Our tropical climate makes our outdoor spaces most suitable for extending our gardens into our living rooms and our living rooms into the outdoors. The line between inside and outside is increasingly being blurred as we begin to treat the outdoors just as we do our indoors. Treat your porches, verandas, patios, terraces, backyards, front yards, backyards, rooftops, etc. as areas to relax, converse, dine, cook, play and entertain. The key to do this successfully is to decorate, yes decorate, your exterior spaces using the same principles as for your indoors. Carefully plan the hardscape in your outdoor areas. It should be compatible to the style and architecture of your main home. The location of pools, water features, courts, pathways, etc. should be done with attention to the flow from the outside to the inside and between functional areas. We tend to treat our outdoor space as an afterthought and this can result in a disjointed experience and hodgepodge space. Divide the space into functional areas. You can practically replicate any room in the house – living room, dining room, kitchen, den, bedroom.
Unify the colours of your planters, pavers, and exterior walls. Decide on your colour scheme. In doing so take your plantings, planters, paving, exterior wall colour, furnishings and accessories into consideration. Just like your interior, flooring, walls, accessories, furniture, ceilings must be orchestrated into one unified decor. If you have a lovely garden, do not detract from it. Everything should play a supporting role. Just remember, choose items depending on the degree of sun and rain that would be required to withstand. For comfortable, 24-hour year-round pleasure, your spaces must provide some protection from both elements. So provide shading or a ceiling. Natural vegetation can provide a very effective canopy whether it is from mature, shady trees or vine laden trellises and pergolas. Awnings, umbrellas and shade sails can also be used. They present an opportunity to include colour, so choose wisely. Get comfortable seating for groups of five (5) to six (6) people for conversation and entertaining areas. For more cosy and intimate spaces seat one (1) to two (2). Place seating under trees and other areas in the garden, patio and pool as well as in covered spaces such as porches and verandas. Swings and hammocks add character. Seating can be made on the ledges of planters and walls around the garden. Aim for seating to be as comfortable and stylish as your interior seating. Cushions can be used even on concrete seating.
Cushion colours should be coordinated with the other colours in the space. For durability, use fabrics specially designed for the outdoors. Brands like ™ Sunbrella , ™Outdura and ™Crypton fabrics offer solution dyed, colour fast, 100% acrylic options that are more expensive, but last four (4) to five (5) times longer, than other fabrics. Also consider outdoor, open cell foam for seat cushions that would be exposed to the elements on a regular basis. And my favourite – look for the opportunity to use curtains. This pulls the space out of the realm of the predictable. In porches, gazebos, etc. curtains add colour, soften the typically hard edges, filter the sunlight, and create ambience and privacy. Grommet curtains, traditional rod pockets and tab curtains are especially suitable for this application. ™Sunbrella has fabrics, from sheer to canvas, suitable for outdoor drapings. Whether it be grass or other ground cover, tiles, flag stone, concrete, etc. flooring for your ‘room’ must be integrated into the decor. Anchor the room with a rug designed to withstand outdoor conditions. An outdoor rug will resist mildew and mold and can be washed or hosed down. They can be placed under furniture groupings in conversation and dining areas. Solid coloured, patterned and striped outdoor rugs add colour and texture and pull the space together further supplementing the decorated feel. Sisal rugs are not especially weather resistant but will be suitable for covered areas not exposed to rain.
Your outdoor space should also be usable in the night. Consider lanterns on tables, walls, posts, the ground and in the trees. There are lanterns to support any decorating style. Visualise chandeliers in the porch, up-lights in the flower beds or Chinese lanterns in the trees. Your outdoor space will not be complete without accessories. Aim to surprise and delight. Stretch beyond the customary bird baths and toads. Consider wall art on porch walls, exterior walls, fences and trees; scented candles, outdoor chimes, clocks and sculptures. In your porch, instead of lining up potted plants like soldiers along the ledge or against the wall, strategically place them around the furniture, varying heights, colour and texture for added interest and a natural organic feel. Water features are popular and can be large and incorporated into the landscape or small enough to fit on a table top. The sound of water adds a calm and cooling effect that is always welcome. Outdoor rooms can be appealing to all the senses. Consciously orchestrate the smells, colours, textures, shapes, sizes, sounds of all the elements into one cohesive stimulating experience seamlessly integrated into the indoors.
Anne Moore Spencer