Social distancing protocols and the prospect of more time spent close to home this summer have many people focusing on their own outdoor spaces. Ways to make the balcony, deck, patio or yard more comfortable and stylish are key to more enjoyable weekends and staycations. No matter what size or style your outdoor space is, there are ways you can make it more convenient and functional, whether that’s just for the family or a few friends.
Ideally, an outdoor living space will have some portion that is covered, which expands how much you can enjoy it because it’s sheltered from the rain. Comfortable seating, lighting for nighttime and some table space are all elements that will make an outdoor area more livable. Beyond that, the type and amount of decor is up to you. Have a look at these professionally designed outdoor spaces that might inspire some improvements in your own backyard:
An outdoor living space does not need to be expensive to be enjoyable. A cozy balcony, especially one that’s sheltered from the rain, offers plenty of options for creating an outdoor room. This Palm Beach, Florida loggia was designed with the focus on the rattan daybed and the wall behind it. The muted pink upholstery is fresh without being bright and the navy on the cushions and chairs is used as a neutral hue. Above the daybed, the wall is literally covered with artistically hand-crafted seashells that provide a seaside vibe without veering into the kitschy. A clean, modern white coffee table with footed legs is a counterpoint to the more tropical decor.
This similarly sized balcony has a totally different look. Crisp blue and white furnishings are paired with breezy, boldly striped curtains that shield the space from sun as well as prying eyes. Seagrass rugs are a no-maintenance option and a pair of white occasional tables substitute for a coffee table. Small floor lamps provide light for reading and a stocked bar cart means that you don’t need to constantly run inside for refreshments.
Those who have a large covered space are lucky when it comes to entertaining, however decorating a large patio can be a challenge. Just as in a large open plan indoor space, it’s important to divide it into conversational groupings and dining areas to make it seem cozier and less vast. This covered patio is very spacious and is nicely divided between lounging and dining functions. Although being covered means you can use furniture made of natural wicker and other materials, choosing pieces made from easy-care synthetics means it doesn’t matter if the rain blows in and they get wet.
While you might be tempted to stick with a neutral color scheme, decorating an outdoor room is a great opportunity to add a pop of color, especially one that picks up on any other outdoor elements. Here, various shades of green bright up a black and white decor scheme. Large furnishings are in versatile and chic basic colors, which can be livened up with cushions. The green Chinese stools can serve as occasional tables or extra seating when needed. Take note that the weather-resistant outdoor rug really makes the space feel finished.
It’s the details that make the difference in an outdoor room as well. Looking at this long loggia, it is easy to pick out a variety of things that elevate the space. Moroccan style panels with candle sconces, tall white floor lamps, a side table that looks like a stack of sea urchins and a spiky black chandelier add all sorts of detailed style.
Even in a secondary conversation grouping, the black and white theme unifies the large loggia and is another opportunity for adding decor elements. The furnishings and green accents are the same, but the tribal style of throw gives this area a slightly more relaxed feeling. To the side, a console table paired with a large artwork extends a more finished, indoor feeling to the vignette.
If you really want to make the outdoors feel like an extension of your indoor space, opt for some pieces that would be at home in either location. This dining set has a unique table base topped with a round of beveled glass. Natural wicker armchairs with pads are a comfortable seating choice and the tabletop pieces are versatile enough for indoors or outdoors.
Even smaller outdoor rooms or courtyards can benefit from a water feature. The sound of running water is calming and makes the space more relaxing. If there’s a yard, a larger water feature or pond is a great idea. On a patio, try a minimalist fountain or one in a style that fits the surroundings. This large, flat style works well with the cacti plantings and stone groundcover. The unexpected placement also adds interest to the outdoor room.
Making a deck look out of the ordinary isn’t difficult if you avoid the typical furniture sets that are most widely available. Here, a heated chair from Galanter and Jones sits next to railings adorned with low-maintenance air plants. An unexpected addition is the mirrored side of the square post that adds extra dimension to the area. The other elements that set this deck apart are the two lengths of c placed alongside one another and the large sculptural ball. (Even the pet dog loves this space!)
If you’ve got water, why not have some fire to go with it? Gas-fueled fire pits are very popular and can be found in all kinds of styles, but this is a particularly unusual one. Equal parts work of art and functional piece, this fire feature is perfect for a smaller space or a location where you might not want a big roaring flame. This style of fire element is just as attractive when not in use.
People who prefer sectional seating can find modern styles with clean lines that set the stage for a chic outdoor room. This platform sofa has a built-in table that’s flexible depending on where you place the cushions. Instead of a coffee table, three unique cube tables serve as a place to put something down but also as art thanks to the unusual design. Sculptures behind the sofa echo the same design vibe and hurricane lanterns of various sizes add another decor element as well as some mood lighting.
Opposite the seating area in the courtyard, a large rusted metal sculpture serves as a focal point in the large, square garden bed. Incorporating such an artwork into the garden can add a great deal of personality to an outdoor room that’s already beautiful. Nearby, a bar cart holds all the essentials for serving family or guests while enjoying time outside. The stone tiled planting areas, ledges and floor create a very low maintenance courtyard overall.
An area tucked away by some shrubs can easily become a spot for sitting and relaxing. This gravel path takes a sharp turn, creating a corner accented with a palm plant. Two armchairs that can withstand rain and wind are placed in a conversation grouping and the cushions nicely tie them in with the greenery all around.
A shaded balcony or patio can easily become more like a living room if you just set it up like one. The hefty-framed wooden sofa and side tables are placed against the wall and a dramatic canvas is hung above them. This photograph is part of photographer Nathan Coe’s Palm Beach Collection reflects the Florida surroundings with black and white drama. The modern stone coffee table is a nice counterpoint to the squared-off furnishings. Sculptural accessories add interest, as does a cluster of green coconuts.
So many people covet a vine-covered pergola for the natural, relaxing outdoor space it provides for dining or entertaining. This particular one is attached to the house and is an ideal place for solo meals or intimate conversations. Of course, there’s extra seating for guests who might wander over from the pool for a little shade and a snack. Vines also snake up the support posts and the others are plaster palm tree columns.
At one end, a custom screen defines the space, adds a bit of privacy and creates an ideal nook for a comfortable upholstered outdoor sofa. In front, the two-tune Ping Pong coffee table is a large and sturdy piece that is a real multitasker. Pendants hung near the ceiling add some light for evening enjoyment of the space. The rug is a custom design created to echo the vines on the pergola above.
Outdoor dining spaces are among the most popular because there’s nothing nicer than eating outdoors during pleasant weather. At the most basic level, all you need is something to serve as a table and some seating to go with it. That said, a nice dining set with a tropical feeling really sets the mood for a meal that feels more like a short getaway from the usual. This particular set is Chippendale bamboo chair design that has a traditional, luxe vibe, and it’s paired with a white stone table. Some tropical cushions and exotic tabletop accessories and the stage is set for a relaxing meal.
This particular small patio is just outside a private massage studio in the backyard of a Palm Beach home, but it shows how a small spot can be quickly be turned into a relaxing one. This could just as easily be the back door of a small home. A pair of DIY fabric covering shade two spectacular, sinuous lounge chairs in a natural wood. Small occasional tables can hold a cup or glass and a rattan lantern adds a touch of the exotic.
Big or small, an outdoor space can be transformed into relaxing oasis with some planning. Whether that is done on a shoestring DIY basis with some elbow grease or by designers with a budget, the end result will be a space that you can enjoy, no matter how much time you spend at home.