When space and budget allow, outdoor “rooms” are analogous to those indoors. There’s a place to sit, bask in fresh air and greenery. A place to curl up with a book, just lounge or nap. A place to grill. A place to entertain friends — watch TV or movies on weatherproof screens. A water feature — fall, pool, spa or pond.
The evolution of the outdoor room is “revolutionary,” says Kevin Sharkey, executive editorial director of decorating for Martha Stewart Living magazine.
The reason? “Technology, pure and simple,” says Sharkey.
Not only can you now enjoy a swivel rocker or recliner outdoors, an introduction by Domus Ventures boasts a massaging feature.
Besides weather-resistant woods in natural, stained or painted marine finishes, there are convincing wicker and wood looks in resin or metals — even bark, birch twigs and willow.
Mixing materials has become more sophisticated and often is eco-chic. A Pottery Barn table, for example, combines a zinc top with a sustainably harvested acacia wood base.
Look for furniture frames in eggshell, bright white or taupe gray, as a fresh alternative to the espresso that has been popular in recent years. And fully upholstered pieces such as Lee Industries’ Mimosa outdoor chair with gently sloping arms that wears a slipcover with pleats at the corners.
Look for large scale that’s clean-lined or curvy and big or open weaves in synthetic wicker that make the designs fresh and more airy.
There’s fashion underfoot as well. The high-end Liora Manne company, with signature felt weaves in subtle colorations, has an outdoor counterpart available at Frontgate. Its watercolour-effect patterns include geometric mosaics; all are waterproof and fade-, bacteria-, mold- and mildew-resistant.
And what you don’t see — plush waterproof cushions — have made a huge impact, allowing fuller, thicker cushions that often are ultra-deep.
Improved materials, technology and style are inspiring many consumers to “trade up” to fancier grills and more fashion-forward furniture. On many wish lists: a fire pit, according to a survey by the American Home Furnishings Alliance.
“There’s something primal about it,” says Sharkey. “Everyone wants to be able to sit around a fire together. It’s applicable to all different styles — from Adirondack to English wrought iron.”
If your budget is limited this spring, consider a single piece of furniture — a comfy chair, a side table — to work in with what you already have..
Sprucing up, after all, isn’t as big of a hit on the wallet.
Whether you have a small terrace, a sprawling patio or an urban roof deck, your backyard can be a wonderful getaway. For casual living and entertaining, your outdoor space just may be the most flexible of all — and the most inviting.
Light your fire
Fire pits are heating up landscapes in a variety of table designs that feature logs, stones or crushed glass as a base from which the flames rise. Some new designs are bowl-shaped; others rectangular, with long insets. Another cast stone fire table from Restoration Hardware strikes a minimal silhouette, down to the clear glass panels that “contain” the fire without obstructing the glow, while leaving ample room for drinks and food.In addition to large fire pit tables, there are smaller scale “tea light” fireplaces.
Put a rug on it
Snappy designs expand the solid hued offerings in rugs for rain or shine. Among the most fetching are a lime rug with a graphic of white daisies bridging its chocolate border from Laurie Bell.
From cradling and cocooning chairs for at least two, daybeds and full four-poster models are available if you have the space. Among the offerings is the Winward curved canopy bed, a dark brown weave in high-density polyethylene from Weather Master for Laneventure. Lounge flat or position for reading by simply raising the outer panels of the three-section pad.
Glam table lamps, such as Joe Ruggiero’s classic urn for Woodard have a modern twist — a cutout. Several other collections of floor lamps are sculptural, in weaves that play peekaboo with the light sources that glow from within.
Au courant accessories
New cushions or pillows can breathe new life into seating that’s a few years old. Elaine Smith is one pillow designer known for graphic patterns and dressmaker details. One current motif is the philodendron in shades of indigo. Current fabric patterns include ethnic such as Moroccan, African prints, including animal spots and zebra stripes, geometrics and wood grains, all of which are popular on fashion runways and in home interiors. Palettes span the rainbow with coral, red, terra cotta, ochre, lime and apple, chocolate, plum and blues from turquoise to cobalt, as well as black and white.