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What's Up Magazine

Escape to an Outdoor Sanctuary

Jul 25, 2011 07:03PM ● By Anonymous

The same plastic used in products and packaging, such as milk jugs and detergent containers, is now being molded into glamorous tables, benches, and chairs in colors that pop, such as lime green, honeysuckle pink, and ocean-inspired blue

There’s no doubt about it: summers in Maryland can be hot, which means you need a place to sit and veg out. Along with recycled resin, other furniture choices for an outdoor room you can enjoy include those made of teak, pine, galvanized steel, and longtime-favorite wicker. Your outdoor room can take many forms. It can be an extension of your indoor space, such as a screened-in porch, deck, patio, or perhaps a gazebo tucked away under the trees. Whatever type you choose, creating attractive outdoor spaces for relaxing and entertaining is a trend that is growing across the nation

“Functional, comfortable, and stylish outdoor rooms and furnishings that can be used every day are becoming just as important as indoor family rooms,” says a local exterior architecture company representative. And, like interior rooms, exterior rooms are drawing inspiration from the past with a host of vintage and industrial looks. Expect to see lots of galvanized steel, aged looks, patina on finishes, and vintage patterns on upholstery. The vintage look is not just specific to the furniture—reclaimed brick, barn board, and antique statuary have all gained popularity in these outdoor settings.

New Types of Dining Spaces

The once-standard round or oblong aluminum, glass-top tables with a hole for an umbrella in the middle have become passé. Instead, expect to see groupings of tables in various sizes and heights, especially since this concept gives children, teenagers, and adults their own places to sit and mingle. Tables are now being made out of a variety of materials and in a variety of styles—from large, family-style wood tables to bar height tables with tiled tops. Outdoor tables often resemble their indoor cousins, only they’re constructed of weather-resistant,more durable materials.

Seating to go along with these tables include barstools, as well as swivel-, rocking-, and director-style chairs, some with cushions and some without. And the fun, bright colors they come in aren’t limited to those made of plastic materials. Trendy, galvanized-steel café chairs, made in the style of the French company Tolix™, are also available in a host of colors. For a protected porch area, metals such as zinc, galvanized steel, and iron are durable and lend the space urban appeal.

To match the colorful palette, outdoor fabrics designed for this season range from woven patterns to retro and floral prints, and traditional canvas and duck cloth.  Local designers recommend starting with neutral, comfortable furnishings that can be changed seasonally with any of these prints or other accents. Accessorizing with throw pillows can finish off the look.

Accents and Accessories

The use of decorative throw pillows in natural and low-maintenance fabrics to create a different look is not big news—the big news is the plethora of available styles. Everything from structured, tufted looks with button accents, to whimsically accessorized pillows are now on the market. Try different textures, from shiny vinyl to a knobby basket weave. Many fabric stores offer custom upholstery and pillow crafting services.

In keeping with the vintage look, scout antiques shops for unusual pitchers to hold your tabletop flower arrangements, or experiment by arranging flowers in a galvanized-steel bucket. Adorn your outdoor table using a vintage scarf as a runner or a knitted twine runner with matching place mats. Antique wood boxes or distressed-wood toolboxes can become decorative and practical accessories. The possibilities are endless.

Fireplaces and fire pits are becoming a staple of outdoor rooms,

because they’re aesthetically pleasing and extend your use of the area through late fall. Taking it further, fire pit tables, which serve a dual purpose, are also available. Besides providing warmth, you can use them for cooking by adding a grill or cedar planks to your fire pit. Alternatively, during the summer months when the last thing you want to think about is a hot fire, use the fire pit as an ice bucket. Now, that’s a cool idea!

Creating a Pleasurable Environment

Speaking of “cool,” you may want to bring a few standing, oscillating fans into your outdoor room. Quiet models are available, as are wonderfully decorative models that not only circulate air but also add appeal to the outdoor room. If the area is covered and sheltered from rain, electric outlets and ceiling fans are great for cooling your outdoor room during the hot, humid summer months.

An easy way to add atmosphere and color to your outdoor room is with potted plants, flowers, and trees. Potted trees, ornamental grasses, and a myriad of other flora create height, texture, and interest. Again, if the area is covered, use shade plants such as hostas, flowering maples, and variegated flax lilies. Long, trailing vines and hanging pots brimming with flowers provide form, texture, and color.

“For planters, keep it simple, buy good quality, and go big,” says a local expert who suggests a planter filled with herbs placed near an outdoor kitchen (even an indoor kitchen) is a great way to have fresh herbs, such as mint, at your fingertips when preparing a mojito or grilling lamb chops. This expert prefers planters for perennials and herbs because, when carefully selected, they will require very little maintenance and watering. Other suggestions include tall salvias, due to their continuous blooming, drought resistance, and hardiness, as well as geraniums planted with thyme around the edges to create a lacy spill-over effect.

Candles placed inside lanterns, or perhaps in clear or colored glass vases secured in tabletop mounds of sand, can add romance and mystery when the sun goes down. And so much the better if the candles contain some type of pleasant scent that also happens to repel bugs and mosquitos!