With it finally being springtime, there are countless opportunities to take advantage of making additional living space outdoors.
There used to be very basic options in terms of furniture and accessories to enhance your deck, patio or porch, but today, there are as many for the outdoors as you will find for your interior spaces.
After the winter doldrums, this merchandise will fly off of the shelves once the warm weather hits, so pre-season is a great time to get a plan together for expanding your home’s living areas to the outside.
The first thing I like to suggest is to assess what you already have and whether it is simply in need of a good hose-down, coat of paint, or a trip to the dump.
Take a look at the area you are working with and if it is one that can double as an outdoor gathering area for relaxing and entertaining, decide how you would like to use it to maximize its functionality.
Giving the area itself a good spring cleaning will go a long way in laying a nice, fresh foundation to get started.
Next, you can layer in your pieces based on how you want it to function.
For a conversation area, there are countless styles and options for great outdoor rugs.
These are the base from which you can build your color palette and general style for the space.
Having some or all polypropylene content makes for the most durable and easy-to-clean outdoor rugs.
They cozy up the space and help define it once you have your furniture layout in place.
Outdoor furniture has come a long way, with a vast variety of frames in metals, wickers, woods and wovens.
There are even outdoor upholstery pieces now, too, if you crave a real sofa beyond the family room.
I would suggest these pieces mainly for semi-exposed spaces like screened porches or for those homeowners who are up for taking covers on and off to protect them from the elements.
Today’s outdoor fabrics are much softer and continue to improve in the selection of options offered as well.
I recommend going with a nice solid base that will work for the long term and use pillows and accessories for fun as your style changes.
While most of the furniture will come with standard solid throw pillows, this an opportune way to layer in some fun pattern and color by purchasing others to add or replace the basics.
You can use the solid pillows to layer behind the fun ones, or even recover them in an outdoor fabric of your choice.
Many online vendors also have great customizable options that can even be monogrammed, which is always a nice, personalized touch.
If you are looking to refresh your outdoor dining area, you can mix your chairs as you would with an indoor table setup.
Keep your existing side chairs and add two fun host chairs at the heads to make it more interesting and not look like a standard “set.”
Some great hurricanes down the center of the table with battery operated candles always adds great style and ambience when the sun goes down.
This is another area where a rug can add warmth and style, and don’t forget some comfortable cushions to compliment your color palette.
To really make it feel like an extension of your home, lanterns and potted plants in a variety of sizes are great finishing touches to add another layer of texture and color to the space.
Don’t forget to think about the types of plants you choose to put in those planters, too.
They are a great way to reinforce the style and colors you want to convey.
Succulents are a huge trend right now and they are very low maintenance, which is ideal when the heat and humidity of Maryland summer hits. They add tremendous texture and interest and can be used in a multitude of applications.
For the cooler evenings, there are no shortage of gas and propane fire pits that add another dimension of coziness to your outdoor space.
They are great for the taking the chill off in the spring, or turning up the warmth in the cooler fall months. They add a nice dimension of warmth and light and always encourage a gathering.
Another nice touch is to have a basket to hold some cozy blankets or throws to have at the ready for yourself or your guests.
And finally, a nice bar cart or console will give you a landing zone to serve from and make it easy for your guests to help themselves and feel comfortable.
There are fabulous outdoor table and barware products to complete your outdoor entertaining setup as a great finishing detail.
Whether you are hosting a group or enjoying some down time alone, adding any or all of these elements to your outdoor space will make you feel like you have an entirely new living area to enjoy spring through fall. Cheers!
(Editor’s Note: Julie Sweeney is the owner and principal designer for Coastal Haven Design in Oxford, Md.)