Furnishing Your Outdoor Room
Whether you love sleek lines or traditional florals, get inspired by these four outdoor styles.
If your weather-worn patio furniture is past its prime, don't just pick up a new patio set and call it a day. With more furniture styles and outdoor fabrics to choose from than ever, you can create a one-of-a-kind patio style that extends your home outside. Mike Voyles, owner of Home Infatuation, an online outdoor furniture and accessories shop, and Stephanie Bartron, a garden designer and owner of SB Garden Design in Los Angeles, share their advice:
A contemporary look has clean, understated lines and a limited color palate with bold graphics. This style can liven up a generic ranch house, complement a modern home design or provide an interesting contrast to a historical house style that also boasts clean lines, such as craftsman.
When choosing contemporary furniture, look for metal designs or all-weather wicker with a sleek, sculptural design, says Voyles. If you prefer wood, go for teak, which tends to come in contemporary designs.
Complete the look: Throw down an outdoor rug in a bold abstract pattern and hang a piece of abstract outdoor art, Voyles recommends. Use big, bold, architectural plants in the garden and in bright glazed pots around the patio, says Bartron. "Any unexpected color combination is contemporary. I just did a patio with black powder-coated furniture and navy cushions."
A Mediterranean-style patio evokes sunny days in the Old World, with a warm color palate and traditional furniture and accessories. This look complements any Mediterranean- or Spanish-style house, as well as traditional homes.
Outdoor Mediterranean furniture is traditional and sometimes rustic, made of sturdy materials like pine or iron. Most traditional furniture in wicker, teak or aluminum work as a base for the Mediterranean style, Voyles says. Cushions and pillows cement the look. "Base your color palate on warm apricot, rust, cream, and ivory, and accent with greens," Bartron advises.
Complete the look: Outdoor-grade terra cotta floor tile will dramatically change the space into a Mediterranean oasis, and it's relatively inexpensive to lay over concrete, Bartron says. If it's in your budget, brightly-colored decorative tiles inlaid into a wall is another option. Accent patio furniture with inexpensive terra-cotta planters filled with boxwood topiaries or Mediterranean plants like rosemary and lavender, which require little water.
The beauty of an Asian-style outdoor space is its clean simplicity, elegance and natural tranquility. It's an ideal look for a small patio or garden space.
"Asian-style outdoor furniture can be contemporary with clean lines, or rustic, like tree stumps cut and finished as stools," Bartron says. "The first style is elegant and abstract, and the second is naturally-inspired."
Complete the look: Asian plants like camellias, Japanese maple, flowering cherries, evergreens and bamboo for a privacy screen or fence add understated lushness to the space. Small plants in beautiful Asian pottery can decorate the hardscape, Bartron says. A key element of Asian design is crushed stone pathways; Bartron likes a natural stone patio framed in a gravel walkway. Don't forget the water feature: a pond with koi fish is nice, but a simple tabletop water bowl evokes the same message of calm.
4. English Garden
A traditional English garden is known for an abundant array of flowers surrounding a large green lawn, with romantic walkways and hideaway seating areas. The look is beautiful for traditional and historic home styles.
Furniture for an English garden is definitely traditional, Voyles says. "For this style I'd look to hardwoods and teak to get that 'antique bench in England' look." You'll need cushions and pillows made with outdoor fabric to keep rustic seating comfortable, Bartron says. "English style is often floral and chintzy, but you don't want the patio furniture to compete too much with the flower garden. Keep the patterns simple, such as a plain pastel fabric accented with a floral pillow," she advises.
Complete the look: An English garden space is naturalistic, often with lawn surrounded by lush floral borders, Bartron says. "If you're worried about water use, replace the lawn with hardscape or gravel and build the garden around it," she says. As to plants, "an English garden doesn't have to be all fluffy small flowers. Plant an eclectic mix of what grows in your region, with an eye toward full, lush plants with a lot of textural interest and variety."