Monthly Archives: July 2016

Colorful outdoor summer chairs

Add Charm and Functionality to your Outdoor Living Space

This summer, as the temperatures rise and the evening light lingers, take advantage of your outdoor spaces – making an outdoor area functional is like adding another room to your home for a few months each year.  Here are some ideas for turning your balcony or backyard into a summer oasis.

A Container Garden

colorful outdoor garden plants

Photo Courtesy of KeystoneGardens.com

Adding pops of color and texture to an outdoor space is made easy with pots and planters of all shapes and sizes. Choose lightweight materials, or put planters on moveable bases or stands, to make rearranging them easier on your back. Anchoring the corners of your patio or deck with groupings of plants in colorful pots establishes the borders of your space, and swapping out a rotation of seasonal plants – tulips and hyacinth in spring, geraniums and begonias in summer, colorful mums in the fall – keeps your space fresh and bright.  Non-flowering plants with a variety of textures and shapes also add interest, and can especially dress up an outdoor space that’s lacking in foliage, like a balcony.

A Variety of Seating Options

An outdoor space is more functional and enjoyable if you provide multiple seating options; benches, chairs, a chaise: the more choices you provide, the more your guests will appreciate the space.  Even scaled-down stools work double-duty; acting as plant stands but also letting little ones seat themselves. Chairs are a flexible option as well; you can pull a half-of dozen of them around the table for an al fresco meal, or pair just two chairs together for a more intimate arrangement.  Adding colorful cushions in weather-resistant fabrics to seating makes the area more inviting.

Interesting Visual Elements

Even one or two accents, like a bubbling water feature or an architectural element, can make outdoor living spaces feel unique and interesting.  An old Radio Flyer wagon full of plants, a painted chair with the seat removed and a colorful pot inserted, or a piece of wrought iron architectural salvage hung on the wall can all lend visual appeal without costing a fortune.  Flea markets or yard sales are good sources for repurposing accents for your outdoor space.  And even if you don’t have the space or budget for a water feature, a tabletop fountain can add the soothing sound of moving water for a fraction of the price (and size).

A Fire Source

If you’re lucky enough have a fireplace in your home, then you know it’s where everyone loves to curl up on a quiet night, and where larger groups gather to fight the chill of winter. The same is true of outdoor living spaces: a fire draws people and creates ambience.  Consider a fire pit, fire bowl or chiminea, which are flexible and affordable.  Just be sure to check local building codes to verify fire safety and placement rules regarding outdoor fireplaces.

Overhead Lighting

outdoor lighting

Courtesy of HGTV.com

Twinkling outdoor lights are a perennial favorite in outdoor spaces for a good reason: they’re romantic, functional and fun, providing a soft light source that doesn’t distract. There are lots of backyard options in pretty shapes and colors; you can string them over a table and chairs, wind them through a railing or fence, or use them to wrap a tree – all providing instant charm and subtle sparkle.

Double-Duty Furniture

Since space is often at a premium in outdoor living rooms, furniture and accents should work twice as hard. Your benches should have storage cubbies inside or underneath; chairs and side tables can act as pedestals for container plants until they’re called into use for seating or surface space.  A long rustic or glass-topped dining table makes a great surface for potting or outdoor projects until it’s time for a dinner party.

Cooling Your Home Down without A/C

For centuries, older houses had no such thing as air conditioning for relief during the warmer months. Instead of flipping a switch, the following eco-friendly, old-school methods were used to get air flowing through the house during the dog days of summer.

Using the passive-cooling principles that hot air rises, and cool air moves toward warmer air, you can design or retrofit your house to make use of fresh air to stay cool and invite in those long hot days of July and August.

Open Up the Room

Open windows for ventilation in the summer

Since hot air rises, and cool air moves toward warmer air, a house that has vented openings on both sides of the building has a lot more airflow – and any air movement is a good thing. Using operable windows on the cooler side of the house, you can open them wide to draw the air through from the hotter side of your home.

Shutters Aren’t Just for Outdoors

Shutters can be useful inside too. Shutters aren’t just a decorative alternative to curtains and blinds, they’re also a green way to ventilate – you can open up the windows behind them to let in air, and close the shutters to keep out the sun, and voila! The room is cooled down the old-fashioned way.

It’s Obvious, but: Fans

living room ceiling fan

Courtesy of housesen.com

Fans have been used since ancient times to keep things cool, since any air movement is good and a fan can suck away the warm air and push cooler breezes around a space. Ceiling fans are available in every conceivable design, whether you want something unobtrusive or bold.  Fans are even offered in retro palm-frond styles, and most fans also offer a light fixture combination if you don’t want to lose overhead lighting when you install the fan. Look for fans with a reverse switch or feature for winter, which helps push warmer air (it rises, remember?) back down into the room.

Take it Outside

Screened in porch sunroom

Courtesy of jpandcompany.net

Screened-in porches have long been an architectural staple in hot regions, and they deserve a comeback. Consider enclosing your covered porch, or enclosing a deck with screens, and you will have created an airy, insect-free outdoor living space. You can use a screened room for months, provided you furnish it with pieces made from materials that can withstand some rain, like wicker or metal. Bonus: a generous couch with some indoor-outdoor cushions becomes an ideal spot to sleep on hot summer nights!