We recently sat down with lifestyle writer and magazine editor Denise Bates Enos to get her input on this week’s topic of designing a small outdoor living space.
What should you consider when designing and furnishing a small space such as a patio, terrace, or balcony? The most important element to think about is scale—when you’re working with a small area, oversized pieces will quickly overwhelm the space. You want to choose furnishings and accessories of a scale appropriate to the space.
Another thing to consider is quantity. Nothing shrinks a space faster than clutter. Choose a few key elements—a bistro table and two chairs, for example, or a loveseat and ottoman that doubles as a cocktail table—and keep the accessories to a minimum.
With the current state of home values it seems homeowners are making the most of what they have. How is this trend affecting how homeowners address their outdoor spaces?
It’s not just the decline of home prices; it’s also the overall economy that’s impacting people’s choices—people are hesitant to spend money they don’t have to on home décor.
But there’s a problem with that attitude—where you live is a reflection and extension of who you are, and if you neglect your living spaces, it can negatively impact your frame of mind when you’re home.
Home is a retreat, a place where you should feel comfortable and at peace, so it’s important to create welcoming, livable spaces, even outdoors. The way to address this without going broke is to spend money—seriously. But spend it on one or two key quality pieces that you love, add a few well-chosen accessories and complete the space with refurbished or repurposed pieces you already have. Give a garden bench a fresh coat of paint and accent it with some beautiful outdoor pillows, or invest in a quality outdoor table and use a mix of unmatched but complementary dining chairs you already have for seating.
With the changes in gardening and design such as vertical and container gardening, can the city dweller optimize their limited space and create a backyard oasis, even if it’s only the size of a postage stamp? Absolutely. Adding live plants to an outdoor space brings vibrancy to a space, and gardening innovations keep popping up like, well, weeds. And there’s nothing like some fresh herbs or produce from your own backyard to enliven a meal.
In outdoor design, texture and color are key, and that goes for plants, too. Try your hand at succulents or miniature cacti for visual interest, and layer on color by including plants with variegated leaves or brightly hued blooms. Use a mix of containers to keep things lively, even when the plants are pruned back or dormant.
Do you have some tips on how to entertain in a small outdoor area? Of course, you have the keep the guest list short! Keep in mind traffic flow, both as guests circulate through the space and as you need to enter and exit with laden platters or other party goods. If there’s not enough seating, consider bringing out a long, narrow sofa table where people can rest their drinks and plates while they stand and socialize.
If the space is really cramped, think twice about using candles—while they’re one of my favorite ways to add sparkle to a setting, they can be hazardous in close quarters. Instead, try “flameless” candles or strings of party lights.
Talk about the small space when it comes to second/vacation homes. We have a tiny cabin in North Carolina, and one of my favorite things about decorating it is the utter freedom I have to drag in pretty and unusual objects I find outdoors, including colorful stones and river-polished rocks, and even the decorative grill ornament from an old Ford.
The most important thing, to me, when it comes to decorating a second or vacation home is comfort. If it’s soft, warm or just plain comfortable, it has a place, whether it’s an old rump-sprung sofa from Grandma’s house or a love-worn comforter you picked up at a church rumble sale. Vacation or second homes should be welcoming, unpretentious and—there’s that word again—comfortable.
What trends are you seeing in outdoor furnishings and accessories designed for small spaces?
Of course, stackable seating, compact fountains and other water features, and roll-away furnishings, grills, firepits and heat lamps are ideal for small spaces, as are pieces that do double or even triple duty. I love storage ottomans that can also serve as cocktail or end tables depending on their size, and benches with hidden storage. A dining or accent table with a built-in firepit is another winner in my book. When you have a small space, you want pieces that work hard to earn a place in your outdoor room!
How has outdoor grilling evolved to meet the needs of small space owners?
Outdoor grilling makes even the most mundane of meals seem special somehow. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that grilling innovations started heating up when the nesting trend began in the 1990s and continue to develop as the economy drives more people to dine at home instead of going out to dinner.
Now there are grilling stations that also include refrigeration and water sources so you have a whole outdoor kitchen in one compact unit—they’re a great option when space outside is tight. And when they’re movable to boot, there just isn’t any real downside to investing in one if you love alfresco dining.
What contemporary small outdoor space design trends are you seeing for 2011?
I’m seeing a lot of color, which to me is a sign of real optimism in the marketplace. People want spaces that make them feel happy and positive, and a bright red enameled chair or sunny yellow upholstered chaise can elevate anyone’s mood.
I’m also seeing cleaner lines, simpler silhouettes without a lot of fussy frills. A lot of what’s new and exciting also has a bit of a nostalgic feel, a mid-century modern vibe. Accessories are kept to a minimum, and everything has a purpose—there’s nothing frivolous or extraneous about 2011 styles.
More information on Denis Bates Enos
Desire To Inspire Secret Gardens
Modular Design via Desire to Inspire
Michael Wee via Desire To Inspire
Tom Filicia via Tear It Out
Steve and James - Coming Soon to Home Infatuation
Outback Wicker Stools - Coming Soon to Home Infatuation