25 Ideas to Step Up Your Outdoor Living Game
#Outdoorliving is a big trend right now, especially with the coronavirus prompting us to stay home a bit more in 2020. Summer in Florida can be a bit debatable with “feels like” temperatures encroaching 100+ degrees and frequent thunderstorms. But we’re incredibly lucky in this state to have affordable property prices and a climate that welcomes indoor/outdoor living year round. While you might not be ready for an extreme landscape renovation, or starting over with new outdoor furniture, this is the year you’ll want to enjoy it. So I’m here to meet you in the middle! I’m going to share over 25 ideas to step up your outdoor living game without starting from scratch.
CAUTION: If you live with a partner, roommate or spouse, please prepare them that this article and the images presented may trigger those prone to DIY makeover projects. Side effects include: Amazon packages you are unable lift on your own, finding something new to paint every weekend for a month, and finding any excuse to host a barbecue. Please consider this fair warning before continuing to read the 25 ideas to step up your outdoor living game.
Tip #1: Simplify Your Outdoor Color Palette
A lot of people don’t treat their outdoor living space with the same rules as the indoors – and that’s okay. You may not have spent as much time researching the furniture, artwork, lighting, etc. as you would for your interior. Throughout this article I’m sharing multiple ideas to address and improve the overall design of your outdoor space. Let’s start with color since that is one of the quickest ways to step up your style game!
When you walk into a new home, you’re surrounded usually by light, neutral walls on 3-4 sides of you. Next, you move in and carefully add furniture and decor to color your space. When you go outside, your “blank canvas” is usually hardly blank at all. You may have beautiful trees, colorful botanicals, a bright aqua pool, kelly green grass, and some blue sky! What’s not to LOVE about that? I find that the trend now for outdoor living is to further emphasize the natural colors occurring in your outdoor space.
A great way to embrace this trend is to create contrast by limiting added color from the furniture and decor items. But this doesn’t mean your decor needs to be bland and boring! This can mean picking a monochromatic accent color like the blue table scheme above. Or this can mean playing more with pattern and texture in a neutral color palette like the example below.
By selecting a small, cohesive palette, you allow your space to feel balanced with nature. Once you have a color palette in mind, I recommend removing or repainting anything that doesn’t fall in with this plan. Secondly, you might want to pick up a can or two of outdoor spray paint here to try to give new life to some of your old pieces. A simplified color palette is such a timeless trend in general, and you’ll see this exemplified in many other outdoor idea photos shared throughout this article.
Tip #2: Create a Space Plan
If you’re reading this, like me, you’ve probably watched your fair share of HGTV in the past. So if you have a large backyard space, treat it like your fave designers would with a giant room. Create zones!
My mind instantly wants to visualize your backyard space as if it could host a party at a moment’s notice. This is typically when people are thinking of new ideas for their outdoor living look and feel. What areas would you want to create for a party? How many people would you typically host?
I love this example above from Studio McGee where they’ve created a small dining area and a good-sized conversation zone surrounding an outdoor fireplace. The sleek, modern furniture in muted tones lets the green, natural elements pop because it creates contrast.
If you have the space for it, I would start with a dining table, outdoor group conversation area, and one separate small conversation area. Space them out in a way that you can picture people moving through the space at a party. Play up your focal points and make sure all seating is actually comfortable and practical for the space.
Then make sure some of these things meet what your family could use day to day. Would you read outside more if you had a beautiful shaded pergola ($600)? Do you like to grill out on the weekends? (Lots of grilling products linked in my recent Father’s Day Gift Guide) Would you invite a friend over to hang by the pool with a glass of rosé if you had a set of chic loungers?
Tip #3: Make Room for Play
In the spirit of parties, I’m a huge fan of having games or an activity for guests. While you probably don’t want your whole yard to look like a game room, adding 1-2 can create engaging moments for family or party time. A game or activity is also a chance to express your family’s personality or traditions.
A swimming pool certainly counts for this, as would a fire pit ($76). Maybe you consider investing in a slide ($$$) addition to your pool or create a new seating area (new Adirondack folding chairs $75) around the firepit? A dartboard ($18) is a classic game that only requires an open wall and decent lighting. Some other game ideas are a DIY shuffleboard kit ($50), a giant set of chess ($359), cornhole ($56) or oversized Jenga-style blocks ($55). You may notice I chose options that are not colorful so you have the option to paint so it can be in your designated palette. 🙂
Inflatable outdoor movie screens ($160) are also an awesome option to use for kid sleepover parties, holiday parties, or family campouts in your backyard.
Tip #4: Utilize Repetition
One of my favorite design elements to make a big impact on a space at any budget level is repetition. This is because you’re not necessarily having to spend a lot of money on ONE big decor piece. I saw this outdoor space get made over on the new Genevieve Gorder show on Netflix “Stay Here” and I’m obsessed with the terra cotta cactus wall! As a seasoned designer, Genevieve also played with repetition with the stripe pattern fabrics and the plants along the walkway.
You can recreate a similar look with a set of same-size terra cotta pots like these and plants from your local home improvement store. You can also grab a set of these 48 ft solar string lights ($60) and a striped teak lounge chair with attached side table ($343 each) inspired by this space as well.
Tip #5: Take Greenery to the Walls
Living green walls are a newer trend making waves in 2020 that I’m seeing pop up in luxury hotel lobbies, new bars and restaurants, and design publications. So why not turn your back patio into the new neighborhood hot spot and create your own green wall? You could do this many ways with a wall herb garden planter ($15), a vine trellis/plant box combo ($70), or creating your own decorative planter.
The key is to treat the plants as the artwork itself. In my professional opinion, those metal decorative outdoor wall pieces are out and green walls are in.
Tip #6: Create an Outdoor Dining Space
I think there’s something special about having an outdoor dining setup that is ready within minutes of a beautiful weather meal moment. For some, an outdoor dining set might be the first thing you think of for outdoor living, but if it’s not, let me tell you, it’s awesome.
You know those moments when you find yourself at the host stand of a restaurant and they ask if you’d like to sit outside and everything in you says YES? You might not wake up that day thinking anything of the weather, but when it’s nice out, it’s a no-brainer. If you have the space and the means to create this kind of experience in your backyard, I hope you do! All you really need is an outdoor table, outdoor chairs, and some good lighting. When the weather is nice, you can wipe the table down and serve!
If your style is a little more extra, then you can create a beautiful table setting like the example above, and store the table cloth, chargers, and centerpieces in one box for quick access. So say hello to fast outdoor dining in style!
Tip #7: Address the Climate
Another trick that you can steal from restaurants is to add a level of climate control to your outdoor spaces by adding a ceiling fan ($109), shading umbrella ($86) or a standing heater ($165) as needed. You’d be surprised how additions like these seem to extend the life of your outdoor space because of their impact on the overall temperature.
Tip #8: Create Ambience with Lighting
Outdoor lighting creates a very inviting atmosphere for your family and guests – and there’s so much new you can do with it! One idea is to update your outdoor fixtures to something more modern like the example above which shows off these beautiful planters at night. You can use 48 ft solar string lights ($60) like these above your pool or dining area. You can also find solar accent lights ($37 for set of 2) for your garden or living green wall areas. And who doesn’t love some rainbow solar pool lights ($32 for set of 2) to add a little whimsy? Solar powered lights and outdoor living go together like PB&J because they’re earth-conscious and typically low maintenance.
Tip #9: Consider Adding Color or Pattern to the Floor
While outdoor rugs are a nice addition to create zones in your outdoor space and add a pop of color or pattern, many of them don’t hold up a long time. Whether this has to do more with maintenance or style, I’m noticing an increase in painted/patterned tiles and pavers. These examples should stand the test of time a bit longer than a rug if you are in an area with a lot of rain/humidity like Florida.
You can easily update your existing outdoor tile or stones with a Mediterranean inspired stencil ($21) or star tile stencil ($24) or many other various pattern and size options. A little DIY time here can go a long way to stepping up your outdoor game because it adds unlimited style for the cost of paint and a stencil. No pun intended! 🙂
Tip #10: Create a Feature Focal Point
Much like a beautiful fireplace in a living room, your outdoor area will feel more designed if it has a focal point. A focal point is something that the eye is first drawn to when viewing a space. It could even BE an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. The focal point is often at the center view or it can be the biggest/tallest/widest thing in your landscaping. You may already one, and if so, it can be fun to play it up. I love how the example below takes an outdoor fire pit to the next level with a hexagon of swings. And Pinterest makes everything look so easy!
The focal point could be the beautiful view itself, so the best way to play that up is to create seating areas that frame and provide opportunities for your family or guests to enjoy it. It’s also typically a good photo taking space.
You can also create your own focal point with a few modern pieces that express your style placed in a key area. Love the rattan sofa and bold egg chair for this purpose! You know your guests are going to want to snap their Instagram pictures here!
Oh my gosh, this feels like one of my longest articles yet. There’s just SO much you can do to extend your living space outside. Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to completely start from scratch and redo your space. The idea is to assess your own space and take even just one or two of my 25 ideas or tips to implement and really step up your outdoor living game.
Let me know in the comments which ideas were your favorites. And be sure to tag me on Instagram so I can see your finished projects!
About Kaitlyn Loos
Kaitlyn Loos [loh-s] is a virtual e-designer for interiors and organizing. She helps busy moms with young families create dreamy spaces that function for their unique needs. She notably developed the Decluttering Personality Type quiz which has helped hundreds of people break down mental barriers about clutter. Kaitlyn loves to collaborate with clients to bring modern, fresh, and color-savvy design into their homes. Kaitlyn Loos Design delivers style for nearly any investment level. She also enjoys sharing her ideas and projects through her blog and discussing hot design topics on Instagram live.
Kaitlyn is located in the west-central Florida area (Tampa, Ocala, Gainesville, and everywhere in between) with availability for select in-person projects for 2021.
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[…] I’m living for the idea of someone refinishing these high-back rattan chairs and adding plush cushions for a chic patio moment. (More outdoor living trends and ideas in this recent post.) […]