How To Create an Inviting Outdoor Space
8 Tips for creating an inviting outdoor space no matter where you live.
Outdoor spaces, porches, decks, patios, terraces and even front stoops, are an extension of our homes.
Get the most out of your outdoor space by using these tips to help you create a space that is inviting and beautiful as well as functional. Let’s do more than just add a welcome mat and a potted plant or two. Let’s put a little effort into making those areas exactly what you want them to be!
In the past, I typically just filled a few pots with flowers, swept the cobwebs away, tidied things up and called it done. Not anymore. I’ve learned that a well designed outdoor living area works to extend the walls of my home.
Using these tips, I’ve been able to create a relaxing outdoor oasis that we use and enjoy nine months of the year! Specifically, I want my deck and porch to feel more like an outdoor room instead of just a place for some potted flowers and a table with an umbrella over it.
THE FIRST STEP IS TO CLEAN – HOW TO MAKE IT EASIER
This isn’t a fun step, but it’s a very necessary one! All of my outdoor spaces are filthy after a fall and winter of dropping leaves and don’t even get me started talking about the yellow pollen we have to deal with for a couple of weeks in early spring.
Even though cleaning isn’t my favorite thing to do, here are three ways that I make it as painless as possible:
- My favorite product for easily cleaning dirt, dust, green algae, mold and mildew from siding and woodwork is Mold Armor E-Z House Wash. Guys, this product is nothing short of amazing! I literally attached it to my hose, sprayed my woodwork and waited a few minutes before hosing it off. There were a very few spots that were particularly mildew’y that needed a little bit of scrubbing.
After using this product, the white railing on my porch always looks like it has been freshly painted. Be sure to read all of the directions before use to see what you need to do to protect plants and exactly how to use the product.
- I only use outdoor rugs and pillows and cushions made with outdoor fabric and outdoor inserts, even if the area they’re in is covered and protected. These types of products typically only need to be knocked together to get rid of dust and pollen. If they do need additional cleaning, they can be cleaned with a garden hose. A pressure washer works too, but make sure to test the fabric or rugs first to make sure they can withstand the force of the water.
- I don’t usually need any special products to clean the furniture and accessories. A wet paper towel or rag works just fine.
HOW WILL THE SPACE FUNCTION?
To get the most out of your outdoor space, determine the functional needs and desires that you have for your area. Those needs and desires are what should dictate the type of furnishings and accessories that you need and what the layout should be.
Things to consider:
- How much space do you have – what are the dimensions?
- Is privacy an issue?
- Do you need an outdoor dining area for entertaining?
- Do you need to create shade?
- How much seating do you need for yourself and for guests?
- Do you need lighting?
- Do you need outdoor storage?
- Do you need noise control features, such as a water fountain?
- Do you need to set up the furniture to take advantage of a pretty view?
- Do you need an outdoor kitchen area?
- Do you need any help with climate control, such as ceiling fans or an outdoor heat source?
SPEAKING OF FURNITURE
If your goal is to spend periods of time enjoying your outdoor space, comfort is key. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been stuck with hard seats or rocking chairs that sit too straight.
If at all possible, try out pieces for seating before purchasing. I’ve learned the hard way that purchasing outdoor furniture online without being able to try it out first, isn’t necessarily the way to go.
For low maintenance, make sure the cushions are made with outdoor fabrics. I know if I can avoid it, I don’t want to have to bring my cushions inside in case of rain.
ACCOMMODATE DINING IN YOUR OUTDOOR ROOM
Even if it’s just a small table with a couple of chairs tucked into a corner, adding a spot for outdoor dining is a perfect way to create an instant invitation to enjoy an outdoor space.
Having a spot for dining ramps up the cozy factor and is like an unspoken invitation to stay a while.
ADD GREENERY WITH PLANTS
Greenery adds life to any space! Use plants as accents throughout the area or think about placing them around the perimeter of an area to help define the outdoor room feel.
If you want low maintenance, look no further than succulents. They come in all sorts of varieties and colors and are the ideal plant for adding texture.
No worries if you don’t want to have to remember to water! Using faux plants to add life works just as well. You can even purchase UV resistant faux plants on Amazon if you’re concerned about fading from the sun.
LAYERING IS IMPORTANT IN AN OUTDOOR SPACE
That’s right – layering your decor is just as crucial to creating a cozy, intimate and inviting outdoor space as it to creating the same feeling in an indoor space. So, layer those doormats, layer that wall decor and layer those pillows!
Tips for layering:
- Arrange multiple throw pillows on an outdoor couch or chair so that some are toward the front and some are toward the back.
- Use two different sized area rugs, with the smaller rug layered on top of the larger one.
- When placing decorative items, stagger them front to back so that items aren’t simply lined up in a straight line.
- Add a throw blanket to the back of a seat or arm of a chair or couch.
CREATE SPECIAL “MOMENTS”
There are all sorts of accessories that are good choices to add to your outdoor area that will make it feel more cozy and inviting. They add interest, texture and act as the jewelry to the room you’re creating.
Just make sure that whatever you use is outdoor friendly and is heavy enough not to be blown over by the wind. Some of my favorites include:
- grouping a trio of multiple size lanterns on the floor
- hanging string lights
- adding candles (whether real or battery operated) for a pretty evening glow
- adding an outdoor fireplace or fire pit
- using a coffee table, bench or a stack of outdoor cushions for extra seating
- the sound of a small water fountain is very soothing and relaxing
TIP: To make an indoor accessory safe for outdoors (other than fabric), spray it with a clear sealer that is outdoor proof.
DEFINE THE SPACE FOR INTIMACY OR PRIVACY
If you have a wide open area, such as a patio, consider adding a low wall to define the area and create a sense of being in a room. The low slate wall surrounding this terrace works beautifully for creating a sense of intimacy even though it’s located beside a wide open golf course.
Or, you can always choose to build a wall where nothing currently exists. The addition of the trellis behind these seats helps to “enclose” an otherwise very open patio. You don’t have to have a roof and the design is limited only by your creativity.
Even though my friend Nancy’s deck is a very large wide open space, make note of the cozy intimacy that the addition of structure in the form of “walls” and a pergola type ceiling adds.
You can also use outdoor planters to create the illusion of a wall. If diy projects aren’t your thing, these self-watering outdoor planters are awesome! They’re on wheels (which you can lock in place), so they can easily be moved around.
These are available in three colors – white, charcoal and green and can be ordered HERE.
Great ideas! I really like those trellis on rollers! You could plant a citrus tree on them and wheel them in the Winter!
That’s a great idea, Angelina!
I really enjoyed seeing all these gorgeous outdoor spaces and the ideas you’ve shown for enhancing our backyard areas. You’ve got me excited to start putting what I call our “cabana area” together again and perhaps creating a new look for it. The addition of outdoor lighting last year has made it one of my favourite places to be on a summer evening. Thanks for rounding up all these wonderful pics to share with us.
Hi Lori. The images that I ran across while putting this post together had me drooling too! I would love to add some outdoor lighting to our porch. Definitely on my list of things to do!
I am planting my patio this weekend! Nothing makes me more excited that fresh plants and flowers! Love the Southern Living image!
That Southern Living porch is one of my favorites too! I drool over it! Have fun playing on your patio!
I love all of those patios/outdoor rooms…lots of great ideas! We have a large deck. My main requirements, are comfy chairs, a place to put up my feet, and a place to set a drink…and flowers, greenery! We are still several weeks away from setting things up…our weather is playing games with us! 😉
Hi Donnamae. Boy, I totally get the weather game – warm then chilly, sunny then rain, calm then windy. Hopefully things have settled here a bit. Fingers crossed! Now if the pollen would just stop….
Wow, Suzy, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I just ordered echo beach outdoor furniture from Pier1. I’m still looking for a rug, a garden stool and some pillows. Thank you for sharing all those outdoor spaces and all your great ideas I’m really excited to put things together now!
Hi Nancie. New outdoor furniture? How exciting! Having fun pulling your space together!
Thanks for sharing Suzy! I love the drapes curtain, they make the space look do cosy 🙂
Hi, do you give instructions for making the four piece hanging divider that is featured? Thanks!
Hi Dian. Can you tell me which one of the images that you’re referring to?
Very informative and helpful post thanks…
Beautiful porches!! Thanks for the inspiration!
Many great ideas and inspiration since it’s time for me to re-do my “sanctuary”!!!!!!!
I just love your blog…Your ideas have been so helpful…Thank you for providing such wonderful outdoor ideas…
This advice is just what I need! We are in a condo now with a small patio. I’m struggling with ideas to make it inviting. Thanks to you, I’m able to envision it much better. Any additional hints for a nautical theme? Thanks for your talents you share.
Hi Doreen. I’m so glad you found this helpful! Everyone’s taste is different, but if I were doing a nautical theme, my tendency would be to do it with color more than with too many cutesy accessories. I would choose a main color scheme of dark’ish blue and white. As far a pattern goes, anything with stripes is great for a nautical theme. Other items that would remind me of a nautical theme are teak or wood furniture, blue cushions or pillows with white piping, using rope somewhere, using rope cleats for hooks, hanging an oar on a wall. I would definitely go to Pinterest and search “nautical decor”. You’ll get tons of ideas there. 😀
Adding a handrail will cordon off your deck so you can use it much like a room or extension of your house. You can also paint the handrail to match your painted garden furniture. For example, if you have white-washed garden furniture and dark blue umbrellas on your outdoor decking, you can paint the top of the rail blue, and the bars, white.
Love your post! I’m ready to get outside and enjoy our deck…now if only the pollen would go away!! Yesterday we cleaned out all our flower beds and pots. This morning we’re heading to the nurseries to buy flowers. One of my favorite things about spring!
I am excited to receive the free Ebook.
I love your ideas! Thank you for sharing.