Outdoor Living

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 Examiner.com)

Daydreaming of outdoor living spaces

Outdoor living spaces extend the living area of most homes in the summer and year round in the warmer climates. Here in Florida the backyard becomes the gathering place for the whole family almost year round. From outdoor living rooms to outdoor kitchens, it’s almost like having an entire second outdoor home.  Creating the ideal outdoor living space is a matter of knowing what functions your family needs and building around them.

outdoor living room

via flickr

The best-designed outdoor living spaces incorporate something for every member of the family. Furnishings have gone beyond the metal fold out lawn chair to smartly styled woven seating with gorgeous cushions. The outdoor kitchen is more than just the grill standing in the yard. Complete kitchens with storage, running water and electricity are becoming much more common even in the smallest of spaces.  Lighting is more than just the dinky overhead dome light in the porch ceiling, it’s now found in stylish fixtures designed to face the elements year in and year out.

My favorite outdoor living spaces incorporate a fireplace, a wading pool or spa with ample areas to sit and converse. The fireplace is perfect for chilly nights while the pool provides relief and entertainment in the warmer months. Let’s admit it, every space needs those well appointed seating areas too.

outdoor seating

via BHG

As we embark on another summer, I am planning to overhaul our small but intimate outdoor living space. We have a small slab of concrete that is accessible from our master bedroom and runs the width of the house with sliders opening to the kitchen area. Despite being barely big enough to fit a table and chairs, it is still feasible to have a relaxing space for entertaining, even if it’s just the two of us. Working with a limited budget, I am constrained in the outdoor living features I’d like to add, but alas a girl can dream.

via HGTV

via HGTV

The dream is to build the outdoor kitchen and install the pool, two features that require a sizable budget. Until money is no object, I will settle for small changes that may or may not be affordable in the bubblegum budget.

OB-outdoor space mood board

I would love to add a loveseat sectional combo that allows us to lounge more easily just off our bedroom.  A great outdoor area rug would make the concrete less cold and more welcoming. The lanai needs outdoor curtains to keep the sun at bay in the morning and mosquito netting to deter the skeeters at night.  Obsessed with lighting fixtures, I would love to find a fabulous pendent to add a bit of style to an already run of the mill outdoor living space.

So, in lieu of the complete overhaul to include the pool, outdoor kitchen and expanded seating area, I will be cleaning the space and reworking it as best as possible, using mostly what I have at my disposal.

Check back next week for the before and after……..

It’s National Hammock Day

Did you know today is National Hammock Day?  It is, so let’s celebrate the backyard summer staple.

via commons.wikimedia

via commons.wikimedia

Little known facts about the ubiquitous hammock..

  • It’s roughly a 1000 years old
  • The Mayans created the sleeping sling to keep them safe as they slept
  • Columbus discovered the hammock and took it back to Europe
  • European navies adopted the space saving sleeper and used it on the decks of their ships
  • A company in South Carolina began mass production of the hammock in 1889
  • It was a leisure must have for the wealthy and an essential for frontier farmers


Today, the hammock still enjoys its spot in the sun (or the shade).  It goes glamping, and camping with the adventurous. It hangs in the backyard of many homes for relaxation and good summer reading.  It has even found its way into the home for some.

via jurig.deviantart

via jurig.deviantart

How often have you laid down in a hammock with a great book and a glass of wine only to find your eyelids drooping and soon you are off to la la land? Well, it is no wonder the hammock is the best way to sleep. The gentle rocking of a hammock mimics that of rocking a baby to sleep.  The swaying motion aligns the brain waves and induces a deep and sound sleep.

via bloombety.com

via bloombety.com

Incorporating the hammock into your backyard is a breeze.  Not to worry if you don’t have two sturdy trees to hang it between, there are free standing hammocks with a wood or metal frame.  A favorite solution is to install two posts with a hook and hang the hammock between the two. This solution lets you take it down with little effort and store it with ease too.

via homeplusdecor

via homeplusdecor

For even more fun, consider a hammock built for two. Let’s face it napping alone is fun but napping with someone is better.

Inviting outdoor spaces

As spring morphs into summer, it is time to think about refreshing or decorating outdoor spaces. Outdoor spaces can be inviting and restful places to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors just beyond your living room.  Whether your lanai is enclosed or left open to the elements and critters, here are a few tips that will have your space looking stylish and welcoming.


Before you pick furniture, ask yourself what activities the space will serve. Will you eat dinner out there, just relax with a book, or use it for a combination of things.  Once you have an idea what you will use the space for, take measurements so know exactly what room you have for furniture. The more space you have available the more likely you can set up a couple of areas, one for eating and one for conversation.

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.  As with any design scheme make sure the pieces you select are to scale. In other words, if you have a small space you will want to use small-scaled furniture. A large space allows for larger scaled items.

I love the use the weather worn teak, and bright colored pillows. The wicker coffee table is amazing too. It’s all perfectly designed to scale and gives you several seating options.


You can purchase outdoor window treatments, rugs, decorative lighting, and tiki torches to add a little personality to your outdoor living.  Each accessory just adds that extra bit of interest and keeps the room from appearing flat. To combine lighting with a bug repellent try hanging a few candle lanterns scented with bergamot or citronella.

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. Personally, I adore the wide colorful selection of striped cotton rugs at Dash and Albert.

Who wouldn’t want to dine here with friends?

The fireplace has moved out of the living room and onto the back deck.  Whether it’s a small round fire pit perfect for roasting marshmallows or a large scale fireplace sitting prominently in the outdoor living room. Both varieties offer warmth on chilly evenings. The smoke may even keep the skeeters away.