Although the summer solstice falls on June 21, I think of Memorial Day as the introduction of summer in my zone 8A garden.
During summer our indoor activities such as dining and entertaining move outdoors so it just makes sense to have an area set up to enjoy them. In just a few easy steps a patio, porch or secluded spot in the garden can become an extension of your home’s interior spaces.
One of the easiest ways to give an outdoor room plenty of indoor charm is to add several “fool-the-eye” interior elements such as rugs, cushions, and other interior accessories. With today’s weather resistant fabrics and finishes you can create a stylish scene in no time by following a few simple tips.
Define the Space with an Outdoor Rug
An outdoor rug will give your setting an instant indoor feel, plus the edges of the rug create the illusion of four walls. Furnishings arranged around the rug further re-enforce this illusion.
Caring for an outdoor rug is usually quite easy since they are often made of durable natural fibers or synthetic materials. You can spray off the rug with a hose or use a brush broom to clean it. To prevent mildew, hang the rug over a chair or railing to dry after a rain, even if it is made from mildew resistant material. This will allow air to circulate on both sides, which speeds up the drying time. If the rug can’t be picked up, just roll back the edges.
Too often outdoor furnishings fail to rise to the same level of comfort and style as interior rooms. Break the “white plastic chair syndrome” by finding outdoor furniture that serves as a better reflection of your home’s décor. Garage sales, antique stores and home improvement centers offer a wide variety of options.
It’s easy to give your garden furniture new life with a coat of paint. First evaluate the material you are working with – is it man made or natural? Then pick an appropriate paint that can withstand the weather. Once the paint is dry coat it with a water seal to give it a longer life. Metal furnishings can be sandblasted and taken to a powder coating shop where a virtually indestructible layer of paint is applied. Wooden pieces should be given protection during the cold, wet months and may require touch ups from time to time.
When choosing colors for your setting, the basic rules apply – vibrant reds, oranges and yellow draw the eye, while cooler hues such as soft blues, pinks and purples increase the sense of space. Furniture in bright colors is best placed in areas where you want to make a deliberate statement such as eye-catching red chairs against a dark green hedge. In a muted green, the same set will blend in with its surroundings.
Fabric stores are stocking more and more indoor-outdoor fabric that’s brighter than ever before. What’s great about using this type of fabric is that it has been tested for years in marine environments so you know you’re getting a product that can really take the elements.
Consider using cushion covers that you can slip over the existing lawn furnishing cushions. You can throw these in the wash when needed and they make it easy to change the look of your garden room from year to year. If you’re not a seamstress, but want to try making pillow covers cut out an “envelope” of fabric that can be wrapped around the pillow. Use self-adhesive Velcro to affix the envelope tabs together.
Colorful tablecloths are an even easier way to add bold splashes of color. Again, if you aren’t into sewing use pinking shears to trim the edges of the fabric to create a clean line.
Pergola or Cabana
The “must have” accessory for gardeners with a little extra room is a covered place to create an outdoor space. Fabric cabanas and pergolas are popping up everywhere. I was impressed with the price range – anywhere from $150 to the thousands of dollars depending on the size and style you choose. As added bonus these structures can be outfitted with mosquito netting to block out these little pests.
An outdoor setting is tailor made for delighting the senses so when choosing accessories for your garden room go for items that will heighten the experience. Dramatic lighting is a must. String up lights and set out candles. Battery operated LED lighting is a fun new option that takes away the need for outdoor electricity and you can get LED tea candles; they look like the real thing, but won’t extinguish when the wind blows. Don’t forget plants. Fragrant flowers and soft, fuzzy foliage will add to the ambiance. A table top water fountain, wind chimes or music will create soft sounds to block out street noises.
As the weather warms and you start spending more time outdoors rethink the place where you live and look for opportunities to set the stage, if you will, and push the boundaries of your home past the walls of your house and out into the landscape beyond.