Ah, summer. Season of twilight cocktail hours and barefoot picnics on the porch. But is your outdoor living area ready? We interviewed pro designers to suss out the most common mistakes people make al fresco. And there’s way, way more to outdoor design woes than not using BBQ-sauce proof outdoor fabric.
No furniture covers
“Call me OCD but I cannot stand it when folks buy outdoor furniture and then don't purchase the corresponding furniture covers," gripes Becky Shea. I'm all about longevity and making each piece last as long as possible, so make sure to protect your pieces by buying what you need to keep them covered during inclement weather!”
Too much matchy-matchy
Jean Liu's biggest pet peeve? “Buying a suite of furniture! For some reason, we see clients just default back into the ‘Rooms To Go’ mentality when it comes to outdoor spaces," she says. "Keep it personal and interesting by mixing and matching." (Just like you would with an indoor room!)
Not enough surfaces
“There are often not enough end tables, and one thing people do when they are outside is drink and eat," points out Janice Parker. Comfortable seating with plentiful side tables and coffee tables is very important. These don’t need to match, and, as a matter of fact they’re more fun when they don’t!”
While metal is a go-to material for patio furniture, be careful what you use it for, advises Courtney Sempliner: "Aluminum absorbs heat in the sun, and is a big mistake. It doesn’t work for chairs, side tables, or any accent pieces that are in direct heat and that you and your guests will touch.”
We love a verdant garden, but be mindful of what you put near shedding flora. "If you have a tree that sheds needles, petals or fruit, they can stain your outdoor cushions and the space will never look the way you dreamed," warns Kristen Nix. "Those areas call for a cushionless durable material or an evergreen!”
“Too many different types of furniture and fabrics is a mistake," says Todd Richesin. "There is so much already going on outside, including an ever-changing display of color from foliage and sky. The furniture should be simple—one type of something, be it wicker, wood, or metal—all covered in the same fabric. Put a throw pillow in the mix for added punch.”
Not enough air
While we love an outdoor breeze, sometimes (especially in the peak of summer!) you need a bit more. "Sometimes people forget to consider a fan over a pendant light," says Ashley Darryl. "For the outdoor living room, it’s always nice to have a ceiling fan—during those months with warm temperatures, it’s a real treat to be able to turn on the fan and keep away the bugs!”
For your outdoor space to be inviting, the furniture needs to be comfortable. "I’ve seen too many recent options with seating too low to the ground," says Allie Mann. Make sure your outdoor seating is the right height: somewhere between 18-23” off the ground is comfortable for most people.”
Not enough heat
“Here in Los Angeles, temperatures can drop 30-degrees or more from daylight to evening," says Greg Roth of Home Front Build. To make the most of your outdoor area, ensure it's equally as comfortable at different temperatures: "If you don’t plan ahead, installing outdoor space heaters can mean unattractive exposed conduits, or ineffective portable heaters that get in the way. Plan ahead, and you can have an evenly, comfortably heated outdoor entertaining space year-round!” If you don't want to opt for built-in heaters, consider an outdoor fireplace, like the ones above.
Too much upholstery
The great thing about performance fabrics is they allow for pretty much any kind of furniture to become indoor-outdoor—but that doesn't mean it should, says Billy Ceglia: "Too many heavily upholstered pieces! I’m all for comfort, but when it really starts to look like you moved your actual living room onto your patio, it begins to feel a bit strange..... and the thought of what may be living in all those cushions and padding...... oy!"
The wrong fabrics
When selecting performance fabrics, know the details: “Using ‘outdoor’ fabric that isn't solution-dyed acrylic is a big mistake," says J.P. Horton. "Many companies print on a ground that is safe for outdoor use, but the print will wear off over time because it's topically applied. In solution-dyed fabrics, the color is inherent to the yarn itself and you can even bleach them.” Get a complete rundown of performance fabrics here.
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