Ah, spring. When thoughts turn to the great outdoors, chilling, grilling and entertaining.
And also … daydreaming.
Imagine your ideal outdoor space. Maybe it’s a fabulous resort with white chaise lounges and a brilliant Mediterranean blue backdrop. Or a foliage-framed garden with a fringed hammock for swinging away an afternoon. Or a country garden, blooming with roses and hydrangeas next to cozy wicker seating, plumped with cushy pillows. Or a manicured blue-stone terrace, framed by tall galvanized pots and boxwoods serving as a backdrop for a tailored sectional.
No matter what your preference, comfort remains the key to outdoor room design. It doesn’t matter how big the space is, you can create ambiance even on a balcony with ingredients as simple as a chair and side table for a margarita.
Materials and styles in outdoor furnishings expand and improve every year.
Wicker and rattan have blossomed into a wide range of specialty weaves including herringbone, multitonal patterns, bold stripes and open weaves.
Mesh upholsteries are stretched like skins across frames, creating crisp, contemporary looks.
Powder-coated aluminum, in a range of colors and finishes, remains a top choice. So do stainless steel and other metals that provide polished or weathered looks. Some are hammered and grained to look like wood.
Porcelain tabletops are made to look like other materials, including stone and wood.
And teak (as well as other outdoor-friendly woods like ipe, mahogany and acacia) is now constructed in strong contemporary and midcentury modern styles.
Textiles have been the biggest game-changers in the last few years. Sunbrella, Crypton and Outdura are the most recognizable brands for performance fabrics, but other manufacturers have also created them in sophisticated patterns such as animal prints, paisleys, ikats, tropicals, cabana stripes and chevrons.
Digital printing allows rich and subtle prints on fabric. Donghia’s Bloom fabric, for instance, has watercolor hydrangeas on a soft blue background.
Style leaders like Elaine Smith, creator of a line of luxury indoor/outdoor pillows, take cues from fashion runways by incorporating pleating, woven ribbons, fancy buttons, braiding with frog clasps, hand-twisted fabrics and chenille yarns. If the only investment you make this season is in pillows, it’s worth it. They add sparks of color and touches of whimsy and create themes that can be carried out in other accessories.
Stain- and UV-resistant rugs also lend a dynamic element and are so soft that they’re moving inside to sunrooms, family and dining areas.
When shopping for outdoor furniture, take along measurements for your patio, deck or terrace. You might even photograph the space with your smartphone to show on-site designers.
Here are other tips to keep in mind.
▪ Go bold. Choose a color or a pattern that makes a statement. It can be grand, on a sofa, a chair, ottoman or pouf. Or small, with accessories such as pillows, a lantern or a planter.
▪ Mix it up. More and more we’re seeing two materials combined in one piece: teak plus resin, teak plus metal or teak plus concrete-like synthetics. You can be your own mixologist by teaming stone or mosaic side tables with porcelain planters.
▪ Give me shelter. Pottery Barn’s Madera teak daybed includes a canopy that can be completed with curtains and lanterns. Chairs that cradle with hoods or canopies offer cool outdoor getaways. Stephen Burks’ chair for Roche Bobois has a removable arched canopy.
▪ Gray is the new beige. Just like indoors, it’s gaining traction in outdoor furniture. It goes with about any color — especially citron, mustard and hot pink — and the green landscape pops behind it.
▪ Try white. Nothing beats it for pristine style, especially with a modern profile, as in Restoration Hardware’s new Marbella aluminum collection.
▪ Get in the swing. Try a traditional glider, a French-country style swing or the Pod hanging chair from CB2.
▪ Inject whimsy. Outdoor poufs add a playful touch, especially when you choose a graphic pattern of starfish, octopuses or giant coral. Roche Bobois’ puffy vinyl Air Flower chair in hot fuchsia is like a sheer, sculptural beanbag.
▪ Add warmth. A fire table provides heat and a sizzling profile. Get a cocktail table with a line of fire down the center. Some have covers to extend the surface when you’re not using the fire feature.
▪ Add water. No room for a pool or a pond? Consider a fountain with a recirculating pump. Some even have LED lights.
▪ Layer in lights. The verdict is still out on outdoor lamps — table or floor. But we can all agree the glow of candles is romantic. With the burn-free variety, there’s no mess or worry about the wind blowing them out.
You can also hang light strands with decorative covers, Edison bulbs or even the battery-operated mini LED strings so popular in cloches during Christmas. A variety of light sources on trees, umbrellas and pergolas will transform your night garden.
Lanterns also have escalated in popularity and come in a variety of materials and finishes ranging from rustic to ethnic to sleek.
Once your new pieces are in place, settle in. Revel in the outdoors and the sheer bliss of daydreaming in your oasis all summer long.