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Tips for Gracious Outdoor Living

Design tips for your outdoor space

By Cynthia Rush

Whether your outdoor space is a large plot of land with expansive views or a postage stamp-size courtyard surrounded by fencing, it pays big dividends to consider not only what you need the space to do but how you want it to make you feel. Here are some design tips to keep in mind as you begin planning your outdoor oasis.

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Relaxing Transitional Outdoors
John Mills Davies

Repeat motifs.

Try to establish a visual connection with an existing structure to make the outdoor space feel like a continuation of the living area. This could be as simple as using a style of fencing that mirrors the railings on the deck of the house or selecting plant pedestals that mimic the columns on the porch. "That potential for blending will often be the key to making the most of design possibilities inherent in your unique space," according to architect and interior designer Don Bowden.

Get inspired by these 6 easy patio and porch updates.

Manage the sun's impact.

Relaxing Transitional Outdoors
Antonio Martins
Sometimes sunlight is too much of a good thing. If there are times when the sun's intensity stops you from enjoying the space, mitigate its impact with a combination of cleverly placed potted plants, fast-growing shade trees, and structures such as an arbor.

Enclose the space.

To further create the feeling of an outdoor room, consider building a cabana, gazebo, pergola, or pavilion. Such free-standing structures provide respite from the sun, a focal point for the garden, and an opportunity to enliven the space with colorful, breezy curtains, cushions, and umbrellas—all of which now come in fabulous, all-weather fabrics.

Check out these outdoor furniture finds:

Emphasize the entrance.

Landscape architect Camilla Latady says her clients often forget the design impact a threshold can make. Even something as simple as a pair of flower-filled urns flanking the entryway can help define the space while providing a gracious note of welcome.

Go high-tech.

There are now many appliances available that have been designed with outdoor living in mind. You can have a complete outdoor kitchen with weather-tight cabinetry, refrigerator drawers, and a hybrid fire grill/pizza oven. Best of all, many of these appliances have been designed to meet or exceed established green standards of energy and water efficiency.

Appeal to all the senses.

Choose plants based not only on how they look, but on how they smell. Fragrant flowering plants, such as jasmine or lavender, will add a whole new level of enjoyment and sensory stimulation. Keep in mind that the color of the plantings will impact your mood: brightly colored flowers, such as red or hot pink, will stimulate your senses, while flowers in cooler shades of blue, violet, and other pastels will soothe the senses. Additionally, an outdoor fire pit or water feature are two more natural elements that can have a dramatic transforming effect on both the function and the mood of your outdoor space.

Layer with light.

Play with the possibilities of using light to create a mood of enchantment. A tasteful combination of task-specific lighting and low-voltage pathway and accent lighting will enhance your use of the space at night and provide a charming vignette when viewed from inside the home.

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