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The latest decor trends for the great outdoors

It's amazing to think there was a time when a plastic table and collapsible chairs were considered proper patio furniture.

"When I got started in this business, people just sat outside long enough to eat a hot dog, then went indoors to relax," says Andrew Bockner, principal designer for Andrew Richard Designs, one of Canada's pre-eminent makers of fine outdoor furniture. A picnic table by the barbecue isn't exactly passé, but a demand for comfort and style has pushed outdoor decor to a new level.

Cramped city dwellers have always welcomed the warm weather and the extra space it brings.What is noteworthy is the sudden refinement to backyard and balcony decor, says Tim Lam, a decorator who runs the blog Design Maze. "People are decorating their exterior space with the same attention to detail as inside the home." And that applies to people in larger houses, who already have ample kitchens, dining and living rooms. "It makes sense, this is viable space – your house doesn't have to end at the walls," says Bockner.

Here's what to watch out for if you're planning to update your exterior room:

Fashion-forward fabrics

Long gone are the days of plastic-feeling pillows in nautical motifs. This season’s sofas, throw pillows and lounger cushions can be found in all the hottest runway-inspired colours and patterns. Shades of turquoise and yellow, and patterns that range from menswear-inspired stripes to oversized florals, are all featured. Outdoor fabrics are now so indistinguishable in look and feel that they’re actually moving inside. “I’ve upholstered dining-room chairs for clients with kids who want tough, water- and stain-resistant fabrics, and some of the outdoor options work beautifully,” says Toronto designer Samantha Sacks. The technology behind these all-weather materials, which are mainly acrylic, has reached a point where they can stand up to the Canadian elements season after season, without fading or showing signs of wear or mildew.
Outdoor rug: Homesense.ca

Danish modern, and more

For those wishing to extend their mid-century-modern decor to the back deck, a number of companies are doing Danish-modern pieces this season. Gloster’s Dansk collection might very well be the height of backyard barbecue sophistication. The clean, tapered lines and solid teak construction are a far cry from the chunky plastic we’re used to. For those looking to lounge in chic comfort, Andrew Richard Designs has a new leather-style collection that feels and looks just like the real thing.
Dansk collection chair and side table: Gloster.com

Hot accessories (at every price point)

The right accessories will set off your new furniture. And for those not ready to invest in a complete do-over, they can add oomph to your old patio set. Plush carpets and pretty pillows make for simple, budget-friendly style updates, while oversized lanterns and chandeliers can add a homey feel. “Hanging an outdoor mirror in the sitting area is another trend that you’ll see this season,” says Lam.

For people who can’t help but think big, mounting a TV (in a special waterproof casing) and adding a built-in bar, or a bar cart, to your plans is sure to impress your guests. An architectural fireplace, or small-scale gas version, adds character and, literally, warmth to your sitting area. These are big investments but they can be practical, too. “A fireplace will extend the amount of time you can spend in your backyard living room,” says Sacks. Just think: You could still be lounging out there come Halloween.

The final lesson in outdoor decor, say all three designers: Don’t forget to look up. “The outdoor living room now has a ceiling,” says Sacks. It could be curtains, draped canvas or a vine-covered pergola, but adding a top to your sitting area grounds the space and creates even more decor opportunities. “Really, anything that you’d do indoors is fair game on the patio.” 


Emery recycled indoor/outdoor glass chandelier: Potterybarn.com

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