The Great Outdoors

Summer is prime time for outdoor entertaining. Soon you’ll be hosting cookouts, pool parties and the occasional cocktail party—if you haven’t started already. Since you’ll be spending so much more time outside, doesn’t your yard deserve a little style too?

“Treat your outdoor spaces as you do your indoor,” says Brooklyn-based interior designer John Loecke. “Think of them as extended rooms of the house, except in this case, the walls are natural surroundings built of trees and grass.”

Loecke suggests using plants to create “walls” and to define your living spaces. “A large planter paired with a trellis and climbing plants can be used to screen off a barbecue,” he says, “Or use groups of planters to block off other areas that you don’t necessarily want to see from your primary sitting area.”
Another easy, decorative way to define a space is to use a weather-resistant rug (look for them in home centers or try ballarddesigns.com). Layer it right under your patio furniture to add a little personality and provide some comfort underfoot.

Pillows in outdoor fabrics are another smart investment. They can be used to cushion chairs or tossed on the ground for extra, casual seating. To make them last through the season, Loecke suggests treating them with 3M Scotchguard Fabric Protector, available at home stores.

When choosing colors for any of your outdoor accessories, Loecke suggests using the colors in your yard as inspiration. “If your house is white and you have lots of red flowers in the garden, try a red umbrella and chair cushions in a crisp red-and-white pattern.” But don’t worry too much about what you chose, he says. “Remember that every color appears in nature, so really, any hue will work. Decorating outdoors is a good time to test something new outside of your comfort zone.”

Shade is another factor to keep in mind. “Even if you love the sun,” warns Loecke, “you’ll occasionally want to get out of it. Pick up an umbrella for your patio table or try a retractable awning. That way, the cover disappears when you don’t need it.”

If you know you’ll be hosting a larger event, think about picking up a fabricated gazebo tent. You can find them for as little as $100 at larger retailers such as Target. In addition to creating an elegant environment, they’ll also provide added protection from the elements such as rain, a blazing sun or an insect invasion.
Finally, since enjoying the longer days of summer usually lasts well beyond twilight, don’t forget lighting. For a little added sparkle, Loecke suggests hanging up strings of globe lights or even your holiday lights. Also, think about adding outdoor lamps or hanging a chandelier. “Lighting, even outdoors, is an easy way to create an intimate, serene setting.”

lauren debellis

A former magazine editor, Lauren DeBellis has been writing and producing stories about home decorating and design for nearly ten years. She resides in East Northport with her husband.