Suzy Redino, a local interior designer and gardener, has a well-established backyard for entertaining. There’s a stamped concrete patio, whimsical sculptures, a pond and perennial beds.
But she and other winter-weary Western New Yorkers each spring look for ways to spruce up and enhance their outdoor living spaces.
“This year, I want to finally put in a fairy garden, but I want to make everything myself – like the little houses I’ll make with sticks and moss that I gather. I just find them fascinating,” she said.
She also wants to build a shed – using recycled materials such as windows she has collected through the years.
Finally, she plans to create a new sitting area by the pond, close to where she recently lost five trees to an emerald ash borer infestation. A vintage turquoise glider will be the main attraction.
“There are things you want to do and things you have to do,” said Redino, who runs a local decorating business called Cherry Tree Design ... Lost & Found.
Garden tasks keep homeowners busy enough, but focusing on porch, patio or deck is a priority to many. Whether it’s refurbishing existing pieces or adding new ones, it’s a concept many have grasped: Your outdoor living spaces can be as comfortable as the rooms indoors.
All-weather furniture and cushions as well as lamps, drapery panels, umbrellas, rugs, showers, fire pits and decorative accessories designed for outdoor use help pull it all together.
Comfortable outdoor furniture is key, of course. With so many outdoor fabrics and furniture frames to choose from, how does one decide on colors and finishes?
Certainly, surroundings may determine a certain scheme. If you live near the water, you may want to select blues and greens – and beach motifs. If you live in a more woodsy setting, an earthy palette might be a good choice.
But don’t feel too limited.
“Because it’s outdoors, a lot of the rules don’t apply. It’s nature,” said Wendy Bailey, manager of Arthur’s Home Furnishings, 4288 S. Buffalo St., Orchard Park.
Bailey offered some tips for helping people decorate an outdoor space – whether they have a small balcony or a large patio.
“A lot of people will have certain color flowers and landscape plants in that area, and they might want to pick up those colors,” she said. “We also always ask what color the siding is on the back of the house and if there are any shutters in the back.”
Warm and cool tones also come into play. “Is it a deck or stamped concrete patio – wood tones vs. gray tones? You don’t want the frames on your furniture or your wicker to clash,” Bailey added.
“Another thing to think about is whether there is an awning. If you have a striped awning, do you want to put a striped fabric on the furniture? That would look too stripe-y. Maybe you would want to go solid or with a floral that would complement the stripe,” she said.
Another consideration: “Sometimes people like to carry the inside colors outside. So if you have reds in your family room and that is how you enter your outside space, you might want to continue the same kinds of colors outside,” Bailey said.
Looking for some new ideas? Here are just a few things we’re seeing:
Vertical gardens: Whether you make it yourself or buy a ready-made wall planter from a home-improvement store, people are talking about growing vertical gardens.
On the Lowe’s website, style expert Pam Kahn has this to say about them: “Live plants have always been essential to outdoor living. A vertical garden gives you the full advantage of space and – as an added bonus – organic wall art.”
Vintage touches: There are many ways to add a bit of old to the new. Better Homes & Gardens suggests hanging a large vintage alphabet letter on the wall, but use your imagination for displaying other interesting items.
Vintage table linens will look right at home on the porches of old Buffalo homes – and will rescue them from years of storage in cedar chests or linen closets. Who cares if they are stained? That’s one of the purposes of small potted plants. A pop of retro color such as peacock blue or orange can also add a delightful touch.
Outdoor string lights: These are nothing new but each season introduces new designs.
“For visual warmth, opt for inexpensive string lights, which will add ambiance and allow you to enjoy the patio later into the night. LED candles and ceramic lanterns are also having a moment,” Hila Roberts, patio merchant for the Home Depot, told the Chicago Tribune.
Hanging chairs: Kicking back on the porch or patio is relaxing. A rocker, glider or hammock makes it even more so. This season, hanging chairs appear to have made a comeback.
Bed Bath & Beyond offers the Flowerhouse Hanging Egg Chair on a frame in several fabric colors and patterns. Pier 1 and other retailers offer versions as well.
Whimsy: Let's not forget that summer decor should always have a light side. Enter garden decor and decorative accessories that make you smile.
Flamingo candle holders, frog garden statues, colorful flower spinners ... look for them in garden centers, local arts and crafts shows and festivals, catalogs, online.
Small space solutions: Whether people are furnishing their first apartment or downsizing to smaller digs, the outdoor space is often tight.
That doesn’t mean residents can’t have a stylish, functional balcony or small patio, if they have one. Options include scaled-down tables and chairs as well bistro tables for two.
Outdoor drapery panels add privacy – as well as color, texture and shade. And outdoor rugs are available in different sizes to pull together any look.
Contrarily, if you have ample outdoor space and entertain groups both small and large, you have enticing options as well.
Said Wendy Bailey, from Arthur’s: “We have an extension table in cast aluminum that opens from 6 foot to 104 inches with self-storing leaves. People are like ‘wow’ because usually, if it’s just a family of four, you don’t want this giant table. You can have it a little more intimate, and then when the whole family comes over you open it up and you have a table for 10.”