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From the Pros to Your Porch: Tips from industry leaders

Backyard Patio Tips From Designers

With spring in full swing and summer on its way, your outdoor space is about to get a lot more use! But, is it setup to give you the most pleasure, fun, and comfort? We gathered some outstanding outdoor design ideas from a collection of the top designers, decorators, and landscaping specialists around the globe.

Sarah Barnard, Sarah Barnard Design

Focus on the pretty
Contemplate what your important focal points should be. A beautiful tree? A softly trickling fountain? An impressive outdoor kitchen?

The elements that you choose to dominate the space physically and visually influence its overall feeling/mood.

Throw some shade

The best outdoor spaces have a combination of sun and shade. Consider retractable Roman shades or awnings in combination with shade provided by natural plantings to provide some versatility. This also allows you to enjoy the space in any weather.

Keep it functional
I recently completed a home remodeling project for a beach-loving bachelor. His tri-level townhouse is fabulously located; alas, the outdoor space is limited to a few balconies and a roof deck.

We focused on beautifying the small spaces and maximizing their function. Using natural wood tiles over the existing concrete deck helped to create a natural look that will patina over time.

A combination of powder coated metal lounge furniture, natural rustic wood tables, and lightweight concrete pottery created a richly toned, masculine, minimalist space.

Jarret Yoshida, Jarret Yoshida, Inc.

Maintain consistency throughout the home
My basic philosophy for outdoor decorating is to make your yard a continuation of your indoor space. Whether you are in New York City, a smaller city area, or a spacious suburban or country location, your yard can become an extension of your home.

Choose fashion and function
Choosing furniture that is both beautiful and durable is a must. Depending on the climate you live in (and considering spatial factors), stackable or foldable pieces can make for ease of storage during the harsher weather months. This would also ring true for any BBQ equipment you may have.

Brianne Bishop, Brianne Bishop Design

Spend money where it counts
Be aware of the elements and take this into consideration with your investment. I always encourage clients to invest in more long-term pieces, such as fiberglass planters, built-in kitchens, and metal furniture. Save on the pieces that could be more disposable, such as cushions, rugs, and candles, as they take the most abuse.

Savor every season
Every project here in Chicago has a fire table; it extends our summer season that much longer!

Change it up with color
Like my interiors, I like to keep outdoor furniture and fixtures neutral and allow the accent pillows and plants to be the pop of color. This also allows you to change your scheme every season if you wish. I have done everything from black and white flowers to hot pink and lime green!

Also, understand that furniture pieces in the elements will not have the longevity of your interior furnishings, so embrace the patina that will inevitably happen.

Just like the philosophy of wabi-sabi — wear and tear can be just as beautiful!

Jennifer Horn, Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture

Find flexible furniture
When it comes to furnishing, focus on flexibility. The oversized woven sectionals that are prevalent today are wonderful (and comfy!), but they can be cumbersome and difficult to shift out of focus if you need to accommodate a bigger crowd.

Make it easy to expand your circle
Imagine how your outdoor space will function for a quiet night at home and then what adjustments will help you entertain a bigger crowd. Occasional tables that can double as ottomans allow you to seat more people for a party but keep your space feeling intimate for smaller groups.

Accommodate your guests
Another outdoor furnishing tip: If regular visitors are older, be sure to have a chair or two that has arms and isn’t too low — sectionals and oversized lounges can be difficult for older guests to sit in.

Easy to clean
Spaces that are exposed to the elements collect pollen, dust, leaves, and snow. Thus, they require more cleaning. Keep decorative objects to a minimum so you can quickly sweep or wipe down surfaces for an impromptu gathering.

Adios mosquitoes
If you are in mosquito country, a fan is imperative. A ceiling fan can be mounted to a pergola or other overhead structure. Or you can use weatherproof oscillating fans, which should be easy to set up.

Moving air, in my experience, is one of the only foolproof ways to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Set the mood with … mood lighting
For parties, rely less on electrical light fixtures and create an intimate space with hurricane lamps and candles. Twinkle lights are always a crowd pleaser — look for commercial grade products that can be set on a dimmer.

Divide and decorate
We recently completed a city garden in Kalorama, DC. The garden space was very shallow, and the detached garage was omnipresent from the breakfast room.

We lessened its impact by adding a raised fountain between these structures. The fountain provides a foreground object to focus on, making the garage feel more distant.

June Shea, Shea Studio Interiors

Give any space a purpose
I always start by asking what do I want to do in the space? Dine, lounge, read? That helps determine what needs to be in the space to make it functional for those needs. It doesn’t have to be a huge space, either. For example, you can make a small balcony an inviting space by adding a couple of small chairs, a carpet, and a few plants to it.

Marie Burgos, Marie Burgos Interior Design

Your environment affects your emotions
I am from the beautiful island of Martinique, where I experienced the color and elements of nature in the Caribbean. The energy of what surrounds you delights all your senses. I truly believe that your environment has a huge influence on your emotions and ultimately, on achievements and happiness.

Feng Shui your space
My approach to creating spaces integrates the Feng Shui philosophy. I focus on balance, harmony, the use of natural elements, and the Yin and Yang forces.

These elements are all present in the spaces I design in the form of a color, texture, or shape. It’s all about creating a space that looks beautiful andfeels right.

Winding walkways
Create a gently curving pathway for energy to flow in smoothly.

Let the decor entice you
Choose relaxing, flowing shapes when it comes to furniture and decor. The garden should be nice to look at through the windows when the weather is compromised and should be inviting when it is sunny.

Apply the elements
Integrating the five Feng Shui elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) in your garden is important — especially water because of its powerful and soothing presence.

Make it a clutter-free zone
Don’t use your outdoor space as a storage place! Your home should harmoniously blend with its surroundings. A cluttered outdoor area will drain the energy from you.

Pick plants for every season
Don’t forget to use plants that look great during winter. Mediterranean plants, like lavender and rosemary, are very scented, pretty, and often evergreen.

Let mother nature make music
A must-have outdoor decor element is wind chimes because they’re a great way to increase the flow of good Chí (positive energy). Place them in the corners of the yard to add balance and establish comfort.

Feed the birds
Bird feeders are amazing energy attractors, and the birds themselves carry many qualities we want in and around our homes.

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