HOW TO: Intelligently Design Your Outdoor Space

Outdoor spaces are becoming more and more important since we’re spending time at home while reducing the spread of Coronavirus. Perhaps you’ve looked at your outdoor space recently and felt it left a few things to be desired. We get it. Whether you have a super small balcony or a huge backyard, understanding how you want to use your space and making a few smart changes can get it ready and enjoyable in no time.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: Figure out your focal point and possible layouts—what does the space need to work around? Maybe there’s a fireplace that will anchor the space and dictate the layout of the furniture. This could also be as simple as the coffee table if you’re trying to create an outdoor living room of sorts. 

Once you know your focal point, establish “zones.” Zone out where you want your lounge space, and then dining space, for instance. This will help determine how much furniture you can fit, and the layout of each zone. Of course this is also a good time to recognize the limitations of your space—many of us don’t have space for more than one or two zones, so pick the most important and practical for your needs. Do you see yourself eating outside regularly? Then prioritize a dining zone. Just looking for a cozy reading spot? Prioritize a lounge chair area.

MEASURE FOR FURNITURE AND DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET: Using tape or string to lay out furniture sizes on the floor/ground can help you see just how big each piece can be. Make sure to take into account space between pieces and pathways to get through the space. Use this time also to play around with layouts – it’s much easier to move tape or string around than moving furniture! In terms of budget, the key here is to think about where to splurge versus where to save. If you live in a rental and aren’t sure if you’ll have any outdoor space in the future, you won’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on items you can’t take with you. If you are more settled in a space, it might make more sense to invest in some super durable outdoor furniture and then save on items like accessories that you may change out more regularly.

Outdoor furniture and accessory collections have come a long way, and you can find items that fit pretty much any style. We find it’s best to start with your larger pieces in neutrals, and then layer in pops of colors with accessories – this also is a great way to make your big purchases last longer, since neutrals can be mixed with different accents later to fit your tastes. Place your seating, tables and anchoring pieces in the space first to set the space.

Image via: @sfgirlbybay

CONSIDER YOUR MATERIAL OPTIONS: There are so many options now for outdoor furniture, lighting, and accessories. The main things to consider is whether you’re willing to refinish/treat your furniture regularly or not.

If you’re fine with some routine maintenance: 

WOOD is very durable and weather resistant, but oiling or repainting might be needed regularly, especially if your space gets full sun or you’re unable to move things inside during winter months

METAL with powder coats are rust-resistant, but may require re-coating occasionally

WICKER has a classic traditional look, but will require both protection with covers and regular cleaning/spraying with water resistant/fade resistant solutions

If you don’t want maintenance other than occasional cleaning:

POLYPROPYLENE is a plastic that is super durable and really affordable. It’s used to make furniture but also used a lot in outdoor rugs since it dries quickly and is mold resistant.

ALL WEATHER WICKER gives the look of wicker furniture but is made of a resin based plastic, so no mold or fading there!

STAINLESS STEEL AND ALUMINUM are easy to keep clean and don’t rust, so they’re a great option for a modern look outside. Check weight specifications when buying something made from stainless steel or aluminum to ensure it’s not so lightweight that it’ll get blown away in a storm!

RECYCLED MATERIALS thankfully are becoming more available due to demand, but they can be a bit harder to find. Every major retailer has at least a couple items made of recycled materials, but it may be more of a hunt to find the ones you love. Look for things like recycled plastic for furniture and PET yarn for textiles.

No matter what, investing in a cover for your outdoor furniture will help the pieces last longer. We recommend buying ones that match the furniture or have several ways to be adjusted for a secure fit. Covers won’t do any good if they won’t stay on the furniture. 

CONSIDER LIGHTING: While some homes have prefixed lighting, you may need to get creative if your space does not.

BISTRO LIGHTS are a great option for small or tricky spaces. You can hang them from pergola beams, attached to command hooks, or use poles weighted down with cement or in the ground to keep them up. We recommend using bistro lights that are heavier duty and solid to avoid lights breaking in windy/rainy climates

LANTERNS with candles (faux or real) or that plug into outdoor outlets can be great ways to incorporate lighting and accessories simultaneously. 

Image via: Rangel Design

ADD GREENERY: Adding greenery to an outdoor space is sort of a no-brainer, but there’s lots of ways it can happen. If you’re going to use real plants, it really is best to go to a garden center and talk to one of the professionals. Chicago, for example, has an interesting climate because the range of plants you can grow here is huge. Depending on what way the outdoor space faces and your sunlight amount, your options will vary. When you’re at the garden center, be really specific about how much light you have, how warm the space is, if it gets pools of rain or is covered, etc.

Image via: Emily Henderson

Finally, layer in TEXTILES AND ACCESSORIES. This is really what gives the space warmth and personality. Choose cushions and pillows made with outdoor fabrics, and if you have a small space inside where you can keep blankets in a basket to take outside when you’re using the space, we recommend it for those cozy evenings. 

Warmer weather is upon us and we can’t wait to get out there with some of these updates. Let us know how you’re updating your patio space and feel free to ask us any questions!

Love, HAVEN

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