outdoor living

Outdoor Opportunities

aruba outdoor conversation setPursuing the great outdoors in your own backyard? First off, decide your needs. Do you want a room for eating, gathering or for escape? What's your style? Urban-eclectic but homey? Earthy and fuss-free cottage? Or Zen: a timeless, clean look? The same priorities that make for great rooms inside - think mood, furniture, colour, lighting and accessories - bring glamour to outdoor spaces. Here are top tips on creating beautiful rooms beyond the back door.

Living and lounging
Urban: For an urban eclectic lounge, build wooden benches or banquettes directly into fences or decks and then accessorize. Go exotic with Persian-style rugs, lanterns and cushions, or more classically chic with wrought iron candle lamps, striped carpets and a black-and-white theme. Add shade and a light rain covering with a swath of colourful canvas. Portable firepits and outdoor heaters add warmth, making your lounge a three-season destination.

Cottage: If you lean more country, set airy wicker chairs against a backdrop of fieldstone or limestone paving. Get beachy with a wooden deck, Muskoka or butterfly chairs and simple wooden or woven side tables. Driftwood accents make a nice touch. Lighting-wise, lanterns or hurricane lamps set with abundant votives, allow your lounge to stay open late into the night.

cottage style outdoor benchZen: The more minimalist-loving among us may craft their ideal lounge with a pergola and dark rattan sectional or low, modern loungers with cream cushions and the sound of a gurgling water-wall fountain in the background. Add Japanese-inspired planters, lush with grasses or sculptural twigs, and discrete deck lights which cast a serene glow.

Dining al fresco
Urban: Take brick, stone or concrete pavers, add tailored metal or light wood furniture with cheery graphics and you have the makings of a great dinner out. Update the look with a colourful outdoor carpet or a compact metallic table and sleek vinyl armchairs.

Cottage: Metal café tables with matching chairs or bistro-inspired seats hold timeless appeal, just add a trellis and rustic pavers or pea-gravel to boost the Old World charm. For a larger crowd, distressed white tables and woven-seat chairs - the more mismatched, the better - set the requisite stage. Accessorize with antique-looking urns, overflowing with ivies and blooms, and layer in plenty of throws and cushions for keeping cozy during late-night dessert courses.

Zen: Keep your outdoor dining aesthetic clean and uncluttered with a teak pagoda or bricked terrace and streamlined lacquered tables and chairs. Or go more authentic still with low, dark wooden tables dressed with slim cushions for Japanese-style dining. White-screened lanterns add the perfect understated, elegant lighting.

urban conversation setThe solitary retreat
Urban: Create a room of your own by installing a gazebo and decorate it with a multiple of hanging baskets, and then add a bench piled with pillows and your favourite novel. And for the laziest of days, outfit your sanctuary with drapery panels and wile away the hours by watching the breeze blow by.

Cottage: What is sweeter than an old-fashioned porch swing? On the veranda, tucked into an arbour or beside a trellis, it's the perfect spot for daydreaming or for enjoying your morning cup of coffee. Make the mood even more divine with fragrant plantings, from herbs and roses to night-blooming flowers.

Zen: To create a calm corner in even the tiniest of outdoor arenas, be it a backyard or condo terrace, set up a sleek metal lounger or string a hammock in a secluded corner and add a billowing white canvas canopy. Define the space with a few sculptural evergreens - if you've got the square footage, consider a wall of boxwoods or yews - and then relax. The greenery serves as a privacy screen, requires little maintenance and looks great year-round. How's that's for a little Zen.

Today, with space such a sought-after luxury, creating and outfitting garden rooms with all of the proper furniture, lighting, plants and accessories, makes perfect sense - it's an easy and affordable means to instantly expand your living space. (For decorating enthusiasts, it's also an opportunity to experiment if you've tackled every room on the inside of your house!) And regardless of whether your outdoor ultimate is a lounge, dining room or private sanctuary, think of it as an instant home addition - without, of course, the ballooning budget and the stress that goes along with it.