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Summertime and the Living is Easy… and Outdoors

Fourth of July is here! And the weather – oh, the weather has been glorious and all you want to do is live outside! And why not? Outdoor entertaining has taken center stage this summer, with holiday entertaining ideas and design concepts which lend themselves to living your best life outside your house. “New products are enhancing the outdoor ‘gathering story’ – pizza ovens, fire pits, outdoor movies, games, scenes,” according to a new study just published in May by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The latest outdoor living spaces go far beyond great grilling centers to creating true outdoor rooms. “People changed how they entertained at home. They want to be outdoors. The focus is on the experience now,” according to the study. 

An upscale backyard terrace featuring perennials and with a custom designed shelter and fireplace.

Transforming your outdoor living space into a welcoming and useful family oasis doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Simply add a focal point, like a gazebo or pergola; make sure that your patio furniture complements your home’s architectural style and add some sort of outdoor kitchen/bar area to make your outdoor living space more enjoyable for your family and friends year-round. With so many ideas out there at a myriad of price points, it won’t take long to create your best outdoor life…

Map out your space. The first step to attaining that casual, out-of-doors lifestyle is to delineate and designate a conveniently-located area outside your home as the “outdoor living room” – and look to decorate with some resort-style comfy couches, ambient lighting and multi-functional furniture which is made to resist the weather. Large rugs help to define a living space and make your outdoor living area look like it has rooms and pulls your seating and dining together – while adding a splash of the season’s colors. And just lay them and leave them: outdoor area rugs are designed so that moisture runs right through them and don’t have to be taken in and out.

Photo: The Laurel Group

Matching your outdoor furniture to the architectural style of your home is essential to creating a beautiful, harmonious backyard living space. Furniture pieces that serve more than one use – like a dining table that also has firepit functionality – are both an economical and space-saving approach around which to build your outdoor living space. Start with a multifunctional firepit table as the centerpiece of your outdoor living space, and then build around it, adding comfy chairs with colorful outdoor cushions for some visual interest and flare. A pop of color in a backyard space can create a joyous and happy environment for relaxing. Choose fabrics for throw pillows and other textiles in cerulean, cobalt blue, sage, olive green and other colors which have always been associated with summer. 

Go Mediterranean. The recent Garden Trends Report from Garden Media Group declared “terracotta” as the outdoor color of the year for 2023. Terracotta means “baked earth,” and is a reddish-brown unglazed clay that is used to create pots and planters. Use terracotta to bring a bit of Mediterranean flare to your outdoor space: this warm tone will balance out all the grays and neutrals that have dominated outdoor furniture. Highlight the Mediterranean feel by choosing some plants and flowers that highlight this trend, such as marigolds and dahlias in a range of yellows and coppery hues; opt for Grecian statues, garden containers and urns on a Greek-inspired platform.

Add some warmth. Some wooden elements – like a bench, side table, or bar cart – add just a splash of warmth to your outdoor living space. Choose wooden patio tables and chairs in a warm finish, or perhaps warm leather, since the natural wear-and-tear over the years can actually enhance the rusticity of this trend. The sustainable outdoor furniture industry is booming, with so many more choices like pieces made from bamboo, recycled plastic, rattan, and other eco-friendly materials like polywood. Polywood, a name-brand material that is used in such items as Adirondack chairs and other furniture, is great for a space that sees a lot of entertaining: it’s durable, easy to clean, waterproof and made from recycled materials. The classic Adirondack silhouette will bring resort-like vibes, while the durability of the material will ensure long-lasting comfort. 

Throw some shade. Remote work is here to stay, so why not get creative with your workspace and set up your desk outside for fresh air while you work? Keep your outdoor workstation simple. A comfortable seat and counter height table will help you maintain good posture and mimic the feel of an office chair and desk, and lots of greenery will keep you in a focused mood. Just make sure your WiFi signal reaches outdoors and add an overhead umbrella. Or maybe you want to bring your workout to the out-of-doors? Make sure you’ve got a level, shaded area for floor exercises or a stationary bike. To get the look, arrange the furniture under a patio covering like a pergola, awning or shade sail. For a special touch, add some outdoor drapery, a green wall, a water feature, or an outdoor tiled accent wall to create your own cozy and intimate outdoor space. Vertical gardens are gaining popularity for their aesthetic appeal and space-saving functionality, achieving privacy screening in small spaces by using rolling shelves, pergolas, trellises, hanging baskets, planter boxes, fence shelving, mounted containers and pouches. Find a sunny spot to hang a few planter boxes or go big and cover a whole wall in green with tiered planters or a ladder garden.  

Photo: Michael Mundy

Lighten the mood. Outdoor lamps, lanterns and other lighting do more than help you see at night – they give your backyard a warm and inviting appeal. For a touch of outdoor elegance, place a couple of table lamps with colorful shades on an outdoor dining table or bar; or, hang a set of outdoor string or tea lights in an especially darkened area for a pop of dazzling sparkle and you’ll never want to leave your backyard.

From bar carts to kitchens. Being able to entertain outdoors is one of the joys of the summer season. Not only does it keep your kitchen from getting hot and messy, food served outdoors just has a certain casual (and delicious) appeal. You don’t have to spend a fortune to add an outdoor eating and cooking area. Setting up a bar cart next to your grill can help make your space more appealing. However, if you want to go the extra mile, investigate other outdoor cooking options including griddles and pizza ovens. Adding more cooking appliances and features typically found in a normal, indoor kitchen to outdoor kitchens means all entertaining prep can happen outdoors – no more shuttling drinks, ice, food, and dishes from the kitchen to the backyard! 

Water features and sensory pathways. Water features of all types are upping the relaxation factor in backyards and other outdoor living spaces. Go Zen and activate the senses via the soft sounds of a water fountain; maybe incorporate a water feature into a sensory pathway, another outdoor trend focused on making space to recharge and activate the senses. Texture also plays a role: sensory pathways often include materials like wood and stone. There’s also an increased interest in adding saunas, hot tubs, and outdoor showers to create spa-like environments to unwind without leaving the comfort of home. The ultimate in luxury water features: a backyard hot tub, sauna or outdoor shower, encouraging us to slow down and enjoy the present moment with friends and family.