Whether you enjoy warm weather year round, or for a blissful few months from spring to fall, open up your home to the outdoors. Spaces for living outdoors can add immeasurably to your daily joy, and the beauty of your home. Even in the lushest surroundings, when it comes to comfort, nature needs a little help.
First Step: Define Your Space
There are so many decisions to make: Choosing comfortable seating and little tables to hold canapés, safe materials underfoot (such as slate, brick, or fieldstone), proper lighting for starless nights, outdoor kitchens and grills, and if you’re lucky, the best way to highlight an incredible view. You may not think of hiring an interior designer for outside your home, but with the expense of fireplaces, pergolas, fences and arches, sturdy furniture designed to handle the weather, and accenting the beauty of your largest investment, you may find it easiest to work from a professional plan.
Let’s take a look at five different ways to approach making the most of the world outside your door!
1. When Entertaining is Your Goal
When you have a beautiful outdoor space, often your first impulse is sharing it with family and friends. We’ve come a long way from a rusty, neglected grill in the corner of the cement patio. Today, you can enjoy breathtaking views and sea breezes while grilling swordfish for a crowd.
(Above) We were part of a great team that designed this new waterfront home on an existing footprint. The homeowners wanted to maximize their enjoyment of their stunning water views, while creating space for cooking and dining outdoors.
(Above) The pergola helps to divide the large deck space, adds shade in the hotter summer months, and clarifies areas for cooking and eating.
(Above) The outdoor kitchen design includes a built-in grill and powerful burner to accommodate an oversized pot (lobster, anyone?), and stainless steel cabinets for storage. No more running back inside for spatulas and serving utensils. You can fill a pot, wash and rinse right here, too. Pleasure is enhanced when we take the difficulty out of a task.
(Above) We carried this home’s fun and playful theme outdoors by choosing bold colors for the dining chairs and lounge seating.
If this look appeals to you, be sure to add colorful melamine glassware and serving pieces along with bright cloth napkins! Paper napkins are a no-go outdoors. They may seem easier, but chasing them every time the wind blows adds a hassle to your party.
2. Lighting the Night
Twilight and the setting sun are arguably the most beautiful times to enjoy sitting outdoors, but once full darkness falls, safety becomes a concern for family and friends. Glaring spotlights have no place on soft summer evenings, but there are ways to illuminate without ruining the mood.
(Above) A stone pathway leads from the house to the dock, and is subtly marked with lighting for evening accessibility. You might consider white flowering plants and shrubs along the way, as they glow so wonderfully in the moonlight.
(Above) Garden torches and firelight add a romantic touch. This lakeside patio uses pedestal tiki torches to create a natural, warm ambiance, with enough lighting for safety. Be sure to anchor them in the ground or in a pot. You might also hang bamboo lights from a tree.
(Above) If you have a protected porch, don’t hesitate to use indoor lamps. Whether you’re sipping a morning cup of tea or reading by lamplight in the evening, a lamp can add homey comfort and keep you outdoors longer. The water view here, however, may be enticement enough!
3. Living Outdoors and Harmony with Nature
If your home is situated in the midst of a glorious view, you’ll want to minimize distractions, and let your outdoor living room blend quietly into the beauty of mountains, meadows, or marine blue water.
(Above) Nothing in this serene family retreat detracts from the breathtaking mountain views.
(Above) Situated in the White Mountains, this outdoor space is defined by a short horseshoe-shaped stonewall. Stone is a perfect complement to the naturally rocky New Hampshire terrain.
(Above) This waterfront home on Martha’s Vineyard has a small private balcony on the second floor, looking out to an ocean vista. We selected a watery blue wall paint to mirror the beautiful water view, and repeated the soothing shade in a side table and throw. Repetition is pleasing to the eye.
(Above) Natural materials, such as wood and stone, blend easily into the landscape. This pergola visually defines the patio space at this home overlooking a golf course, but doesn’t create a barrier to the natural feeling of the space.
4. Blurring the Lines Between Inside and Outside
From our earliest days, humans have always sought shelter from the elements. We love living outdoors, but when the wind blows and the rain falls, we want to retreat to someplace soft, warm, and dry where we can watch the storm at a distance. Sunrooms and screened porches are the perfect solution for times when you want to be outside, but also inside.
(Above) The panoramic Vermont mountain view is still on display from the comfort of this large three-sided screened porch, situated adjacent to the kitchen and dining room.
(Above) Oversized French doors open to the three-sided screened porch. Sidelights and transom windows create a light-filled dining room where the homeowners can enjoy the lakeside views without stepping outdoors.
(Above) Continuity and flow is important with outdoor spaces, too. We designed the porch to coordinate with the interior of the home.
(Above) The colors of the custom-designed stone patio provided the inspiration for the soft blue-grey upholstery on this contemporary outdoor furniture.
(Above) Bold blue hues from the interior were carried through on upholstered patio furniture in our lakeside project.
5. When Comfort is Key
We love nature, but sometimes it can be—well, itchy. Screened porches are one way to keep bugs at bay, but we also love the warmth of firelight on a fall evening, or a cool breeze on a still August night.
(Above) In this porch off a master suite, retractable screens can be put in place to protect the couple from insects, or on bugless days, be opened to allow unobstructed lakeside views. The architectural details provide the room boundaries, while the natural stone flooring reminds you you’re just steps away from the water.
(Above) Living outdoors comfortably means keeping guests cool and the bugs away. We installed outdoor fans throughout this lakeside retreat to take care of both.
I hope we’ve inspired you to look at your home with fresh eyes, and find new ways to enjoy the all-too-brief summer. Remember that opposites attract: cool grey houses are fabulous with warm pinks and reds from roses or window boxes filled with impatiens, trellises are another way to shield an unsightly view or have a bit more privacy, classical statues can add a touch of Rome, while fountains and the sound of running water ease the stress of a long day at work.
Opportunities to add beauty and ease abound! Don’t hesitate to add color and drama to the palette of your home—and your life.
To learn more about opening your home to the outdoors, please be in touch.