Posted on Apr 2, 2018

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with 200+ National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) attendees from across the nation via a webinar called “Design It: Connecting the Interior Aesthetic to the Outdoors.” Part of the fun of my job is sharing our design experiences—what has worked and what hasn’t. For the presentation, I shared 10 easy steps to creating an outdoor space that works year round.

With the innovation of materials, fabrics and general designs, an overall palette can easily be selected for the visual flow of a home. Today, you can consider the same elements you would use on the interior of your home for the exterior—that means rugs, accessories, art and loungy furniture, too.

Consider these ten easy steps to design a space that blurs the lines between the interior and exterior environments. As research shows, we spend 90%+ of our time indoors. Regardless of the weather, the following design tips can create value in a home for expanded square footage and overall wellness for a home’s occupants.

Who will be enjoying this outdoor space? Be sure to have something for everyone– the kids, the pets, the chef, the host and the guests. The landscaping may need to be low maintenance, pathways may require hardscape for accessibility and layered lighting may need to be considered.

Regardless of how big or small your space is– use every inch of it while allowing for a little breathing room. Start with a large area rug to anchor your space. There are many affordable and durable options that serve as a stylish base for your furniture plan.

Get the most out of your space by installing a pergola or awning to allow versatility throughout the year. Screen off harsh rays during the summer or retract back to stargaze. The structure will create a zone for dining or lounging and add a little architecture too. Strategically placed umbrellas can also work for smaller spaces.

Floating wood panels, draperies, decorative fencing or even pots of tall foliage such as bamboo or Cypress can create a privacy effect that screens neighbors and creates coziness outdoors.

Approach the furniture layout as you would for your living room or family room. Incorporate sofas, side tables, chairs, ottomans and even outdoor lamps. Coordinate the palette with your interior one to create a sense of spaciousness.

A focal point adds interest and can guide guests and visitors to a specific area. Outdoor artwork, a found object or painted scene can add just the right amount of personality and interest to your outdoor space. Water features, pizza ovens, and firepits are also inviting focal points for guests to gather around.

The last thing you’ll want to do is retreat indoors when the party is outside. Stock an outdoor entertainment center and refrigerator with your favorite beverages and set up an outdoor kitchen, too. A grill and Asado smoker will allow for casual cooking with big rewards.

Add decorative items such as potted plants, mirrors, lanterns, and artwork to personalize the space. All the pieces you use don’t need to be part of the same set. Let the space announce your personal style and invite guests in.

A great lighting scheme is key to enjoying your space after dark. I love lanterns and a stone-like fire pit for ambiance, and chic outdoor lamps – weighted bases, shades made from Sunbrella fabrics – are unexpected and beautiful.

Audiovisual elements and technology shouldn’t be forgotten outdoors. Speakers, televisions and music systems create ambiance for an alfresco dinner and team pride on game day. So set your playlist depending on your event type and enjoy.

All in all, designing an outdoor living space can be a fun, creative, challenging project that will present endless possibilities. Whether your outdoor space is large or small, there is every reason (and product) to include your rooftop patio, balcony or rambling backyard in your home’s design plans. From an electric grill on a cart with a bistro set to a full-blown kitchen design that ties into a pool, lounge and covered dining area, outdoor living is versatile, fun and the new hub of the home. Outdoor spaces encourage authentic engagement among family and friends and a new level of wellness for all who partake.