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: My husband and I 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 can really 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. Beginning with your furniture, think about 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 last few years, and 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. Not all outdoor fabrics are stiff, prickly and plastic anymore because they are woven just like indoor fabrics and come 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 using lamps with iron bases since we do get some wind.
Don’t forget accent lighting to make your patio twinkle by using up-lights on plants and trees.
There are, by the way, fabulous fake 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 everyday. 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, of course, 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 tabletop fountain. There is just something about the sound of a fountain that makes any room relaxing and serene.
Next, dress your windows and doors to add drama and to soften the hard surfaces of the exterior of your home with fabric. 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 that they are properly secured and that you use the proper tools so you won’t damage the stucco. Consider great ornamental iron pieces versus framed art. They can be painted different colors to coordinate with your exterior color scheme or you can be bold and bring in a great accent color from the colors of the fabrics you’re using. The iron is a good choice since it is 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. Addressing your five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste 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 e-mail 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.