By Sandra Nelson
Have you ever noticed that every season we have new marketing buzzwords directed toward us? Most of the time they seem so contrived to me ( I must be entering the curmudgeon stage of life ) but this year one did catch my eye. Almost every design article I’ve read this summer has talked about functional spaces — spaces that are designed to not just look great, but work well too. They are comfortable, convenient and cohesive, seamlessly fitting into the overall design scheme and living up to their purposes.
Traditionally, patios have not been thought of as functional spaces. They were relegated to that place for grilling on weekends or a spot to sit and have a drink when friends came over. Today, that mindset is changing. With the right choices of accessories, your patio can become a truly functional outdoor living space. It can be the hub of your entire family’s activities, not just as a place to bring the family together, but as a pleasant spot for individuals and their tasks all year long.
Today, let’s talk about some of the basic elements that can transform your patio into the most popular, and functional, room in your house.
If your current outdoor furniture is looking tired and old, it may be time to update. Think in terms of comfortable, lightweight modular styles that can be easily moved and rearranged. In one configuration, you can create an intimate area for conversation and the next day easily change it to a sofa for lounging. Sustainable materials like rattan and wicker are not only environmentally friendly, but also blend well with an outdoor setting, especially in muted colors of greens, browns and neutrals. Furniture that doubles as storage gives an added bonus as a place to hide extra unsightly but necessary clutter. There are even pieces that double as coolers!
The height of summer can be miserably hot in many parts of the country, driving people indoors to escape the heat. Adding shade to an outdoor space helps to keep the patio usable, even in the dog days of summer. For relatively inexpensive, instant shade, outdoor umbrellas are the answer. They are easily movable, can add a pop of color or pattern to the decor and are available in a variety of sizes. Cantilever umbrellas, although more expensive and not as portable as simple umbrellas in stands, do offer the benefit of broad overhead shade without the obstruction of the pole in the middle.
Darkness doesn’t need to chase you indoors. Strings of soft lights hanging above can add a romantic touch to the evening that persuades you to stay out for just a few more minutes. LED spot lights can highlight both architectural and natural features, creating unique focal points. Task lighting can brighten up a work space making it possible to finish up that one last chore without having to move. Using yellow- tinted bulbs lessens the number of insects attracted to the light.
The days of bringing the portable CD player outside to listen to music are over! Speakers, both wired and wireless, are designed to withstand the elements and to deliver flawless sound quality. The soothing power of music combined with the beauty and healing powers of nature work together to create a living space that is perfect for working or relaxing.
Weatherproof televisions, theater screens and projectors bring outdoor entertainment to a new level. Feel like you’re part of the action as you sit outdoors and watch the game from the comfort and convenience of your own patio, or grab some snacks and bring the family together for movie night. Depending on the projection brightness, showings can begin as early as dusk so even the little ones can enjoy the show.
The accessories for an interior living space can make or break the room. Adding the perfect accessories to an outdoor living area is just as important. Two of the best features to add to a patio are a water feature and a fire feature. The gentle sound of trickling water is soothing and can help wipe away the stresses of daily life. With choices from tiny tabletop bubblers to elaborate fountains, it’s easy to find the perfect fit for the space.
Fire pits have been a popular backyard feature for several years. The dancing flames of a fire pit or a gas table naturally draw people together, promising good times, good food (s’mores anyone?) and good stories. Sometimes though, a large fire pit just doesn’t fit in the design or the budget. An alternative available today is the tabletop fire bowl . Using gel fuels instead of wood or gas, tabletop fire bowls are smokeless, odorless, portable and inexpensive. For those on the fence about adding a fire pit, fire bowls are a great way to begin.
Unable to decide between having fire or water? A solution exists, the Fire & Water Feature. Combining the sounds of water with the mesmerizing effects of flame creates a display of unmatched elegance and allure. Whether designed as a tabletop detail or the room’s focal point, the pairing of these unlikely elements adds excitement to the landscape.
We’ve given you a lot to think about, but there’s still more to come. Join us next week as we look at climate control options for your outdoor living space, including adding permanent shade structures. See you then.