Last year I started an interior design series in partnership with Living Spaces here on Fab Everyday, working with some of their interior designers to bring you tips and trends for home design and decorating your space. Today we’re sharing the next article in our #FabLiving collaboration, brought to you from Living Spaces Interior Designer Brynna Evans. Just in time for warmer weather, Brynna is sharing tips for designing an outdoor living space. Planning an outdoor living space is not much different than designing your interiors, and Brynna makes the process a lot easier by sharing the key planning steps for creating your outdoor oasis, whether you are in a home or an apartment.
After you read today’s article on creating an outdoor living space, be sure to stay tuned for more interior design ideas and insights from the pros at Living Spaces here on Fab Everyday, and follow @livingspaces on Instagram for ongoing home style inspiration.
Designing Outdoors: Planning and Designing an Outdoor Living Space
By Brynna Evans, Interior Designer, Living Spaces
Since most of the population is working from home, creating an outdoor escape is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. I know it is a little early to bring up outdoor furniture since half the country is covered in snow, but why not get a head start on planning for your outdoor spaces?
I am going to be focusing on space planning in relation to outdoor settings. Generally, space planning is thought of only for inside the home. However, you can use the same principles when it comes to decorating your outdoor spaces. Whether you are decorating for an apartment or a home, I will teach you how to make the most of your space!
See also: How to Start an Interior Design Project
For reference, I will be using my patio area. I just moved into a new apartment and had not yet had a chance to focus on the outdoor design. My boyfriend and I both have a passion for cooking and entertaining. So once we can have friends over again, we would like to seat 4-6 people for dinner.
We will start by measuring the usable space for furniture and accessories. Measure the full area, even if you don’t plan on using it all. I have an 11-foot by 9-foot outdoor space off of my living room. Next, draw in your doors, windows, and any architectural details. These are important, so we leave enough room for egress or evacuation points in our layout.
Below is the drawing of my outdoor space. I have two different doorways. One is a large sliding door into my living room, and the other is a doorway to the water heater. I also have a small staircase leading to the parking area, located in the left bottom corner.
There are two ways to go about laying out your space: using a hand sketch or digital sketch method. I love digital because I am a visual learner. This tool can show the pieces to scale in my room, which ensures me that the items will fit into their designated spaces. I personally start by hand sketching a simple image of what I have in mind to start, then translate that to a floor plan in the Living Spaces Room Planner Tool.
Start with the most essential piece of furniture in your design; for me, it is my dining table and chairs. For this space, since both doors are located in the upper left corner, I have shifted my design to the right lower corner to maximize the area. I can either float the dining table vertically in the middle of the space, leaving me room for décor on the right wall, or I can position it horizontally against the wall and decorate around it (see the layout examples below).
The horizontal plan leaves the most room for the walkway or egress to my parking garage. It also gives me the ability to add plants and other items along the railing outside of the patio. You should do what works best for you and your lifestyle. That’s the nice part about design; it is customized to everyone’s personal needs. Nothing is correct or wrong.
The next step is to pick the items you would like to incorporate into the design. I will be using Living Spaces’ new Outdoor Catalog for reference. There are many great choices for any size patio in the collection. The collection features woods such as teak, eucalyptus, and acacia, which are well known for their ability to hold up in all kinds of weather. While other materials including resin wicker, aluminum, and woven ropes are available as well.
See also: 2021 Furniture Trends
I will be selecting the Martinique Dining Table, constructed of rust-free aluminum. This is perfect for my space since it is partially exposed to the elements. I will pair the dining table with four of the Martinique Outdoor Dining Side Chairs. They have a gorgeous navy blue weather-resistant fabric seat that will break up all the grey on my patio, and work nicely with the 2021 color trends.
When choosing an area rug it not only depends on what the space will allow for, but also on the items you are going to put on top of it. When placing it under a dining table you want to make sure the dining table and chairs can sit on top of it without the chairs going over onto the flooring or material below for safety reasons. For sectionals or three piece sets you want to make sure at least the front legs are placed on the rug. This way you know that the rug is proportionate to the items placed on top. Generally for a small space such as an apartment patio, I would select a 5-foot by 8-foot rug. A bigger area, like a deck, would require a 8-foot by 11-foot rug or larger.
Why do you need an outdoor rug? Rugs create separation between the flooring and furniture while tying the design together. I always find that picking the area rug or an accent pillow helps me draw inspiration for the whole room. In this case I had chosen the Cabana Stripes Blue prior to picking the dining chairs. This rug’s teal accents are perfect for adding that pop of color while tying into the greys and blues throughout the space.
Lighting is one of the most neglected subjects when it comes to outdoor living. I have lived in an apartment for most of my time in Southern California, and one of the most difficult things was lighting. Most apartment patios just come with one little dinky light. Even if it did provide enough light at night, the ambiance leaves something to be desires. I want to see my friend’s faces, not their shadows. I was fed up and went searching on Amazon. I found outlets that screw into the light bulb socket. These light socket plug adapters were a game changer! Now I could have all the twinkly lights and finally see my friends!
Once you have the essential items in place, it is time to accessorize! This is one of the most fun parts of the design process. Don’t be afraid of color outdoors! Pots, pillows, and artwork are a fun thing you can change throughout the year that doesn’t have to be permanent.
Color doesn’t have to come through accessories; it can also be shown through plants. I am the daughter of a horticulturist, and my dad always taught me that plants could brighten up any corner. We had many different varieties of plants in all shades and colors throughout our backyard. I always admired how my dad would go into the backyard with his cup of coffee after a hard day at work. He would sit amongst his plants and unwind before coming in to start dinner. This is where I learned the importance of outdoor spaces and their ability to affect mental health.
Below is the final space layout for my patio. I hope to have it all completed within the next few weeks.
Hopefully, this guide helps solve some of your questions about designing outdoors. Remember, techniques for indoors can apply outside too. Go outside and relax, unwind, take a mental health break! They are important!
About the Author
My name is Brynna Joy Evans, I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I completed my Interior Design degree. I have lived in Los Angeles for the last 7 years, but have recently moved back to the Bay Area with my two dogs, Milo and Mazie. I have worked at Living Spaces Furniture for the last 7 years as an Interior Designer. In my off time, you will find me either exploring towns nearby or in Tahoe amongst the forest. The forest is where I always find my new ideas for design.
More outdoor décor ideas and inspiration:
- French country-inspired budget patio makeover
- Resurfacing a Concrete Patio for a Budget DIY Patio Makeover
- How to Design an Outdoor Living Space
- How to Make a Hanging Potted Herb Garden
- DIY Cinder Block Raised Garden Bed
- DIY Cinder Block Bench
- DIY Cinder Block Plant Bench
- Fire Pit Guide (outdoor fire pit ideas, design tips, and buying guide)
- Throw a Fabulous French Country Style Outdoor Party
- Three Ways to Style Your Yard with a Hammock
- Front Yard Garden Makeover
- DIY Front Door Makeover
- Curb Appeal