Decorating Outdoor Rooms: An Extension of Indoor Decor

Decorating outdoor rooms is just as important as the inside ones.

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Good news! Summer has finally arrived and with it comes cookouts, backyard barbecues and neighborhood gatherings. And guests — lots of guests.

With all those extra visitors it's a good thing that warm weather tends to expand your living space into the outdoors. My decorating partner, Matt Fox, and I consider these outdoor spaces as extensions of a home, just another room to be decorated.

Decorating your outdoor room is very similar to decorating any other area of your home. First, it's important to determine the primary functions of the space. Most patios or decks, for example, have three separate areas: an area for eating, another for conversation and Matt's favorite, an area for relaxing.

Once you've decided exactly how you will use your outdoor space, it's time for furniture selection and placement. Depending on your budget, there are numerous choices for outdoor furniture, including plastic, wood, glass or wrought iron.

After selecting your pieces, the next step is to position your furniture to create a comfortable dining area and a conversation area with a view. To create the perfect area for relaxation, Matt suggests a hammock in a quiet corner of the yard.

To provide some evening ambiance, you might consider adding a Mexican clay chiminea or metal fire bowl. These outdoor fireplaces serve multiple purposes — they create a focal point for your outdoor seating area, and they can help with insect control. Outdoor fireplaces can provide ambient light and warmth on a chilly evening. Most important, however, an outdoor fireplace is essential for toasting marshmallows and making s'mores.

Next, you must determine the color scheme. To make your outdoor area seem like an extension of your home, I recommend using the same primary color scheme you've used in the interior, varying the intensity of the colors by using brighter, more dominant shades.

Finally, you should accessorize your outdoor room. Using your color scheme as a guide, choose a market umbrella to shade the dining area. Plastic plates and glassware with placemats in coordinating colors will help to create an inviting table.

To further define the dining area, you might consider the use of an outdoor area rug. New materials and fibers are now being used to create colorful area rugs resistant to fading and mildew.

To provide colorful accents throughout your patio or deck, consider using potted plants, garden ornaments and candles. Bubbling fountains and melodic wind chimes are a great way to add soothing sounds to make your patio or deck an outdoor retreat.

There is one additional decorating issue when accessorizing a patio or deck. Outdoor surfaces tend to be hard and inflexible. To make your outdoor space cozier, fabrics can be used to add warmth, color, and comfort.

Outdoor fabrics are now available in a variety of colors and patterns designed to withstand sun and rain. These fabrics are especially good choices for making pillows or cushions for your outdoor furniture.

Making outdoor cushions is really quite easy. First, use inexpensive muslin to create a pattern. Lay the muslin over the seat of the chair and trace and cut a pattern. Check the fit of the pattern on the chair and make any necessary adjustments.

Next, place your pattern on a sheet of two-inch-thick quick drying foam. Trace around your pattern. Then, using an old electric knife, cut the shape from the foam.

To help keep the cushion firm, cut two pieces of upholstery batting the same size and shape as your foam. Use foam adhesive spray to adhere the batting to the top and bottom of the foam.

Lay your muslin pattern on the fabric you have chosen for your cushion cover. Adding a seam allowance of a half-inch around the entire cover, cut a top and bottom for your cushion. Place the pieces right sides together and stitch, leaving a six-inch opening at the back of the cover.

Clip the inside curves, and turn the cover right sides out. Insert the foam and hand-stitch the opening. If desired, hand-stitch ribbon ties in place.

Your cushion is complete. Unfortunately, you probably have at least five more to make, but they will be worth effort. The cushions will add a much-needed softness to your the furniture, making your patio or deck the favorite room in the house.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also are authors of Real Decorating for Real People and co-hosts of the Home & Garden Television show Room By Room.)

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