Decor Trends: Creating your outdoor living area

While our friends up North are shoveling snow and have long ago forgotten about a leisurely evening by the pool, we here in Southwest Florida are just getting the outdoor parties started. Now is when cooler air and lower humidity lure Floridians onto our decks, patios and courtyards.

The front entrance of a home may give the first impression, however, the back patio now has become an artful combination of clever composition, spatial organization and function. Back patio design is actively changing since many homeowners are looking for smaller homes with expanded outdoor living spaces.

The plain concrete patio of days gone by has been replaced with more natural materials or manufactured stone products that carry the inside out. Cedar patio ceilings, natural stone like flagstone and slate, pavers and exposed aggregate floor coverings are just a few examples.

Outdoor living should be organized based on our lifestyle needs. Different areas for cooking, dining, conversation and lounging provide a better flow for entertaining. Also try to arrange areas so that no one has their back to others when they are seated. This will enhance conversation. Also, make it a point to put the grill downwind from the seating area.

Before you start decorating, consider the best way to create a welcoming space that promotes relaxation. For comfort, four large wicker chairs with puffy cushions surrounding a cocktail table or fire pit have become very popular. The traditional sofa and loveseat combination is still great if you have limited space.

Al fresco dining arrangements should be based on the maximum number of guests that you typically will entertain. A larger table or extension table that seats eight or more may be best if you plan to use full place settings. You can always put extra chairs away when they aren’t needed.

In terms of furniture construction, the Florida climate demands products that are designed to withstand the humidity and salt that is in the air. Powder coated aluminum frames and all weather resins are perfectly suited to give you many years of enjoyment without concern about rust and deterioration. Solid wood products like teak also are excellent choices, but require more maintenance to hold their original look.

The most asked questions when decorating outdoor living areas are about fabrics and cushions. Cottons and natural fibers hold up poorly in outdoor applications. Humidity, mold, mildew and fading from the sun are common concerns. Today’s outdoor fabrics are solution-dyed acrylics and polyesters.

Sunbrella by Glen Raven is the best-known trademark name for solution-dyed acrylics. Infusing the color dyes while still in a liquid state virtually eliminates the possibility of fading. Also, cleaning is much easier since these types of fabrics can take more aggressive approaches. Just to be safe, ask your furniture professional about cleaning options.

In terms of color coordination, use the same guidelines that you would use when decorating an interior room in your home. Typically, there are not four walls surrounding the outdoor area. Therefore, you will need to find a symbiotic transition from what is on the other side of the sliding glass doors and your landscaping or view at property’s edge. Remember that certain colors will create focal points that “grab” the eye. On the other hand, more muted colors will visually become part of the landscape.

Water features and ambient lighting dramatically enhance the mood you are trying to create. Also, space permitting, a built-in outdoor kitchen can top off the entertaining experience like nothing else. Just like we gather around the kitchen area inside, guests will congregate around the outdoor grill while waiting for dinner to be served.