It sits there waiting for you to enjoy it, to dress it up and make proper use of it—your patio needs you. Whether yours is presently under-loved and under-used, the new year is a perfect time to start getting the most out of your outdoor space.
Being outdoors—breathing the fresh air, feeling the sun and wind, witnessing nature unfold—does a lot for us, something we have all learned over the past year or so. And there is no reason not to utilize outdoor space.
It doesn’t matter if you are creating your own patio, simplistic in nature with stone floor and strung lights, or if you need to redo a hidden masterpiece; there are basic, easy ways to create and/or dress up just about any outdoor space.
Working With What You Have
You want your outdoor area to be a place you and others can visit and spend time. This space needs to be unique, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny nook in the corner of the yard, or if it’s the yard itself, there are a few initial things you can do to dress things up.
• Begin with a clean sweep. Beg, borrow, or steal yourself a pressure washer and thoroughly clean the area (don’t steal). Hit the floor, the walls, furniture, pillows, fence, everything so that you have a clean slate to work with. *Note: be sure to read the directions on the pressure washer, as they vary in power and method of use.
• Add some color. Consider painting or staining wood surfaces (especially if you have a deck or deck seating). If you decide to add color but aren’t sure where, here is a good design tip: keep everything a similar light color, like a white—we love Shoji White from Sherwin Williams—then have one, rather large, item painted a pop-color. For example, paint surface areas white and a door leading to your outside area red.
• Take inspiration from your surroundings. One of the rules for effective interior design is to respect the architecture. One rule for exterior design is to respect the landscape. Let your patio work with its natural surroundings rather than against them by mimicking the colors and shapes. It’s fine to have colorful, bright pieces, but try and get the overall coloration to blend with your yard: if your landscape tends to host muted colors of a certain palette, try and stick with versions of those colors.
Or, if you have a bright, colorful yard feel free to use variations of those colors. The point is, the more your patio area compliments the surrounding landscape, the more cozy and inviting your atmosphere will be.
• Add lighting. It’s a good idea to use multiple sources of light in your patio, just as you would inside your home. Stringing lights up works, but don’t stop there—add a lantern, candles, even a lamp. When stringing lights, we suggest going with the Edison-style (these look the coolest), and when you put them up be sure and use a cable to attach the lights to. This way if you ever need to replace a strand, you can simply unhook it from the wire and easily replace a new set.
• Adding Patio Furniture. When thinking of mixing and matching outdoor furniture, stick with the mixing. Modern pieces with antique accessories is all the rage for patio spaces, and it’s easy to do.
We have three outdoor furniture brands we love to mix together: Brown Jordan, Lane Venture, and Lloyd Flanders. Brown Jordan offers innovative pieces that add a sleek design feel to any area while Lane Venture brings extreme comfort and elegant design to the forefront. Lloyd Flanders offers a more traditional outdoor furniture feel and adds authentic shapes and color combinations to enhance any living space. Mixing pieces from these three furniture brands is sure to make your outdoor space the sleekest and coziest of outdoor spots around your house.
If you still find yourself contemplating how to decorate your outdoor area, come see us for a consultation. We are happy to work with anyone who feels the need to dress up an outdoor patio.
Using Your Outdoor Area
Once your patio is set, it’s time to use it! Though you may not be ready to throw a get-together just yet, it’s never too early to begin planning. Here are some tips for successfully throwing yourself a little soiree:
1. Set a budget. You’ve heard the phrase, “champagne taste on a beer budget,” so manage your expectations and ask others to chip-in if appropriate. Look for specials on items you can buy in advance that won’t spoil, such as soft drinks and alcohol. Shop around for the best deals on food items, decorations, and entertainment before purchasing or signing a contract.
2. Who to invite? Making sure everyone who should be invited gets invited can get complicated. Understand your space and budgetary limitations before you create your list and give guests ample time to plan to attend and request RSVPs. Mailed and emailed invitations are both fine, or you can opt to use a website like Eventbrite to gather your guest list. Consider asking about any potential food allergies or requests during this step and oblige as best you can. Also, keep sanitation at the forefront: have plenty of PPE and make sure your attendees are able to maintain a safe distance from one another.
3. Is it a surprise party? Make sure that is clear to those you’ve invited so they don’t let the cat out of the bag. Recruit someone who can keep the guest of honor occupied and make sure they arrive on time. Ask guests to park off-site, consider hiring a valet service or a van to move guests.
4. Setting some rules early will help you when the invitations go out. Are kids welcome? Dogs? Will you have alcohol at your party? If it’s a celebration of a milestone, are gifts welcome or maybe you’d like donations to a charity instead?
5. Feng Shui is said to bring harmony and that extends to the garden as well. You might not be able to do anything about repositioning your outdoor space, but perhaps you can add these Feng Shui friendly garden plants to bring calm to the party: bamboo, peony, maple tree, plum tree, orchids, iris, lily, and chrysanthemums.
Setting a Tone
Picking a theme can be a no-brainer and/or complicated (especially for surprise parties or if you have multiple honorees). The theme sets the tone for the party and leads the decisions you will make regarding choosing food and decorations. Whether your a Carolina Panthers’ or Hornets’ fan, a Nascar lover, or hosting a Downton Abbey-themed tea party, you’ll need to choose and start looking for décor and treats early.
• Think about the food: If you’ve been brainstorming this party for a while and you have dishes in mind, but no theme, build your party’s concept around the food. Think about what the foods have in common and how you can relate them with one central theme that lends itself to fun decorations. For example, if you’ve been planning to tackle ambitious fruit-covered fusion nachos, consider turning the entire party into a Cinco de Mayo theme regardless of the date. Use a frozen drink mixer and your tropical decorations, serve tropical drinks and embrace the south-of-the-border vibe even if the calendar says October.
• Consider the details: Some people decide on a theme and then go with it before thinking it all the way through. Starting with a large, broad topic is a good beginning, but you want to break it down to small, actionable steps before you start setting up. It won’t be fun, for example, to throw a party themed after a television show if you can’t turn the show’s details into specific decorations, foods, and drinks.
• Focus on the guests: When you’re inviting over a group of friends, a theme party can be great, but it’s best if it fits your guests’ interests. Artist Eleatta Diver, who frequently throws paint parties, advises hosts to consider the guests and their interests before choosing a theme. For example, if your friends are a bunch of Parrotheads, try a full-on Hawaiian luau. It’ll be familiar enough to be memorable, but different enough to be exciting.
• Go all out: You can make almost anything a party theme with a bit of creativity and a lot of effort. Photographer and party aesthetic expert Kristen Duke once threw a mason jar themed party for her grandparents. You could use these seemingly innocuous storage containers for everything from DIY lighting sources to unique glasses.
You can make a good-looking and fun party for just about anything, so don’t be shy—get creative. Let Hearth & Patio help, because once your patio is in good shape, you might just find yourself hosting multiple get-togethers this year.