Never has living outside been more comfortable or convenient. Advancements in audiovisual technology, outdoor appliance quality and durable outdoor fabrics and furnishings mean that living outside is a lot like living inside — only without those pesky walls to block views, breezes and sunshine.
This week we searched through the outdoor photos that professional builders, architects and designers recently uploaded and found three spaces we wanted to learn more about. Here the designers dish on their plans of attack, “uh-oh” moments and more.
Designer: Vivian Mulder of Eberlein Design Consultants
Size: 1,600 square feet (148.6 square meters)
What wasn't working: “The space had never been used before as a living area; it had only ever been a roof. The goal was to create a warm, inviting living space on a previously uninviting roof.”
Homeowners’ request: “Entertaining and lounging. There is an outdoor kitchen and dining area right next to this sitting area.”
Who uses it: “This deck was designed for a small family who loves to entertain. The homeowner has a chef who consulted with the design of the outdoor roof kitchen. They love to lounge and read, so the extra-deep (60- by 80-inch) sofas and giant shade umbrellas make the space extra comfortable.”
Plan of attack: “We consulted with the client on how the space needed to function and developed a furniture plan from there. Then we worked with the architect to select masonry and stone materials that worked with the overall vision for the space. The last step was selecting the actual furniture and fabrics.”
Designer secret: “Pay careful attention to the color of every finish and fabric for the most luxurious look. Make sure to choose hardier materials that can withstand the elements. Also, take the time to design a unique flooring pattern. There is no extra material cost, but it adds a custom feel.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “The client requested giant and heavy umbrellas and heat lamps after the deck was built and the furniture plan was in place. We will usually coordinate every detail and furnishing while the plans are being drawn. In this case we had to carefully research umbrellas and heat lamps on the market to find ones that would fit in the small space and provide shade where needed. The umbrellas also had to be heavy enough not to blow away on a windy day.”
Splurges and savings: “After splurging just about everywhere else, we saved on design time and money by specifying a ready-made water/fire feature.”
Team involved: John Milner Architects; Hanson General Contracting
Turf Tamer, Inc.
Designer: Lee Buffington of Turf Tamer
Location: Fort Payne, Alabama
Size: A 34- by 28-foot pavilion (10.3 by 8.5 meters) with two adjoining patios that are 26 by 17 feet (7.9 by 5.1 meters) each
Homeowners’ request: “The main vision for the client was to have a space that could be used all year long, not just in the summer months.”
Plan of attack: “The first item on our agenda was determining how our client wanted to use the space that also included a drainage solution that complemented their plans. Connecting the pool, multiple entertaining spaces, transitional areas and significant grade changes were some of the challenges we faced during the design and implementation.”
Why it works: “The space was large enough to allow for us to achieve everything that they wanted to include in the project. The design offered covered patio space as well as open space for entertaining many guests throughout each season. The diversity in the pavers, borders and banding as well as stained concrete really brought the project to life.”
What wasn’t working: “The backyard space felt unfinished to the client and needed a design that would create continuity in the entertaining space.”
What goes on here: “Entertaining family and friends poolside during the summer months as well as hosting many events for close friends in the fall and spring. Ballgames in the fall are a huge hit for the owners.”
Who uses it: “Family, friends, kids and grandkids are among the primary group using the space. It also plays host to the occasional photo shoot for local and online publications. The owners are very active in the community and offer their time for charitable events and fundraising.”
Designer secret: “Creating an ambience using low-voltage LED lighting was the one task that brought it all together. This allows for automatically controlled lighting that is adjustable for lowering the lighting when desired. The structure is brought to life after dark with hidden light fixtures that only allow for the effects to be seen.”
Take-away: “Tendencies to find unexpected bumps in the road normally come from drainage or subsurface items found during the construction phases.”
The nitty-gritty: “A combination of Belgard Mega-Arbel and Belgard Urbana pavers were used for the project. Sizes and colors were blended to provide contrast and texture. Most of the stone was a natural stone stacked with a manufactured stone completing the fireplace. The lighting system is SPJ Lighting. Fence was a custom designed rough-sawn lumber that was left raw.”
Team involved: Greg Rummans of Turf Tamer (lead designer); Homestead Timbers, Lancaster Pool Construction, Harold Carden Contractors and Benchmark Construction
Designers: Erik Mehlman of BuildSense (architect); Alys Protzman of Alys Design (interior designer and the home’s owner)
Location: Pittsboro, North Carolina
Size: About 550 square feet (51 square meters) of wraparound screened porch. It is 15 feet deep and 35 feet long on the south side, and 9 feet deep and 25 feet long on the east side.
Homeowners’ request: “The homeowners wanted to live outside,” Mehlman says. “The ample overhangs shield hot summer sun, yet the space is even utilized in the more mild Carolina winter due to the low winter sun. The entire porch is screened in a buggy climate, making it wonderful to throw open expansive doors to the porch and catch cross breezes without inviting in critters.”
Plan of attack: “The new porch areas face south and east to address the heart of the yard and an onsite pond, something the original porch failed to do.”
Why it works: “This home is not only designed for the immediate family but as a gathering place for holidays and other occasions for the extended family,” says Mehlman. “The porch is oversized both for the strong Southern character and to create multiple outdoor living zones immediately adjacent to the living room. When opening the multiple sets of double doors from the interior to exterior, the space flows together without interruption.”
“Aside from the new upholstery, the furnishings are a mix of items my husband and I have collected over time,” Protzman says. “I scored the vintage tobacco drying basket on the wall on Craiglist for $25. The black metal gliders were found at a flea market outside of Atlanta. Subdued blacks and grays were chosen so as to not distract from the incredible views into the yard. Ceiling fans, painted haint-blue ceiling, vintage industrial sconces and painted floors give the porch a Southern charm.”
What goes on here: Reading, playing, relaxing, socializing.
Designer secret: “Adding a rug to a covered-porch seating area does a great job of making the space more cozy and inviting,” Protzman says. “This rug is synthetic and can be hosed off when necessary.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “It was quite difficult to blend the new brick piers, perforated brick curtain wall, current-code floor structure, and current-code roof structure with structural elements from 1874, which do not meet today’s standards,” Mehlman says. “Creative solutions were required to assure the new structure visually matched the contiguous original structure. This would not have been easy on the fly. Careful investigation was conducted early to develop the proper plan.”
Splurges and savings: “Furnishings splurge: new upholstery,” Protzman says. “Whenever possible, invest in quality upholstery and fabrics. You get what you pay for [with] the seating pieces you use all the time. Furnishings save: all of my flea market finds.”
Take-away: “This addition has added incredible value to our home,” Protzman says. “We invested in a usable, family-oriented space that doubled the size of our living space and allows us to enjoy the best aspects of our property six months out of the year — without mosquitoes.”
The nitty-gritty: Floor paint: Ozark Shadows, Benjamin Moore; beadboard ceiling paint: Harbor Fog, Benjamin Moore; cable railing: Feeney; ceiling fan: Hunter Classic; wall sconces: Magnolia, Barn Light Electric; rocking chairs: Troutman Chair; wicker upholstery: Lloyd Flanders; rug: Crate & Barrel; hanging rattan swings: Serena & Lily; marble-top table: Alys Design; black metal gliders, pillows, tobacco basket and side tables: vintage
Longer days mean more time to relax outdoors with a cool drink, watching the sun dip below the fence line. Furnish your outdoor rooms in style, from the front porch to the back deck, with the right combination of comfortable furniture and fresh accessories. From beachy to retro cool, here are 10 outdoor spaces that get it right.
1. Color theory. Neutral outdoor furniture with white or beige cushions is the most versatile combination — you can change the look from year to year without a big investment. For a polished look, choose one main accent color and one brighter hue to use in a small dose, and repeat these in all of the outdoor accessories, from pillows to flower pots. Here, pale aqua is the main accent color, with just a dash of vibrant yellow.
2. Home comforts. Make your porch or patio feel like a finished room with the addition of indoor details — lamps (look for solar-powered) that cast a soft glow, a mirror atop a console table, a tray, a vase of flowers. If your area gets summer rain, keep a weatherproof trunk handy and toss in the cushions when a storm is brewing.
3. Fresh coastal. Give classic blue and white coastal style a twist with a few bright tangerine pillows on a clean-lined sectional. A fringed throw, rope detail lantern and sea glass-inspired vases bring a beachy vibe without veering into cliche territory.
4. Spa-inspired retreat. Provide a comfy spot for two beside the pool (or in the garden) with a pair of cushioned lounge chairs and large standing umbrella. The sophistication of the subdued palette of cocoa, black and white is enhanced by a few rolled towels on the seats.
5. Mid-mod motel chic. For a playful look, revive the cool poolside aesthetic of a midcentury motel with bright lounge chairs, lanterns and desert-inspired plants like agave and palm. A classic grill and retro cooler would make fun additions for a summer pool party.
6. Private oasis. Create a refreshingly simple hideaway on a back porch or patio with flowing white curtains, a soothing white and pale blue palette and a few comfortable seating options. Highlighting natural fibers and textures like canvas, linen and cotton voile will bring interest to the neutral color scheme.
7. Low-slung lounge. Enhance a small urban patio or rooftop garden with an exotic lounge zone filled with low-slung furniture and extra-large floor cushions. Bring in lots of potted plants for a lush jungle feel, and echo the colors of plant life with chartreuse cushions.
8. Dining porch. A simple wood table and chairs on the porch convey a charming farmhouse feel, perfect for enjoying family dinners outside on pleasant evenings. Wood furniture that’s not designed to be outdoors will deteriorate over time if exposed to the elements, so use your table in a covered area, and don’t place a precious piece outside — flea market and yard sale finds are ideal. You can also limit wear and tear by applying several coats of an outdoor paint or finish to the wood.
9. Crisp nautical. A blue and white color palette looks sharp when partnered with sleek metal buckets holding potted plants. Simple white lattice makes an easy privacy screen, and it can double as wall storage or a display area: Use S-hooks to hang potted plants, decor or anything you might like to have close at hand.
10. Nap-worthy daybed. A protected porch is the best spot for a daybed — somewhere tucked away where you can relax, read or nap to the sound of birdsong and the touch of a gentle breeze. Go for a ready-made daybed or rig up your own using a metal twin bed frame and plenty of outdoor cushions.
A sunny corner of the home with loads of windows is known as a sunroom or sunporch, and it makes the perfect spot to catch a few morning rays along with a cup of coffee, or relax as a summer afternoon winds down (with a little help from a fan and a cold drink). As it has more protection from the elements than a screen porch (a sunroom or sunporch always has windows that close), you’re not limited to indoor-outdoor furniture, which opens up more possibilities. Depending on how it’s outfitted, the sunroom can function as an overflow space for parties, a breakfast nook, a den and more. Here are 10 ideas for styling your sunporch to make the most of this sunny sliver of space.
1. Tropical color. Outdoor furniture with clean lines and a cool resin coffee table are perked up by bright pillows and a sunny yellow tray in this coastal sunroom. A tropical-style fan and vases of large leaves finish the space with flair.
2. Preppy wicker. You can’t go wrong with a simple matching wicker furniture set (love seat, armchairs and glass-top coffee table) on the sunporch; it’s the accessories that can set it apart. Give your furniture flair with cushions in a classic preppy color combo, like the citrine and hot pink on the Greek-key-patterned pillows here.
3. Beachy den. The colors of sand and surf soothe — try pale aqua on the ceiling, sandy gray on the walls and crisp white trim. If you plan to use the space as a den, invest in window coverings that will block the sun’s glare as needed. In this sunroom, clerestory windows left uncovered allow in natural light even when the shades are pulled down.
4. Tranquil escape. Get more of a Zen feeling in your life by turning your sunroom into a dedicated meditation and relaxation space. Here, a soft blue ceiling, red lantern and carved wood daybed set an exotic tone. A low tea table and floor cushions provide a spot for meditating or relaxing.
5. Surf inspired. Provide a postbeach hangout zone with a laid-back collection of mismatched furniture and seaside artwork. Unfussy upholstery fabrics and slipcovers are best when damp swimsuits and sand may make an appearance. For an unexpected touch of color, paint just the interior window frames a vibrant blue — and if you have a surfboard or boogie board, go ahead and lean it casually against the wall.
6. Reader’s paradise. For a sunroom that gets even more use in the cool months, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a circle of comfy armchairs make an inviting spot for plopping down with a good book. A wide-striped rug and carved wood coffee table keep the space here feeling fresh and beachy, not stuffy.
7. Black and white. The black and white striped furniture, pillows and rug here pile on the pattern while still managing to look crisp, thanks to the strictly enforced color palette. A groovy peacock chair provides a welcome natural touch (and some drama), and an indoor-outdoor rug is easy to shake out or hose off when it gets sandy or dirty.
8. Happy chic. A coral ceiling, turquoise beaded chandelier and lemon-yellow coffee table make it clear this space is not for the color-shy. But if you’ve always wanted to try out bold color and pattern, a petite, sun-filled space like a sunporch can be a forgiving place in which to experiment. Finding a fabric or two with all of the colors in your palette (as with the curtains and sofa pillows seen here) can help tie the room together.
9. Morning room. A sunny corner of the house is the perfect spot in which to carve out a breakfast nook. Comfy banquette seating fits a bunch of guests, and a cheerful palette, like the aqua and lime one here, keeps the mood light. A seating area on the opposite side of the room makes a relaxing spot to enjoy that first cup of coffee and a paper.
10. Seaside cottage. Bring the nautical look home without going overboard on kitsch by focusing on just a few details: graphic anchor-print pillows, vintage buoy and a blue and white striped rug. Wicker furniture and a worn wood trunk are classic pieces that will stand up to years of use.