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Set the Stage for Outdoor Relaxation

Summer is just around the corner and it’s time to get the garden ready for dining alfresco and entertaining outdoors. Patios, decks and other outdoor spaces often function like a living room, dining room or a kitchen. There’s seating, lighting, accessories, music and maybe a flat-screen TV.

Outdoor kitchens have become sought-after additions to patios. They may have a grill or pizza oven, a smoker, exterior grade appliances, a sink, a bar, beer tap and a refrigerator. There may be a fireplace or perhaps a fire table in which flames dance through colored pieces of glass. It’s all about bringing the indoors outside.

One way to create a seamless transition from indoors out is by using cozy furniture, accent pillows, throw blankets, outdoor rugs, and romantic lighting for entertaining after dusk. A big trend in outdoor furnishings is the emphasis on comfort. Oversized pillows and cushions and upholstered chairs and couches designed in soft, durable fabrics provide an inviting spot to relax. Whether you like sleek, contemporary lines, classic or traditional styles, or a rustic Northwoods feel, there are great products on which you can kick back and relax.

The Outdoor Living Room

Natural and recycled woods are showing up in high-design tables, chairs and couches. The new norm for fashionable gardens features modular sectional seating, coffee tables, lounge chairs, daybeds, sofas, love seats, ottomans and tall dining tables and chairs. These pieces are often designed along with other décor to look like they were created for indoor use.

Some furniture manufacturers are designing with mahogany and eucalyptus woods. Teak is a dense tropical hardwood and is one of the most sought-after materials for durable, long-lasting outdoor furniture. Some furniture labels include an FSC certification logo. The logo represents the not-for-profit Forest Stewardship Council and appears on a wood or wood-based product as an assurance that it was made with or contains wood that comes from FSC-certified forests or from recycled material. Whether they’re made from natural or recycled wood, these pieces echo the beauty of the forest.

Aluminum and steel continue to be popular for outdoor furniture. Unusual finishes, such as dark bronze, black, gun-metal gray, silver, apple green and sky blue, add a contemporary, updated feeling to the garden. Classic wicker furniture is still in vogue, but now it’s available in all-weather, long-lasting materials that eliminate the need for frequent repairs or painting.

Color Combos

Fabric technology has evolved, too. Not only has outdoor fabric become more durable and fade-resistant, there are many more bright colors and fun patterns available. Looking for cushions or pillows with a beach theme to remind you of vacation? You’ll find plenty.

Stripes, solids, circles, flowers, tropical leaves, insects, birds and other creatures are just some of the patterns that adorn large market umbrellas, pillows, cushions and blankets. Add a touch of sophistication by choosing bold colors for your main pieces and brighten them up with some contrasting light-colored pillows. Or, mix things up by using pillows with natural earth tones and printed designs for an accent.


Subtle lighting is an important feature of the outdoor experience. Strategically placed lights can illuminate key architectural features on your house or highlight landscape accents such as fountains or pools. Lighting on steps and pathways also makes for safer passage through the garden.

Lanterns in a variety of shapes, colors and materials are sought after to brighten an outdoor dining table or coffee table at dusk. Metal or wood lanterns hold candles or LED battery operated lights that look convincingly like real candles. Lanterns are generally made from metal, natural wood or recycled wood in a variety of finishes and can look contemporary, classic or rustic. All add a beautiful ambience to a summer evening.

Some outdoor rugs are made from recycled materials and offer a range of colors in solids, stripes or patterns. Placed under a coffee table and sofa, an outdoor rug recreates the feeling of a living room.

The Sound of Music

As we move from indoors to outside, why not bring out some tunes? Waterproof wireless speakers as well as integrated audio-visual equipment and Wi-Fi accessibility are on many homeowners list of must-have niceties.

An overlooked source of “music” is that of a fountain or a waterfall. During the day, these features attract songbirds. And in the evening, what better way to relax than when you’re sitting in a comfy outdoor chair surrounded by friends and pleasant sounds while contemplating fireflies? Staycation, anyone?