Gorgeous from the Outside In
In the warm spring and summer months and well into the fall, I delight in being outside in my backyard entertaining, enjoying a meal or even going for a dip in my pool. My outside space is a special extension of my home where I go to unwind, breath in the fresh air and listen to the sounds nature. Most importantly, I enjoy my outside space for spending precious quality time with friends and family!
An outside space can be a wonderful addition to any home when carefully planned and executed. When designing an exterior space for my clients living in the Northeast, my foremost consideration is the weather. With the change of seasons, they won’t be using their outdoor areas year-round so they need to decide how much effort they would like to invest. Are they going to want to use cushions and deal with wet seats after a hard summer rain? Do they prefer a mesh seat that the rain just comes through? Do they have a place to store seasonal furniture that can’t withstand the cold winters?
Second, I ask how the space will be used? For dining and entertaining? Do they have a pool for swimming? Will the back yard be used for several age groups? Do they have dogs or other pets that will be running in the yard? How much time will they be spending outside?
Next are the aesthetic considerations. For the furniture, I suggest using a base color alongside a secondary accent color with contrasting welts and fun colors for pillows. There are lots of great outdoor fabrics that I like to work with. Landscaping, as well as potted plants, can be critical to the look of an outside area. There is usually so much hardscaping in back yards that adding colorful flowers and plants soften up the area and gives the space a bit of a personal touch.
I also love to throw in charming architectural elements in unexpected spaces. In my own backyard, I have a beautiful Buddha head popping up from the ground between the bushes and a pair of cement dragons flanking the entrance to my pool. In my front yard I have a frog planter that I purchased in France many years ago. It sits in the front flowerbeds of the house and offers shade to little frogs.
My husband and I travel to California often and during one such trip, I fell in love with an animal topiary. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to purchase it. Then came hurricane Sandy and we lost everything. We had to re-landscape our entire front yard and my wonderful husband surprised me with the topiary that I had my eyes on back in California. It was a baby elephant topiary and I named her Penelope. She stands proudly in our front yard at about 12 feet high by 10 feet long. Penelope has an internal watering system and spouts water from her trunk every morning at 9 am! I absolutely adore her. Sometimes in the winter I even dress Penelope up in Christmas lights!
I probably have more elements in my yard than most but I look forward to seeing them in the spring after a long cold winter. Your outdoor space can be a very special place for you and your family and should be enjoyed. Here are my seven tips that will help you make your outside space the best it can be!
Seven Tips for a Spectacular Outside Space
Make A Wish List:
Compile a list of what you want and need in a backyard. For example, Do you want an area for entertaining? Do you need a playground? Do you want a water feature or a pool? Do you need a separate area for a dog?
Prepare a Budget:
Have a budget in mind with the amount you want to spend. Outdoor furniture and landscaping can be extremely expensive especially if you don’t know what you are doing. It may cost more upfront to hire a professional but you may save money in the long run by avoiding costly mistakes under his/her guidance.
Invest in Good Lighting:
Beautiful outside lighting adds a delightful ambiance to any outside space. Tall, old trees are perfect for stringing up with lights and filling your yard with a moonlight glow from above. Soft lights are lovely on a summer evening when you’re sitting outside with family and friends.
Choose Your Color:
Spend time picking out a base color for your outside furniture. Use complementary accent colors for pops of color and patterns in pillows. Use this color scheme to coordinate with great accessories such as serving trays and fun outdoor plates. Color-coordinated House candy can be used outside too.
Put it On Paper:
Put your plan on paper so you can see the big picture and your space in relation to your house. I always like the outside to flow like the inside. You want room to move, to be able to get from the house to the grill to the outside dining table easily. You want to have a place for the garbage and recyclables. You want your time spent outside to be easy and fun. Not a hassle.
We all dream big at first but it is important too to be realistic about the time and money you are willing to spend on your outside space. It can get pricey and you want to make sure you receive the maximum return on your investment. The good news is that there are so many new great products available for every taste and every budget so you don’t have to settle for the old standby iron tables and chairs anymore.
Talk to Your Town:
Check in with your town or homeowners association and make sure you know what is allowed. You don't want to spend money and create a beautiful yard only to have to take it down because of a town ordinance and possibly pay a fine.