Kevin O’Shea has spent a lot of time lately designing outdoor spaces. He recently finished the Sky Terrace at the Hudson Hotel, and he’s also designed the outdoor waiting lounge for the Agua Spa at the Mondrian Scottsdale. Kevin is a firm believer in using your outdoor space as an extension of your indoor living space. His finds have me dreaming of dinner under the stars. Unfortunately, I have a terrace-less reality in Brooklyn. Dinner on the fire escape, anyone? OK, Kevin is the expert here, so I’m going to let him take it away! Thanks, Kevin! (And don’t miss the sneak peek of Kevin’s New York City home.)
The key to creating a unique environment outside is to approach the exterior spaces of your home in the same way you created your interiors. One should consider style, function, lighting and mood, and your outdoor room should be an extension of the aesthetics within your home. Retailers have vastly improved the quality and variety of outdoor goods being sold over recent years, which makes it easy to put together an outdoor room that not only fits your own aesthetics but can be tailored to fit any space and budget. This year, don’t settle for the first patio set you see at the hardware store; instead, with a little creative thought, you can create a dynamic outdoor space that reflects your unique tastes and style.
MIX IT UP
Keep it eclectic; don’t match all of your outdoor furniture. Rather, buy individual pieces from many sources to create a unique arrangement that reflects your own style. Mix in thrift store finds that you coat in outdoor spray paint for a really unexpected addition to your outdoor room that is also friendly on your wallet. I usually recommend splurging a bit on the items you use the most (sofa, dining table, etc.), and then pairing those with the funkier spray-painted tag-sale finds that may only last a season or two but allow you to refresh your space from year to year.
Image above: 1. Ceramic Books, $159.60; 2. Ceramic Buddha Fountain, $129.95; 3. Right Cornice, $299.95; 4. Perch Planter, $119.99; 5. Folding Metal Chairs, $198; 6. Calypso Double Glass Hurricane, $59; 7. IKEA Outdoor Folding Table, $19.99; 8. Street Fair String Lights, $59; 9. Chinese Garden Stool, $129; 10. Diamond Kilim Indoor/Outdoor Rug, $49–$199
There are four more styles and roundups after the jump….
BUY WHAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED, NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU NEED
Think about how you intend to use the space and then buy accordingly. For example, if you only use the space in the evening, you don’t need an umbrella, and if you don’t intend to serve meals outside, you don’t need a table. Focus on how you like to entertain, and make sure all of your furniture and accessories support that. Because you are building your room item by item, you are not forced into the prepackaged furniture sets that often have pieces you end up not needing.
Image above: 1. Dexter Outdoor Coffee Table, $254; 2. Doily Coaster, $6; 3. Tiered Metal Stand, $179; 4. Duet Seat, $2,600; 5. Round Market Umbrella, $99–$179; 6. All-weather Rug, $207; 7. Royce Lighting, $146.86; 8. Thomasville Southpointe Seating, $399; 9. PG Tips Tea, $12.11; 10. Tea Set, $150; 11. Outdoor Pillow Covers, $46–$62; 12. Reclaimed Wood Barrel Planters, $99–$179
AMBIANCE IS CRUCIAL
A mix of electric lighting and candlelight is important to creating a warm ambiance in your outdoor room. I love to use outdoor lamps that look just like the lamps in your home; they are made to withstand wet weather conditions (if you search “outdoor lamp” online, many options will come up). String lights are another great option, and there are so many varieties of summer-themed strands now available that your patio lighting won’t look like Christmas leftovers. For the candlelight, make sure your flames are protected from the wind. Put your candles into lanterns or hurricanes and mix up the height — put some on the ground, some on tables and, if possible, hang some from hooks or branches above.
Image above: 1. Roseto Bench, $849.15; 2. Aged Nursery Pots, $20–$42; 3. Reclaimed Kasbah Rug $49-125 4. Moroccan Jewel Lantern, $98; 5. Banda Armchair, $298; 6. Sea Striped Tumbler, $8; 7. Saraha Throw Pillow, $129; 8. Hanging Wire Lanterns $69 9. Floor Cushion, $75; 10. Frog Rain-Drum Accent Table, $499; 11. Butter Churn Vessel, $44
THINK OUTSIDE THE (FLOWER) BOX
Decorative accessories and artwork are what make any interior room successful, and the same can apply outdoors. Put inexpensive posters in thrift store frames and hang them on a vine-covered trellis or exterior wall for some added whimsy. Rethink the standard flowerpot, and instead, plant your flowers in unique vessels like old teapots, wooden crates or, my personal favorite, old drawers.
Image above: 1. Lighthouse Outdoor Torch, $90–$230; 2. Dexter Outdoor Bench, $279; 3. Rectangular Dining Table, $509.15; 4. Rectangular Umbrella, $199; 5. White Tray Table, $49.95; 6. Cargo Pendant String Light, $69; 7. Steel Wire Chair, $398; 8. Water Glass, $34.80; 9. Purple Rug, $50–$400, 10. Lyle Side Chair, $199; 11. Ladies-in-Waiting Dinner Plates, $24
SMALL SPACE = BIG POSSIBILITIES
If space is limited, keep it flexible. Your furniture should pull double duty — use stools as extra seating or small tables. Lacquer trays are a great way to serve dinner if you don’t have room for a table; your guests can set the trays on their laps and enjoy their meals.
Most importantly, have fun and challenge yourself. Look around your home, take the elements that make you the happiest and figure out ways to interpret those for the outdoors. You will never look at that boring five-piece patio set at the hardware store the same again.
To get those creative juices flowing, I have put together a few inspiring collections of some of my favorite outdoor products currently available online. Enjoy!
Image above: 1. Madame Tallien Bust $106 2. Mexican Glass DOF Amber Rim, $6.45; 3. Side Table, $129; 4. Faux Bois Rug, $149; 5. Trumpet Tuteur, $188; 6. Ceramic Lantern, $19.95–$24.95; 7. Wicker Sofa, $79.99–$1,499.00; 8. Terracotta Urn, $178; 9. Hanging Lanterns, $12; 10. Oslo Bowl, $59.95; 11. Nest Chair, $399