Take it outside

Tips on creating lively and inviting outdoor spaces

by Paula Fullerton

When the weather becomes warm and sunny in North Carolina, our attention turns from inside our homes to outdoor spaces. Once, these outdoor spaces simply were there to admire a pretty garden or lush lawn. But now they have become part of the actual living space of our homes. With this added area, then, there are considerations you should make on creating outdoor spaces that are both comfortable and inviting.

Use of space
The first step is to determine how the space will be used. Will it be a sunny patio for soaking up the sun? Will it be an outdoor kitchen to host family and friends? Will it be a quiet screened porch to find refuge at the end of a busy day? When you make this determination, next decide how many people will regularly use the space.

Select comfortable and durable seating based on how many people will use it. Seating accommodations run from upholstered outdoor sectional sofas to wooden Adirondack-style chairs. The materials made for furniture frames should withstand the sun, rain and wind.

Outdoor fabrics used to be stiff and offered only in a limited number of stripes and solids. Today, these outdoor fabrics range from wovens to chenilles to velvets in patterns that will challenge your imagination and in every color currently used in home fashions. If your outdoor furniture will not be in a protected space, such as a screened porch, be certain the foam inside of the cushions will drain rain water and not hold onto it.

Pulling the room together
You can make these outdoor spaces even more comfortable with rugs, which today look and feel very much like indoor-only versions of rugs. The rug, however, should complement the seating. If your seating has busy patterns, for instance, choose a quieter pattern or border on the rug. Use these rugs to define sitting areas or to unite smaller areas.

If you need some privacy in your outdoor living space, consider outdoor window treatments. These can be draperies made in gorgeous outdoor fabrics, screen shades to simply stop the glare or wooden shades made to fit your open spaces, treated with marine-grade stains to keep their beauty for many years.

Finish your outdoor living rooms with art and lighting. Artwork is most commonly offered in metal sculptures, but there also are canvas-type pieces of art to brighten a wall outside of your home or in a screened porch. Outdoor lighting must be labeled as having met the guidelines for wet areas and must be heavy enough to withstand light wind. Table and floor lamps are best used in protected areas such as screened porches.

Start planning your outdoor living spaces early to enjoy them for the longest time possible throughout the year. And don’t forget to update these spaces just as you would the rooms inside your home, with subtle changes in pillows and arrangements of furnishings and accessories.

Paula Fullerton is founder of Sew Fine II in Durham and a member of the company’s design team. For more of her insight into interior design trends, call (919) 806-3638 or visit sewfine2.com.