Think Like a Designer and Reclaim Your Outdoor Space
Photo credit: Digs Digs
We asked three local experts to share some of the design principles they use to create and enhance inviting, outdoor spaces.
Form follows function
If you’ve been cooped up indoors for several weeks, you probably have a good idea about how space is being used in your home. Whether home schooling, negotiating privacy, expanding shared space, or carving out areas by task, ask yourself what you could do with outdoor rooms.
The design dictum--form follows function--requires planners to ask how a space will be used. Don’t restrict yourself to the realm of what you think is strictly possible. Grab a notebook and scribble your dreams of solitude and shared meals. Though they seem at odds with one another, get your ideas on paper. Ingenuity often emerges.
Circumnavigate the space.
Study light, ventilation, shade around your home at varying times of day and evening. For what is each side of the home best suited? When is the space unusable, and why? This thinking will frame your design problem, and suggest creative solutions.
Now, envision what you might see in a week, month, in six or twelve months. How would you like the space to function in future?
Do you see yourself living in the same place?
Could you add a unique focal point--a shade tree, tropical fruit standard, a firepit, a water feature?
Photo credit: The Balcony Garden
Who will enjoy your outdoor room?
The wonderful thing about growing is that it requires us to care for one another as well as the planet. Pondering a peaceful reading nook, a garden party, a romantic idyll, children scrambling up a tree--wise and loving desires make wonderful design prompts.
Reimagine transitional spaces
Think of outdoor rooms as an extension of the home. When beautifully appointed, these underused areas become gracious focal points.
Imagine the kitchen of a condo overflowing with a bracket of kitchen herbs and edible flowers. Tuck a bistro table, chairs, and lantern onto a small porch, and string up outdoor lights.
Over a seaside balcony, envision potted palms and rambling, salt-tolerant roses.
Peer from the entrance of a home toward the back patio, where tropical foliage gently rustles, orchid chandeliers sway, and jasmine beckons night.
Consider multifunctional plans.
On a porch, patio, or deck, scale furniture so that you can easily section off areas for reading or working. Smaller chairs may be drawn in for intimate gatherings.
Identify niches for specific activities.
Could you use a place to work out while the family lies in blissful repose? We are reliably informed that home exercise zones are a great place for solitude. (It’s hard to interrupt someone who looks so busy!)
Allocate enough space for group interactions.
Ideally, a dining/entertainment niche needs at least a 10 to 12 square foot space for comfort and flow.
Carve space in a tiny yard for an outdoor table.
Keep outdoor furniture close to the house--you’ll use it more often.
They create shade, privacy, or drama, employing eye hooks and inexpensive rods.
Though shade sails are a must for any tropical deck, impromptu #hacks still work. Don’t underestimate a strategically placed tarp, or clean linens draped over a line. If you can’t use bolts or stakes, get creative with knots, weights, rope, even oversized binder clips to secure and adjust your shade. Plug in a few fans to keep the air moving.
Plan from the ground up.
Many designers style furniture and accessories around an intriguing carpet or floor. Define an exterior gathering space with inexpensive, colorful outdoor rugs. They’re most forgiving. Simply hose down any spills incurred during the festivities.
Gravel and paving stones are proven go-to hardscapes for delineating space and creating fascinating pathways in the garden.
Photo credit: Kate Holstein
Light it up!
When night falls, you’ll want to light up your space. That’s why you did that initial electrical assessment. You’ll know how to string lovely outdoor lights. In a pinch, wind indoor-outdoor Christmas tree lights around potted plants, above curtains, to frame your banquette.
Or pop by our home store to check out garden-inspired lighting options like our elegant, bamboo lanterns. We also have battery operated fairy lights you can mass in mason jars and run along a table. We also love running a river of mixed, clear glass bottles along a table. Insert flowers or green foliage in the bottles and top with tall candles. It’s a great way to collect and recycle beautiful vessels.
Photo Credit: Reviewed
Leave room for play.
Some of our favorite ideas for temporary garden rooms are seasonal…
A kiddie pool in summer
Oversized cardboard boxes that kids transform into forts, dollhouses, obstacle courses, lemonade stands
Pallets transformed into home garden projects: trellises, garden tables, raised beds
An inflatable mattress, projector, and screen for movies under the stars
A firepit with local casuarina charcoal or stumps. Casuarina is an invasive hardwood that makes a superb fire. Dried buttonwood branches are another traditional favorite. Marshmallows and s’mores please.
Outsmart the bugs
Hmmn, good luck. Pull out the citronella, and look up some recipes for natural insect repellents. Mosquitoes hate peppermint, basil, catnip, lemon grass, lemon balm, lemon grass (called “fever grass” in The Bahamas). Try mass plantings around your outdoor spaces.
Certain plants, like bromeliads, capture water, creating optimal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. Avoid these plants in outdoor areas you plan to to use year round.
If you’re barbequing, you’ll want to burn sternos to keep the flies away. They just love the smell of meat.
Many of these great ideas came from our experts
Chivante Lockhart, our Creative Director, has planned hundreds of stunning installments for weddings and special occasions.
Landscape architect, Timothy Bethel, founded and operates
Terrain Design & Management, also the atelier of Jenna Chaplain, MLA. They bring varying perspectives to the interplay of people with the natural world. Their work brings curiosity, order, and beauty into everyday life.