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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

04.19.2004

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let's take it outside make an outdoor living space by Kelly Beachell Gasner | 1 2 3 4
continued from page 1

Now assess your space from a designer's viewpoint. Architectural elements are important things to consider when you're planning your outdoor room -- they provide the basic structure and boundaries of the space. A concrete slab may not seem too promising, but with ivy-covered trellis walls and a canvas awning it could become the garden reading room you've always fantasized about. If you're lucky enough to have a swimming pool, adding a palm-covered palapa, a pillow-covered lounge chair, a few tiki torches, and an in-pool fountain could transport you to Tahiti every day after work. You can use all the existing features of your space to help define your room, support its purpose, and work as impromptu furniture or architecture. You can also use structural elements or plants to conceal ugly views. It's all about how creative you can be, and how you highlight the best features and camouflage the bad ones as you plan your outdoor room.

define a purpose
Now that you know what you've got to work with, think about how you're planning to use this space. A white muslin tent hung between two trees in the middle of a green field is a beautiful setting for afternoon picnics. Cocktail parties on balmy summer nights beg for the romance of paper lanterns hung from tree branches and shrubs, and cushy chairs offer guests an elegant place to sip frosty beverages and work on developing steamy summer affairs. If you fantasize about a quiet place to sip tea and write in your journal, a small table and comfy chair turn a corner of the garden into a retreat. Longing for a place to lounge on long lazy weekends? Hang a well-padded hammock between two uprights, add some shade, and your outdoor bower is ready for napping.

What are the other possible uses of your space? Maybe it's first and foremost a place to unwind with a cocktail after a long day -- but could it also be a place to host a romantic dinner for two? Adding a few chairs to a cozy breakfast nook transforms it to an ideal place to host a tea party for the girls. If electricity is available, it's also a great place to plug in a laptop and set-up the ultimate telecommuting office or study space. Make the most of the gorgeous weather by using your outdoor room as often as possible, and for as many purposes as the available space will allow.

create the space
You've assessed the space. You've defined its purposes. Now for the fun part: let's decorate! Choose structures, furniture, and lighting to fit your vision and your room's purpose. If you're working with a bigger space (say a backyard), you also need to establish the room's boundaries. If you already have a covered porch or patio, you're halfway there. But if not, you can create boundaries without major construction. If you have a bigger budget, canvas awnings or gazebos from a kit are an excellent way to instantly define space and create shade. Trellis or lattice garden structures can become walls to support a canvas or mosquito netting roof. Lengths of rope strung from tree branches and draped with treated fabric are the basic structure of an exotic, casbah-style tent. Even a simple shade canopy, available at most discount retailers for around $30, provides an affordable way to define distinct boundaries for your outdoor room.

amble on for more

---------------------------> lounge . nourish . host . laze . home.