Adding Variety While Keeping Unity – A Basic How-To Guide on Balanced Outdoor Room Design

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I truly believe that any garden is enhanced by an outdoor living space.  A simple seating group or even a dining area will allow you to enjoy your garden as much as you work in it.  After all, having a place to spend more time in the fruits of your labor will only lend to your overall enjoyment.  Sure, the sweet smell and exciting sights of your blooms and plants while walking along your garden path are certainly enchanting.  But, imagine sitting in it while reading a book, while sharing coffee with friends, while simply thinking about how much you love your garden!

Though, as many people embark to create an outdoor living area, they feel overwhelmed.  Flipping through gardening and home magazines, it would seem everyone would need to be an interior designer with years of experience and unlimited funds in order to craft comfortable seating or dining areas.  Is it possible to achieve relaxed balance?

In reality, it’s much simpler than you might think.  There a few simple planning tricks to keep your spaces even-looking, without seeming sterile.  I’m here to convince you that anyone can!

Start With The Basics: Before considering which historic architect your living space is aiming to exude, try dialing back and thinking about the bare essentials.  What do you want to get out of this space?  A relaxed retreat for just you and perhaps one other person?  An open-air dining area to share meals with big groups all summer long?  Or, are you looking for a more intimate setting to linger over tea and conversation?  Pinpointing these kinds of expectations will allow you to add the details in a much smoother way.  Remember to keep your purpose in mind throughout the entire process.  While picking each piece, ask yourself if it lends to your original intent.  That way, your entire outdoor area will keep a consistent feeling.

Rustic or Refined: Once you’ve decided whether you’re creating a big family living room or a quiet and secluded oasis, you can consider how lavish of a direction you’d like to take.  Many people thrive on the rustic, untreated wood settings.  If using cedar outdoor furniture, you can enjoy the sweet aroma of western red cedar while viewing the beauties of nature.  The natural luster of the wood can reflect the perfect simplicity of a day spent in the garden.  Of course, there’s also something to be said for luxurious outdoor spaces equipped with big patio umbrellas, outdoor furniture cushions, pillows and throws; as well as outdoor ceiling fans and even electric outdoor lighting.  Again, a lot of these decisions will relate back to the first one.  There’s no wow-factor quite like a plush outdoor room, but that also means that you’re likely to spend a bit more money and up the continued work required to maintain it.  If you want to add some amenities, but aren’t looking for over-the-top luxury, just add one or two things that you would find most helpful.  Hate the still air? An outdoor ceiling fan will keep the breeze going.  Worried about the sun? A patio umbrella in a bright color surrounded by more rustic furnishings will create a wonderful space.  Also try simple, unadorned outdoor furniture cushions to keep your back side comfortable without adding needless luxury (unless, of course, you want it!)

Vary the Pieces: While this probably applies more to outdoor living areas than open-air dining spaces, it’s important not to get too stuck on just one type of furniture.  Create a dynamic area by grouping porch gliders with Adirondack Chairs, garden benches with outdoor rocking chairs and unexpected accent tables.  Having a lot of different pieces will not only create interest and start conversation; it will also make it more comfortable for more people.  Some people love to relax in a chaise lounge, while for others a porch swing is the height of relaxation.  Cater to yourself, cater to your guests, and add as much variety in seating options as you can! Often, you can get all different kinds of outdoor furniture with a common thread–like a heart shape cut into the back or a similar line in the legs.

Add Color: Besides adding variety, the best way to make your living or dining area reflect you and look fantastic is to add color.  The ways to do this are nearly endless.  Some people choose to use their fabrics to create comfortable pairings of natural wood and coordinating colors. I would suggest having two or three colors in mind, before you embark on the fabrics.  Also remember not to overdo the patterns.  Stripes on your outdoor furniture cushions, plaid pillows, a flowered throw blanket, and a block-print patio umbrella is likely to be a bit overwhelming.  A no-fail strategy is to pick one area to highlight a pattern, and keep everything else solid colors.  Another great way to add color is to use paint.  This will allow you to make a wonderfully bright and unexpected space, or you can simply use a well placed lime green accent table, to draw the eyes around the entire space.  Imagine a porch with white wicker outdoor furniture, with muted blue outdoor furniture cushions paired with a matching blue porch swing off to the side.  The coordination of color will allow the entire porch to hold together as one living space.  Deciding on your colors and pattern placements before going into the project will ease some of those overwhelming choices, though.  So think about which garden hues make you most excited about being out in nature.

Make it Functional: Even the most lavish outdoor living area can still be extremely functional.  As I’m sure you’ve considered, designing a room completely exposed to the elements can create some decorating pitfalls.  Two big tips I would give come right down to the tables.  First, consider your tables!  Whether you use several accent and side tables, or one big coffee table, think about how you’re going to use it.  Personally, I love the outdoor tables that have a little bottom shelf.  It gives me a place to stash magazines or even dirty dishes until I’m ready to come inside.  Having a place to keep your “stuff” while keeping table tops clear makes me feel a bit more at ease.  But, if you’re someone who likes everything right out where you can see it, you should look for nice big table tops with room for all your outdoor helpers.  You might also want to consider storage or deck boxes.  A lot of really nice looking storage and deck boxes are available that can be used as a coffee or side table, or even just set out of the way to remain available for emergency extra seating.  These can hold your pillows, throws, even your furniture cushions.  Of course, it can also hold board games, outdoor dishes, or anything else you’d like to keep outside, but worry about its reaction to harsh elements.   Also, if you’re aiming for a dining area, remember that many outdoor dining sets are foldable.  This will let you simply fold them up and stash them behind your back porch when they’re not in use.

Well! I hope that helped.  Please don’t let another season go by without creating an outdoor living area within or near your garden, simply because the task of decorating another space seems overwhelming.  It’s true, outdoor room design is a bit more complicated than indoor rooms because the options and space constraints are so, well, unrestricted.  But, relax! Have fun, try different things, and develop a space you can’t wait to use and enjoy by keeping unity while adding variety.

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Source by Hazel Hermeling