There are plenty of great local eateries to take family and friends, but summer is a great time to simply step outside and throw a backyard bash. In our June issue, we gave you some advice on outdoor lighting. Now, HGTV star, host of Public Television’s Smart Travels and Thompson’s WaterSeal spokesman Jeff Wilson shares his tips for turning your outdoor space into the place to be this year.
First Things First
Make sure your deck is safe. “It’s a really good time to make sure that the deck is well attached to the house, that there’s no rot or rusting connectors,” Wilson said.
Give it a Wash
After a brutal winter, your deck may look worse for the wear. Before you tear it down and start over, Wilson suggests giving it a good cleaning and perhaps a new coating of paint. Thompson’s WaterSeal also has a great variety of exterior waterproofing deck stains and wood protection products you could try out.
The Most Important Question
Before you go any further, ask yourself what you’ll use the space for. “A lot of people tend to go big before they think about what they’re going to do with the space,” Wilson advises. Are you simply looking to sit outside with your significant other or are you going to be entertaining the masses? Once you have that figured out, you’re ready to start decorating.
Now that you know what you want, start browsing Pintrest for ideas for themes and styles. “If you look at the amazing Pintrest, you can really come up with any kind of idea and browse through thousands of ideas for style,” Wilson said.
image: Thompson’s WaterSeal
Don’t Sell Your Backyard Short
It’s not just a backyard. It’s a kitchen, a living room, a dining room and whatever else you want it to be. “You can really pretty much project any room in the house that’s indoors to the outdoors,” Wilson said. “We sectioned off our outdoor space. This is the area where we cook. Behind the area where you cook is the area where you sit and eat.”
About That Outdoor Kitchen
If you are THE entertainer in your group of family or friends, you should definitely look into an outdoor kitchen. Wilson’s has concrete countertops, a grill, an oven and a sink hooked up to an outdoor hose.
No Need for Separation Anxiety
Now that you’re thinking about your outdoor space as a series of rooms rather than simply a big backyard, let’s talk about separating them. With an outdoor space, there’s no need for walls and doors, of course. Instead, a simple area rug underneath chairs can denote a living room. Have fun with florals. Wilson suggests separating your patio from your deck with a low hedge or flower bed. Different colored stains can also do the trick.
Bang for Your Buck
Outdoor decorating can get pricey, but you can lower the cost by finding multiple uses for an item. During the week, Wilson uses one table for potting plants. “On the weekend, it’s a buffet,” he said. After a good cleaning, of course. The oven in his outdoor kitchen has an opening on the other side so guests can look at the fire while they chat.
Don’t Forget the Lighting
“Go beyond how the place looks when the sun is out and shining,” Wilson said. Chances are, your parties are so stellar your guests plan on tstaying well after the sun sets. Luckily, you have so many options in terms of lighting. Wilson uses task lights in his outdoor kitchen, where he needs to be able to see his hands. “Accent lighting makes a space look gorgeous,” he said.
Or the Music
Wireless speakers allow you to hook up your Pandora and play music outdoors. He loves matching music to the theme of the night. “If I’m cooking a Cuban meal, we’ll put on Cuban music. If I’m having a French meal, we’ll pull up 1940s French bistro music,” Wilson said. “There’s ways to add those little touches to make the evening really special.”
Really, the possibilities are endless. Years ago, Wilson and his neighbors chipped in to buy a projector so the neighborhood kids could have movie nights. These days, it’s not as expensive. His in-laws have an all-weather ping-pong table, and people can create game rooms. “So many things are made to live outside because more and more, we spend more time outside,” Wilson said. “You can really do anything.”