Creating inviting outdoor living spaces

Well-tailored outdoor spaces are necessary in any warm climate where the back yard becomes additional living space. It is a place to relax, eat al fresco, watch a little television and enjoy cooking out.  As spring morphs into summer, it is time to think about refreshing or decorating outdoor spaces. Creating inviting outdoor living spaces is simple with the right approach.  Whether the lanai is enclosed or left open to the elements, here are a few tips that will have the space looking stylish and welcoming.

outdoor dining

Generate Ideas

Jot down a few ideas on the function of the outdoor space. Decide what activities the space will serve. Will it be for outdoor dining, lounging by the pool, or both?  Understanding the purpose the space will serve guides the furniture purchases. If lounging is the primary activity, do not spend time looking for the best outdoor dining set. Focus instead on the seating.

Try It Out

Today’s outdoor furniture selection has grown beyond the Adirondack chair and the old fold out lawn chair. More stylish and sturdier options are widely available, from complete outdoor living room sets, to adorable bistro dining sets. Before purchasing patio furniture, try it out. Sit in the love seat and chairs to see if it is comfortable. If it is, it is more likely to get regular use. Nothing hard and uncomfortable will be worth the money.


Low Maintenance

Do not waste time with pieces requiring a lot of upkeep. Opt instead for easy low maintenance materials that can take whatever Mother Nature tosses their way.  Look for teak, wicker, cedar, metals and composite plastics. These will stand up to summer rains and hot sun for years to come.

Embrace Color

In today’s market place, the color choices are not limited to beige, white, gray or black. Finishes are available in a wide range of colors. One thing to consider, is keeping the vibrant, trendy colors to the seat cushions and rugs so as not to date the main pieces.


Invest Wisely

These pieces may need to last more than a few years and investing in quality pieces will help them to last. Cheap is not always better, in most cases cheap is cheap. It is better to spend wisely on pieces that will last, rather than on pieces that will break or rust over time.  Plastic resin chairs and tables are affordable, but over time, the plastic breaks down and cracks.


Round out the space with outdoor window treatments, rugs, decorative lighting, and tiki torches to add a little personality to the space.  Each accessory adds an extra bit of interest and keeps the space from appearing flat.  Outdoor rugs keep your feet comfortable and safe from the rough feel of concrete. They also offer a great opportunity for a splash of color while tying the space together.  Window treatments keep the sun out and keep the space a bit cool.  Plant a variety of flowers to add color and texture to the room. Hang paper lanterns for a festive vibe and keep the bugs away with citronella votive candles.

Turn any drab out door space into an inviting space the neighbors will be jealous of with these easy tips.

Container Gardens

Selecting Plants for Container Gardens

An outdoor room can be so much more than the furniture and rugs that grace a patio. Like any indoor room, accessories can make or break the space. Creating container gardens for the patio can be a colorful option to completing a look. It can be overwhelming with so many plants available at the nursery.  So, I asked a local horticulturist for a few tips.

Linda Worle, owner of Flowers and Other Things, a landscape and gardening service in Tarpon Springs, Florida, says “Container gardening offers a wonderful way of adding interest to a patio, entryways and pool areas.” There are many containers that can be used, from large terra-cotta pots to glazed ceramics. If a vertical garden is an option, try re-purposing a wood pallet.

Selecting plants for container gardens

Plant Compatibility

She suggests starting with plant compatibility.  For instance, water requirements, light requirements and the PH of the soil as well as drainage all play a role in selecting the right plants for a patio. You can find the find requirements of any plant on a tag included in the pot at the garden center.  As you select plants make sure they all share the same sun light needs and watering needs. Placing plants that need full sun with plants that need partial sun is asking for disaster.

tips for container gardens

Color palettes and plants

In any design project, a favorite color is a great starting point to build on. Beginning with a color palette allows for an easier visit at to the nursery, as most plants come in a wide variety of colors. Mix and match pinks, reds and yellows with a a few neutral whites to create a beautiful display.

Worle says, “Almost anything can be used in a container garden as long as its location is suitable for the plantings with proper light and watering.”  She recommends Begonias, Chinese Hat, or Cape Honeysuckle for a container gardens that offer a little height. For lower plants, she suggests day lilies, cosmos, Canna lilies and lxora.

lantana flowers

If small children or pets are in the home, it is important to select nonpoisonous plants. Worle, suggests, “Plumbago, blue flowers provide color all summer long. Lantana comes in an array of different colors including:  red, yellow, pink/yellow, white and purple… offering color in the garden year round.  The flowers will enter a short winter rest and come back in spring, as long as they have been properly cared for, i.e.,fertilized and pruned”

Following these simple tips and suggestions will let the home gardener create safe, colorful and well suited gardens.

(This post was previously published on

tips to picking a coffee table

Tips to Selecting a Coffee Table

A coffee table can make or break a room. It can be the statement piece, or it can fade into the design. It is the one accessory a living room must have, in my opinion. Choosing the right coffee table can be an overwhelming experience for some people, though. On the other hand, armed with a few tips and tricks, the process can be down right fun.

How to select a coffee table

Start by knowing what it is you wish to accomplish with your coffee table. Will it be a statement piece, or be more functional? Doe it need to be fancy, or do you want something more simple?  Does the shape or material matter to you, if so how much does it matter?

octagon coffee table


Coffee tables come in all shapes and sizes. The most common seem to be rectangles. By no means are they the only shape to choose from. There are squares, ovals and rounds. Are there children or pets to think of?  If so, a round or oval table would be best. There are no sharp edges to injure oneself on during a fall or a bump into it.  If you opt for a round or oval shape, make sure you have 30 inches between the coffee table and the television console. Of course if the TV is wall mounted, you will still need to have walk way clearance.




What functionality is required? Will it house the remote and kid’s toys or just lay books and magazines on it? Some coffee tables have hidden storage, or built in display cases for artwork. In most cases, the functionality is being able to simply set down a drink or a small plate.



How long is the couch?  Pick a coffee table that is the same scale as the couch. For example, A long narrow couch will look well paired with a long and narrow coffee table. A long narrow table paired with an over-sized couch will look dwarfed in comparison. One rule of thumb is to keep a large scale piece with a large scale piece, provided the room is well suited to large scale furnishings.  Scale is simply the idea that each piece has equal visual weight when compared to each other. You don’t want to pair a delicate love seat with a heavy industrial metal table.

contemporary_glass_coffee table


Then there’s the question of material. Coffee tables come in wood, metal, glass tops and acrylic. The material you opt for will largely depend on your style. Wood is considered traditional, while metal and glass tops fall more into the modern to contemporary style ranges.

Think long and hard about going with a glass top coffee table. Sure they look fabulous and like acrylic coffee tables they visually open up a space. Nate Berkus, though, learned that kids and glass don’t mix well.  His daughter Poppy recently shattered the glass top coffee table in his bedroom causing shards of glass to go everywhere. All she did was innocently slammed a toy down on top.


Alternative Options 

If your style is a bit more eclectic, don’t feel the need to opt for a traditional coffee table. There are wonderful pieces that double nicely as a coffee table in just about any eclectically decorated space. I love the idea of turning an old steamer trunk into a coffee table, as long as it isn’t higher than the couch. Another option is to use a cedar chest, or a small grouping of nesting tables.  An over-sized ottoman offers both a place to leave the remote and a tray of magazines, but also provides additional seating when hosting a party.  In a small space, grouping together several garden stools will give the room a casual feel.

Once the needed functionality, scale and design are understood, shopping for a coffee table becomes easier.  Some of the best places to find coffee tables locally are area thrift stores, consignment shops and antique dealers.


Menswear Inspired Decor

Have you noticed more and more men pairing window pane plaids, or gingham checks with bold solid colored ties? It seems they have adopted the pairing of casual yet masculine patterns, rather than the tired look of a solid or striped shirt with a busier tie pattern. Since fashion sets the tone for interior decor, lets’ follow this lead and look at mixing masculine patterns for a gentlemen’s den.

Bennett Check Rod Pocket Curtains with Back Tabs
                                                                                          photo source

Houndstooth, window pane plaids, checks, or pinstripes, all of these are thought of as masculine patterns. They offer strength and steadiness, unlike a feminine floral pattern which is softer.  Incorporating these patterns in to a man cave, or men’s home office sets a rugged powerful tone to the room. But how do you pair these patterns for a cohesive pulled together look?

Pacific Heights Transformations

The trick is to stay within a color family and stick to the color scheme. Brown, beige, gray, and cream are fabulous neutral choices that allow you to bring in any accent colors you may like. When picking out fabric for the window treatments, upholstery or accent pillows, I like to keep the number of patterns to about three in coordinating colors. Using more than that,  can look a little busy and chaotic.

Presidio Heights Project
     Photo source

Another pit fall is not including solid colors into the plan.  A room filled with all pattern can appear dizzying, ans chaotic. Solids allow your eye to rest and not be barraged with pattern all at once. A solid color peppered in with coordinating patterns calms the room down a bit and makes it more pleasing to the eye. Pull a color from the patterns and run with it. Use it for a pillow or two, let it stand alone as the color of the couch, or opt to use it as window treatment.

ten tips to curb clutter

Ten Tips to Curbing Clutter


If you’re like me keeping clutter at bay is a must. I know I can let it get away from me on occasion, which leads to a large scale clean up on my part from time to time.  The old adage ” Everything in it’s place” is for some, better said than done.  It’s something I am working on diligently, being married to a neat freak does help.  For those of that are clutter challenged, I’ve uncovered a few tips that may be worth making a habit.

Ten tips to Curb Clutter


  • Do a daily 5 minute clean up. Patrol “hot”spots through out your house to where stuff tends to gather and make a quick sweep. I usually do this right before Kevin comes home. I also keep a basket at the ready so when he starts picking up he has a place to dump my stuff, allowing me to handle it.  
  • Open mail over the trash can or recycling bin and conduct your bill paying on line. Mail is the chief culprit of clutter for some.
  • File Newspapers and Magazines once a week. If you haven’t looked at in two weeks, it’s better to toss it. I, on the other hand, have a filing system for my magazines. I used to hold onto all of my design magazines, but found they took up too much extra space in the office. I found an easier way to keep what I wanted without stacks of mags. I created a binder to store my “tear sheets” (I’ll have more on this shortly) 
  • No Wire Hangers! Purge those things monthly. If you have a bunch return them to the dry cleaners. They would be happy to recycle them. I found wooden hangers that make our closet look uniform and well, more stylish.
  • Clear closets yearly. My rule is if I haven’t worn it in a year chances are I won’t wear it again. Donate your items to charity, unless it’s Lilly, put it on ebay!  Another great option is to turn your unwanted clothing into cash by ordering a Thredup bag. You can stuff the bag they send you with what ever you don’t want, send it back and they will send you cash. Awesome to curb clutter
  • Arrange wardrobe by type. Sort clothes into categories and then color, or use what ever system will work for you.
  • Fold sheet sets inside one pillow case and store in the linen closet as unit. It will take up less space and let you store several sets together.
  • Don’t over stuff drawers. Don’t let a drawer get more the 3/4 full. It will become a jammed mess otherwise.
  • Eliminate unused items in the kitchen. Go through cabinets and drawers, collect never used items for charity.
  • Make a list before you shop. Take stock of what you need in order to get things under control. More skirt hangers? Another storage box? Then figure out where everything will go.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to curb the clutter too.