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August 1998 Issue
Open-Air Chic
by Jenny Wojcik
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When is a lawn chair not a lawn chair? When you bring it indoors of course and lots of traditionally outdoor furniture makers are creating pieces now that are so versatile, it would be a shame to leave them outside all year! Some of us have already discovered that by simply bringing some of the outdoors in we create a refreshing feeling inside. We use plants to liven up otherwise drab, dead corners - we fill in our empty spaces with them - but have we ever taken our indoors out? No, I’m not suggesting that everyone hoist their sectional sofas over a shoulder and move them to the patio, (although for a really special occasion with no rain in the forecast it’s not a bad idea.) What I am suggesting is that our outdoor areas can be enlivened by some of our indoor furnishings

Do you have a patio, a deck, a backyard with grass and trees, a pool maybe, or perhaps you have simply a slab of concrete that butts up against your backdoor? Regardless of its nature, it’s your outdoor space to use or abuse - to love and enliven or hate and neglect. Everyone loves to grill outdoors, or at least to eat that wonderful food that comes from the grill, and what better place to entertain your neighbors and friends than the backyard? Summer screams "come outside" and because for many of us summer is just too short, make the most of it by Home Styling your own backyard.

Without spending a fortune, you can create a cozy, friendly outdoor living space by following a few quick tips. Take a look at your outdoor furniture. Does it say, "Come, sit on me and be comfortable -" or does it say, "Sit here and you’ll have ridges on your lower extremities when you unstick yourself from my grip!" Sorry, but most of us have to admit that we’re in the latter category. Many of us purchase outdoor furniture that will suffice rather than be comfortable. So, let’s assume we have your standard issue outdoor furniture from the discount store, and we want to make it more comfortable. Cushion it. Even a simple square pillow encased in a beautiful fabric (or a couple of them per chair) adds texture, eye appeal and, most of all, comfort.

Let’s start at the beginning. First, take stock of what you have that can safely be used outside. It may be time to move that plant out for some sunshine and fresh air, or to take those herbs out of your windowsill and position them on the sunny side of your porch. Perhaps those candles that you’ve had in the freezer (it lengthens their burn-time you know) need to find their way to an outdoor table. And how about that sisal rug? It would look great in front of that rocker. That wicker basket would be a great place to store some pool towels. And, there is that wicker shelf that isn’t used indoors anymore - maybe that could hang on a wall outside. Nice place to keep extra candles, matches for the barbecue, and a great spot for a clock and thermometer! The wind chimes that the kids bought you for Christmas - they’d be perfect hanging in that corner, singing in the breeze.

Let’s remember that outdoor living areas should be thought of as "rooms". They just don’t have the same walls and ceilings that a traditional room has. So let’s add color that coordinates with our rooms inside, especially if your outdoor living space is visible from inside your home. If all your outdoor furniture is white plastic, liven it up with some colorful pads or cushions. Add placemats or a brightly colored tablecloth for the picnic table. Spread colorful candles around the "room" - use fishbowls as a candle vase, adding water and floating a few candles! Got lots of terra cotta pots? They make great candleholders too. Let’s add some "art" to the wall - a stepping stone or a blank canvas stretched on a frame, just waiting to be painted on. And let’s pot some annuals to add some color and texture. How about adding a topiary or two?

Remember, comfort is key. If you’re in a sunny locale like I am you need to provide shade and shelter. Market umbrellas are fabulous for this, and can be found for under $100. Even beach umbrellas now come with a clamp so that they can be attached to chairs. And we’ve come a long way with fabric that can be used outdoors. We’re no longer forced to use stripes or solid white; there are now as many patterns and color ways as one could imagine in canvas or other designed-to-withstand-the-weather fabrics. You may be talented enough to cover your own cushions, and if so, it’s worth a trip to the fabric store to see what’s new. You may even opt for outdoor curtains for privacy or pure glamour - they’re great hanging from swing arm rods, and nothing says summer like billowing fabric.

Bottom-line - decorate deliberately, just as you decorate indoors. The same "rules" apply. With a little planning, your outdoor area can be an inviting place to spend an afternoon, an evening or the whole day. Comfortable seating, a place to cook, a place to eat, a place to relax - just add music, summer breezes and some good friends. Instant entertaining in style and comfort. Sounds like home to me.

Summer days and sultry evenings soon slide into fall, and this fall we’re going to tackle Home Style one room at a time. We’ll go room by room, and we’re starting in the heart of the home - the kitchen - where we lend spice to our life and comfort through our palettes! Hope to see you next time!

Questions? Comments on what you’ve read? Suggestions for future articles? Send me a note via email at or post me a note on our BBS by writing in the box below.



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