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Keep sun, heat in mind when decorating outdoor area

Dear Gail: This will be our first summer in Las Vegas. We’ve always loved to sit outside with our pups, but the heat here is much different than what we’re used to back home. We do have a small covered patio and love the look of wicker, but not sure how that will do. Any suggestions for us and our pups are appreciated. — Annie

Dear Annie: We had a great extended winter, but our triple-digit temperatures are here. Because we’re in a different environment, you will need to look at your patio decor somewhat differently. Not just because of direct sunlight but also the heat. Materials that would hold up in other parts of the country will not do well here.

So first, how much direct sun does your patio get? I don’t get any at all, and the color on my cushions has still faded. We also have a lot of dust, you just can’t get away from it.

Outdoor furniture has come a long way over the past few years, giving you an indoor look. Plus, there are great soft and breathable fabrics that are comfortable, fade-, moisture- and stain-resistant and easy to clean, which is very important in our hot, sunny, and dusty environment. Not all are stiff, prickly, and plastic anymore because they are woven just like indoor fabrics and in great patterns.

Look for fabrics made from Crypton, as the water runs right off of them. You can even find pet beds made out of Crypton. Sunbrella fabrics also are good as they’re made for the outdoors. As not all the cushions in the stores are in these types of fabrics, just know you might be replacing them in two to three years from sun damage and fading.

Wicker is pretty on any porch, and most will hold up fairly well. But if this is something you feel you will want for a long time, consider ones made for the outdoors. You will pay more, but it will be worth it in the long run.

For the pups, there are so many fun chairs and lounge furniture made for them. If you’re DIYer, take a trip to the thrift store. You can cut the legs down to pet height on wood benches and chairs. Add a cushion to a low coffee table for a lounger.

If you have things that you would rather store outside — maybe the pups’ brushes or their throw toys — don’t be afraid to use a dresser or interesting piece of furniture. Now I might not invest a whole lot of money because of the heat, but it would be a fun item to introduce a bold color with a couple of coats of exterior paint.

With your cushions, accent pillows are a great place for more color. Depending upon your storage space, you can buy pillow covers to change the look.

If your patio is not exposed to direct sunlight or rain, don’t be afraid to use an area rug 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, which I find too rough on my feet. Yes, you will have to replace it in a couple of years, so be frugal when shopping.

Who says you can’t accessorize your patio. I prefer metal accessories, so I don’t need to worry about breakage. If you can’t find the color you want, get out the spray paint.

Add lots of colorful potted flowers. I love finding inexpensive containers and spray painting them bright colors. But with the pups, make sure the plants are not poisonous. The nursey said they would have to eat a lot, but everyone is different, just like peanut and bee allergies.

My Maya loves to pull the flowers right out of the planters and the rosebuds off. Thank goodness that she’s so cute and that I did my research.

To help keep you cooler, invest in ceiling fans. Even when the temperature is over 100 degrees, they make a huge difference in being able to sit out longer. Make sure to buy fans made for the exterior. We don’t have a moisture problem as other parts of the country, but the heat will have your blades warping in no time.

And most important make sure you have at least 7 feet of clearance from the ground. Look for a flush mount, which mounts right to the ceiling.

If you would like a light kit, I have found the intergraded lights are better in keeping the bugs out, and don’t forget the dimmer. I prefer just soft light when sitting out in the evening.

Just as you would 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. Use table and floor lamps just like you do inside but with iron bases because we do get some hefty wind sometimes.

Plus don’t forget accent lighting to make your patio twinkle by using up-lights on plants and trees. I’m in love with the LED lights that change color. Just fun.

Now I know this should be obvious with our heat, but don’t use wax candles outdoors. There are reasonable battery ones made for the outdoors that don’t melt. I’ve had mine for three years with no problem at all. Yes, I learned this as I used a couple from my house, and they were a melted puddle. And that was in the shade.

If you would 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.

For the pups, always have a shaded area they can cool down under. They sunburn just like us, especially short-haired dogs. You can find hundreds of ideas on Pinterest. Even cute Puppy Cabanas with thatched roofs.

Don’t be afraid to add artwork. You can hang it directly on your home, just make sure it is secure, and you use the proper tools not to damage the stucco. Consider ornamental iron pieces as they are easy to clean. 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.

Canvas is also a good option if you’re looking for an image. I have one on my porch that I just love, full of abstract colored flowers, which I just wipe off.

As you can probably tell, I love a bright and cheery patio, and in my opinion, the color scheme does not have to match your interior. If you prefer mainly neutrals with just a touch of color, layer different textures to give it depth and interest. Annie, enjoy your new patio with your family and pups. Welcome to Las Vegas.

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 GMJinteriors@gmail.com. Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is www.GMJinteriors.com.

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