Stay Out All Summer!

This time of year all I want to do is be outside! On that note, I thought I’d share my cheat sheet for designing sublimely Al Fresco rooms:

Our chicken coop is one of the best parts of the rose garden, reiterating the architecture of the house and providing a charming backdrop at the end of the lawn.

Our chicken coop is one of the best parts of the rose garden, reiterating the architecture of the house and providing a charming backdrop at the end of the lawn.

Creating containment is always the first order of business, especially if the outdoor space has no architectural delineation. Ideally there is some sort of architectural element that gives it form: a pergola, sitting walls, raised planters, a fountain, garden shed, or chicken coop... something that can anchor the space and allow it to feel like an extension of the house. Invest in structure if you can, its function and charm will pay dividends as your garden grows. If building a permanent framework is not an option, structure can also be established with large scale pots and planters, and then furniture can fill in the footprint you’ve created.

Outdoor rooms aren’t just for West Coast living! This is one of my favorites from back East. With cast stone balustrades, blue stone floors and a 50 ft. neoclassic pool as its focal point, the space enhanced the facade of the lovely but rather “flat” rear exterior of the home and created the most beautiful outdoor room all summer long.

Outdoor rooms aren’t just for West Coast living! This is one of my favorites from back East. With cast stone balustrades, blue stone floors and a 50 ft. neoclassic pool as its focal point, the space enhanced the facade of the lovely but rather “flat” rear exterior of the home and created the most beautiful outdoor room all summer long.

During the day, shade is key. Even around a pool it’s important to be able to escape from the sun. That’s where meals can become all day events and conversations last until the sun goes down. If a solid top is lacking, my hack in a pinch is inexpensive bamboo fencing that comes on the roll from the hardware store. It can be laid on top of a pergola to create the perfect dappled shade.

Nighttime is when many outdoor spaces are their most magical. So light that space up! In a perfect world a plan will involve illumination both at the ground and from above so paths are lit and the silhouette of structures can sparkle.

One of my favorite dining rooms of all time! The bamboo screening laid on top of the pergola gave just the right amount of dappled sunlight.

One of my favorite dining rooms of all time! The bamboo screening laid on top of the pergola gave just the right amount of dappled sunlight.

Next, bring comfortable furniture into the space. Dining chairs with arms allow guests to linger at the table and deep seated sofas, chairs, and chaises keep us nestled in for the long haul. Today’s new performance fabrics are virtually indiscernible from any fabric you would use indoors, which means there are no limits to your imagination or comfort.

Potted vessels give this conversation area structure. Comfortable deep seating outfitted with today’s amazing performance fabrics take the living room outside.

Potted vessels give this conversation area structure. Comfortable deep seating outfitted with today’s amazing performance fabrics take the living room outside.

So here’s to creating beautiful outdoor rooms that can make your own back yard your favorite place to get away this summer.

What’s your favorite outdoor design trick? Let us know in the comments below!