DEAR GAIL: We've just finished landscaping our backyard and want to spend more time out on our patio. We'd like it to feel like another family room, not a typical outdoor patio. Any ideas? - Betsy P.
DEAR BETSY: We also like to spend time on our patio at the end of the day. One of the things I love about living in Las Vegas is that we really can use our outdoor living space just about all year-round. Plus, we don't have the bugs like we did back East.
Start by standing in your family room and looking at what elements you have. Begin with your furniture and consider how you like to relax. Feet up, sitting together, room for your pets to sit with you. Do you like a sectional, love seat or a chaise lounge versus a sofa, chair and ottoman?
Outdoor furniture has come a long way during the past few years and now can give you an indoor look. Plus, there are some wonderful soft and breathable fabrics that are comfortable, fade-, moisture- and stain-resistant and are easy to clean, which is very important in our hot, sunny and dusty environment. They are not all stiff, prickly and plastic anymore, because they are woven just like indoor fabrics and in great patterns.
As long as your patio is not exposed to direct sunlight or rain, don't be afraid to use an area rug under your seating area to bring more of that family room feel to your patio. There are many inexpensive indoor rugs that you can use instead of the typical indoor/outdoor ones.
Just as you'd have in your family room, add lighting. The light from recessed cans and ceiling fans are nice, but they don't give you the proper light if you want to relax and read your favorite book. So use table and floor lamps just like you do inside. But, I would suggest iron bases since we do get some wind. Don't forget accent lighting to make your patio twinkle by using uplights on plants and trees.
By the way, there are fabulous faux outdoor flowering plants that look real. Pot them in dirt and you'll never know the difference. I have some in my backyard that my mother-in-law watered every day. She didn't realize they were fake until she went to prune them.
Bring out some of your favorite accessories to make your patio welcoming and inviting for you and your guests: frames, vases, pottery and some colorful potted plants will bring the indoors out.
Candles are wonderful for a romantic candlelit setting in the evening. But, so that you don't end up with an interesting abstract candle design from leaving them outside, buy the battery-operated ones. Some are so good you can't tell them from the real ones and they even have different scents.
If you didn't place one in your landscape design, add a floor or table-top fountain. There is just something about the sound of a fountain that makes any room relaxing and serene.
Next, dress your windows and doors with fabric to add drama and soften the hard surfaces of the exterior of your home. Treat them just as you would an interior window or door, but with easy-care fabrics that can be washed. Pole swag treatments or simple rod pocket valances or panels work best. Use inexpensive fabrics from the dollar stores that you won't mind replacing after a couple of seasons.
If you'd like to spend more afternoons outside and need sun control, add operable shades. You can use a retractable awning, woven shade or a roman fabric shade.
Don't be afraid to add artwork. You can hang them directly on your home; just make sure they are properly secured and you use the proper tools so you do not damage the stucco.
Consider a great piece of ornamental iron versus framed art. They can be painted different colors to coordinate with your exterior color scheme or be bold and bring a great accent color from the colors in the fabrics you're using.
Iron pieces are a good choice, since they are easy to clean and you don't have to worry about dust getting into the piece as you would with a typical framed piece. If you have a wood patio cover, add stenciling to the wood beams and supports.
When bringing the indoors out, the main things you have to keep in mind are easy maintenance, sun control and properly securing items. Incorporating your five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste to your patio will bring your indoor living outdoors.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is: www.GMJinteriors.com.