Whether your outdoor space is large or small, well landscaped or a work in progress, decorating it is a fun mission. There’s an outdoor version of everything found indoors – whether it’s a sectional set, patterned rug, lamp or even a TV. Market umbrellas, fire pits, pillows and lanterns have become staple items and are available in a range of styles and price ranges.
And everything can be color coordinated – from your outdoor fabrics to your tableware.
What’s also clear is that those who love outdoor living often want to have more than one area set up for activities – or kicking back. A food prep/dining area will bring together family and friends for meals prepared by the resident griller. A resting/meditation spot can be easily achieved with a hammock, lounge chair or bench located in a quiet area of the garden – perhaps near a fountain or other water feature. A “chat” grouping – think cushioned chairs around a fire pit – may be the destination on weekend evenings; you’ll see one option on Page F3. Areas for play, potting and exercise also are desirable for some.
So many options are available for furniture and accessories, everywhere from local specialty stores and supermarkets to garden centers, department stores and big-box stores. Quality counts for longevity so consumers need to do some homework; many outdoor products are designed to last for years. Others will need to be replaced much sooner.
People with the time and energy also may be able to find some nice finds at garage and estate sales. Remember, too, that handcrafted and unique garden decor items are available at the region’s arts and crafts festivals – including 100 American Craftsmen at the Kenan Center in Lockport (June 3-5), Allentown Art Festival and Allen West Festival (June 11-12), Lewiston GardenFest (June 18-19), Buffalo-Style Garden Art Sale at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens (June 25-26) and others. Keep an eye on Garden Notes in the Friday Home & Style section for listings.
Looking for some of the latest trends in outdoor decor? The American Home Furnishings Alliance highlights a few of the trends for spring/summer 2016:
• A mix of materials in outdoor furnishings. You’ll see teak or other woods mixed with wicker, aluminum and stainless steel, both in single pieces and in collections that mix and match. “Combining the materials adds depth and richness. It’s a sophisticated, natural look, which consumers have been responding to both inside and out,” said Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the AHFA and executive director of its outdoor division, the International Casual Furnishings Association, in a trends release.
• Neutrals – plus some zing. Gray and beige, in particular, remain neutral favorites, but pops of color in accent pieces keep things interesting. Popular options for outdoor pillows and other products include citrus tones such as citron green; celadon and mint green, and Pantone’s two colors of the year – rose quartz and serenity. Details such as tassels, braids and fringe – normally associated with indoor pillows but designed for outdoors – bring the look of inside decor to your patio, porch or deck.
• Faux leather. Seating covered in a faux-leather material that mimics the real thing is designed to hold up outdoors. The AHFA points out that at Century Furniture, the Trove bench from the Candice Olson Outdoor collection looks like it’s covered in tufted leather but is actually concrete.
• Convenience and durability. Manufacturers are focusing on cushions and seating that dry quickly. That means you don’t have to dash out to take in the cushions when it rains.
Whether you’re creating a whole new look outdoors or just looking to add a few new pieces, here are some of our favorites.
1. Bistro set. This table-and-chairs set for two not only is a space saver on small patios and porches, but it also creates a quaint seating area in a back garden or tucked-away space. It will be admired by all who visit (or sit there). It can be dressed up with colorful cushions and table linens – with potted flowers to match, of course. Old sets can be given new life with a light sanding and fresh coat of spray paint. (Rust-Oleum has some inspiration and tips for doing so on its website, rustoleum.com.)
2. Outdoor pillows. This is one of the quickest and (sometimes) affordable ways to update your outdoor space. You will find them in all price ranges and designs – from whimsical (bold colors, flamingo motifs, catchy phrases) to quite sophisticated (classic colors, modern florals, decorative trims). Mixing solids, stripes and patterns may feel tricky but store displays, catalogs and decorating pros will inspire you.
3. Outdoor rugs. Weatherproof rugs often made from recycled plastic or polypropylene have become very popular in recent years. They are available in bright colors and patterns including stripes and florals but also colors and textures that mimic jute and other natural materials.
“So many people are buying neutral fabrics for their deep-seating pieces that the rugs can give it that pop that you like in the summer,” said Wendy Bailey of Arthur’s Home Furnishings in Orchard Park.
Her tip: Use a waffle rug pad so that water can flow through as well as air for ventilation.
4. Market umbrellas. Solids, stripes, florals and gingham checks are some of the patterns you will find in shade-providing umbrellas. They come in several sizes to accommodate your space; a tilting mechanism allows you to better block the sun at various times of the day.
As with other outdoor products, a high-quality umbrella will cost more but last longer. “A solution-dyed acrylic such as Sunbrella is guaranteed not to fade for five years,” Bailey noted.
5. Lighting. Lanterns (with real or flameless candles or LED lights) add ambience. String lights elevate the party feel. Landscape lighting enhances the garden, sometimes magically, and when used to illuminate pathways and steps adds safety and security. Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits – propane, natural gas or wood-burning – create a gathering place and extend the season so you can enjoy your garden right into fall. Really, there’s no reason to stay in the dark anymore. Just be safe with those candles and flames.
6. Serving tray. Sounds simple, right? But anyone who has tried to balance glasses of lemonade and a plate of cookies knows how much smoother serving guests goes with a tray. You’ll find them in melamine but also in synthetic wicker – Pier 1 shows them combined with weather-resistant iron frames for extra sturdiness – and also in outdoorsy materials such as galvanized metal. Makes a nice housewarming gift, too.
7. Accent tables. When does a side table not look like a side table? When it’s destined for outdoors. While looking in stores, online or in catalogs, we have spotted accent tables modeled after flamingos or fashioned with daisy-shaped tops. Drum-shaped stools in ceramic or outdoor wicker also double as tables.
8. Outdoor poufs. Just as an accent table can be moved around to accommodate sociable guests, poufs designed for outdoor use are a versatile addition. They come in weather-resistant fabrics as well as all-weather wicker and other materials. Ottomans – the pouf’s larger cousin – are another option and can also be used to hold that aforementioned serving tray when need be.
9. Bar/serving cart. This is a functional piece that does not take up a lot of space. “For outdoors, you need extra surfaces to bring out all your food and drink,” Bailey said.
10. Stackable chairs. You need the space to store them when not in use, but these chairs are handy to have around and can be transported from front to back when need be. We’re partial to the resin wicker variety – a fun way to add colors such as lime, red or turquoise to your decor as well as gray or white.
You never know when the neighbors might drop in.