Don’t compromise because it’s outside
Patio trends: Contrast and unexpected fabrics are in
For decades, “outdoor decorating” meant arranging a few nice chairs and a table near a barbecue, then adding an umbrella. But as patios and decks have morphed into “outdoor living rooms,” the bar has risen for outdoor style and comfort.
HGTV Design Star judge Vern Yip says he knew we’d reached a new level of outdoor decorating this year when he discovered a fully upholstered, tufted, Chesterfield-style sofa designed for outdoor use. It’s not a less comfortable, backyard version of a classic piece of furniture; it’s a classic piece of furniture that happens to be weather-proof.
Technology has come so far, Yip says, that we can now have anything outdoors that we like indoors.
As warm weather returns, we’ve asked Yip and two other experts — interior designer Betsy Burnham of Burnham Design in Los Angeles, and Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot — for the furnishings, colour palettes and accessories they are using to make outdoor spaces even more luxurious and inviting.
Mix and match It’s been decades since people shopped for a “suite of furniture” for a bedroom or living room. But until recently, Burnham says, that’s been a common approach to outdoor space. That’s slowly changing, she says, as people want a more interesting look that doesn’t seem lifted directly from a single catalogue page.
Designers are encouraging clients to mix and match. Fishburne says retailers have noticed this trend.
At Home Depot, her design team selects a few shades and makes sure they are consistent throughout the furniture offered that season. So “chili red,” for example, will be the same shade if you buy a rug from one brand and pillows from another.
And rather than having to buy a group of four or six identical dining chairs, Fishburne says many chairs are now available in sets of two that can be paired with a contrasting style. There are also more outdoor styles available than ever.
Aluminum-frame furniture is back. “It’s the sort of stuff your grandparents used to have, but the 2.0 version,” Yip says. “The proportions are what we like today, deeper and bigger and more comfortable.”
If you’re worried about how to mix and match successfully, try one of these approaches: You can mix furniture frames, perhaps using a few teak pieces alongside metal or woven resin pieces, and then keep all the cushions or pillows the same. Or you can use all metal or all resin frames from different brands and mix up the pillows and cushions. Either way, you have consistency and a unique look that isn’t exactly the same as your neighbour’s.
don’t settle “If you had put an outdoor sofa and in indoor sofa side by side in front of a consumer a year ago or two years ago,” Yip says, no one would have had trouble picking out which was which. Today, he says, “you really can’t tell the difference.”
So take time to shop for what you love, rather than settling for typical outdoor furniture you see everywhere. There are outdoor fabrics that feel as soft as what you’d expect indoors and cushions that are just as soft and deep. Yip says the newest outdoor cushions offer two layers of foam and then a top layer made of a down alternative.
Seek “that super-plush feeling with your outdoor furniture that you’re used to feeling with your indoor furniture,” he says.
Start with your favourite interior design retailers. They’re likely to offer outdoor options.
“It’s not just at the patio store anymore,” says Burnham. For example, she says, Design Within Reach and Restoration Hardware both offer wide selections of outdoor furnishings.
Seek next-level details Outdoor storage has become even more inventive: You’ll find “console tables that have built-in coolers, or daybeds that have built-in coolers,” Yip says.
And outdoor accessories have “detailing and embellishments that used to be reserved for indoor stuff,” Yip says, including hurricane lanterns with mother-of-pearl detailing and pillows with feathers, beading or embroidery.
“We’ve figured out how to have all this detailing, all this embellishment,” he says, and “how to have it on the outside, so it does endure and it does last.”
To define your outdoor space and bring in plants and flowers, Fishburne recommends large “statement planters.” They come pre-planted with a mix of plants that look stylish and grow well together.
Most important: Go for a look you love, rather than one that’s perfectly co-ordinated.
“All the rules have kind of been broken,” says Fishburne. “No one says you have to have a matching cocktail table in front of your chairs.”
A patio area in Los Angeles designed by Burnham of Burnham design. rather than a set of matching outdoor furnishings, designers are encouraging clients to mix and match a variety of styles and brands.
A rustic daybed on a patio designed by Burnham.