All the Comforts of the Indoors

Our cabana, photographed beautifully by Keith Scott Morton for my latest book 'The Soul of the House', is the perfect place to relax, eat & get out of the heat before jumping back in the pool.

I’m sure most of us are in spring-cleaning mode (especially since spring seemed to come early this year!) It is so satisfying to polish the furniture, scrub the floor, clean out the closet and open the windows for that fresh spring air! This is also the perfect time to rake up those old leaves, trim the hedges, plant some flowers and get the outdoor furniture ready for a summer of barbeques and pool parties. Spring cleaning is all about creating a fresh start after the cold winter months. It marks the arrival of warm weather and a few months for outdoor living!

I view my garden as an extra room that I get to open in the spring. It’s like a seasonal family room – a multi-purpose room where entertaining, dining, relaxing, and ball-playing are all possible.  I see the room as a flexible space that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on the occasion, with trees and bushes instead of walls, outdoor furniture defining the spaces, and fresh flowers to add color, texture and fragrance.

When I’m designing an outdoor space, I always think about comfort.  Of course, the furniture must also be durable since it is outside all season, but that is no reason why your backyard shouldn’t be just as comfortable and inviting as an indoor space. Here are my tips to create an area that will become the summer hot-spot for your friends and family.

  • Your furniture doesn’t have to be confined to a patio or deck. Spreading your furniture to more than one spot outdoors will allow for more seating & dining options while entertaining. One of our favorite outdoors spots is a wrought-iron table and chairs underneath a flowering arbor. It’s a small space, but it’s perfect for breakfast for 2 or drinks for four.
  • Use your container pots, garden accessories, or odd pieces of outdoor furniture to creating inviting nooks and crannies. Vary the height and color of your potted flowers, just as you would with candles or other accessories inside. Find a use for a curbside treasure – I once used a little oak chair as a stand for a large galvanized bucket of geraniums. Placed by the gate into the garden, it served as a welcome to all our guests.
  • A garden umbrella, or maybe two, can be useful for providing shade and shelter. If the stand is light enough, it can be moved throughout the yard as the sun changes. At night, an umbrella can provide a lovely sense of enclosure, especially if they are lit with little white lights or hanging lanterns.
  • For those chilly summer nights (which we all know can happen!) there’s nothing like an outdoor fireplace – either built in or portable – or, as we have, a fire pit. The warmth can also extend your outdoor nights into the fall months.
  • If you’re a dog-lover, as I am, make sure there is a comfortable spot for your four-footed friend outside! A sturdy water bowl, a nice area to run without destroying too many plants, and a nice shady spot will allow your pet to enjoy the outdoors with you and your company.

I am ready for a long and glorious summer of entertaining and relaxation. Summer is my favorite season – because I love being outdoors. Since I spend so much of my time in my yard, I’ve created a space where  I can be just as comfortable as I am inside – and I hope you can do the same.

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