add mystery and exoticism while defining a space (think mosquito netting).
  
5. Lounge away. Comfortable furniture, including deep sectional sofas and cozy chairs, are very popular outdoors. Consider adding a luxurious canopied daybed (complete with gauzy curtains), or a bed swing or hanging chair.

7. Bring textiles outdoors. Thanks recent improvements in the production of synthetic yarns, outdoor textiles used in sofa cushions, pillows, and draperies now feel more like indoor fabrics, and yet maintain their hardcore outdoor performance.
  
8. Add a weather-resistant rug. Pull your outdoor room together with a stunning outdoor area rug (made of recycled plastic bottles) that looks good enough to be indoors.

9. Splash on color. Solid colors and geometric patterns are “in”, as well as multicolor Suzani-, Ikat- and Moroccan-inspired fabrics. For a color palette, check out Sherwin William popular 2014 palette called “Intrinsic” (http://www.sherwin-williams.com/architects-specifiers-designers/inspiration/color-forecast/2014-color-forecast/intrinsic/). Reminiscent of Mid-Century Modernism, this palette is influenced by batik and other ethnic dyeing techniques that “lend an earthy, folkloric aesthetic to this new Bohemianism,” according to the company’s website.

10. Accent with style. Add style with unique outdoor accessories and “big statement” containers filled with tropical plants in a few key places. Go vertical by including trellises, wrought-iron corner brackets or living walls to add height and interest to your landscape.

11.Layer lighting. Provide ambient light so that safety hazards are illuminated and you’ve eliminated any dark ‘holes’ in the landscape (try LED rope lighting, uplighting of trees or bushes, spotlighting of plants with interesting shapes and perimeter lighting). Add some sparkle with a chandelier, lanterns, candles or a few Christmas lights. Most important of all, keep lighting simple and don’t overdo.

12. Patios and decks. The current trend for patios is to use concrete and faux-concrete or various types of stone. And today’s decks are made from pressure-treated lumber, cedar or redwood, imported hardwoods, composite materials or plastics. 13. Gardening is easy. Container gardening is “in”  for outdoor living spaces. You can vary the heights of the plants, swap out plants and move containers around for a fresh look, garden in a small (urban) space, and use less water than larger landscapes.

Whether you want to sip morning coffee on your deck, lounge on a luxurious daybed for an afternoon, or cook for friends in your own backyard bistro, adding the right features to your outdoor living spaces can turn your dream of creating a staycation destination in your backyard into a reality.

Design tips provided by architects Robert Nebolon of Berkeley, California; Risa Boyer Leritz, AIA of Portland, Oregon; Patricia Warren, AIA, of Tucson, Arizona; and interior designer and LEED green associate at The Onyx Group in Alexandria, Virginia, Kirsten Ederer Lytle.

06/12/2014