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:
Danish modern, and more
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