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Outside Is the New Inside, and 7 More of the Year’s Biggest Outdoor Design Trends

| May 9, 2018

The days are getting deliciously longer, temperatures are climbing, and the backyard barbecue invites are just pouring in. The seasons, they are a-changin’—and as we swing into summer, there’s no better time to give your outdoor space a boost.

“This year it’s really about making your outdoor space function like an interior space for all things fun, lounging, and entertaining,” says San Diego interior designer Gretchen Kennelly.

Read on for designers’ top tips to harness the year’s hottest design trends and really maximize your pad’s outdoor potential.

1. Outdoor ‘rooms’

Photo by Shuler Architecture 
Now more than ever, designers say, homeowners want their indoor spaces to blend seamlessly with the great outdoors.

Your main goal is to find ways to bring the inside out: Frame sitting areas with water- and mildew-resistant curtains. Anchor furniture with outdoor rugs. And fill tall planters with low-maintenance ornamental grasses to create the illusion of walled space.

If you have a covered deck or patio, consider covering the ceiling in raw, untreated wood planks to warm things up. And mount wall sconces to add mood lighting for those late-evening glasses of rosé.

Kennelly also likes to place large daybed pieces in an outdoor space and position cabanas over them for shade.

“This creates a great place to retreat and lounge with a glass of wine at the end of a long day,” she says.

And if space (or your budget) is tight, try this trick from designer Christina Harmon: Grab a rope hammock on Amazon, decorate it with outdoor pillows and a pretty throw, and “voilà—it’s an automatic pop-up outdoor area for under $300,” she says.

2. Innovative new fabrics

Photo by Sofas by Design
For years, Sunbrella’s been the Old Faithful of outdoor fabrics; you can do pretty much anything to it and it bounces right back.

But there are a lot of other great options out there, Harmon points out. She likes polyester terrycloth, which “looks like a towel, but is totally made to be used outdoors.”

Other great alternatives we love include indoor-outdoor wovens from California designer Peter Dunham and performance velvet (yep, you read that correctly) from Chicago-based Holly Hunt.

We’ve “reached a new level this season with outdoor furniture that looks and feels just like indoor furniture,” says Deborah Holt, a marketing manager with Sunnyland Outdoor Furniture in Dallas.

Don’t want to spring for new furniture? Check out Neverwet, which comes in a spray can and creates a moisture-repelling barrier on a variety of surfaces, including canvas.

“This product is incredible at water-coating virtually any fabric,” Harmon says.

3. True-blue (and green) hues

Photo by Johnson Design Inc.
Deep blues and greens are the name of the game this season. From cushions to umbrellas to tiles and everything in between, expect to see lots of lush, rich Côte d’Azur-inspired hues.

“This year, it’s all about outdoor spaces that feel luxurious rather than cheesy,” Harmon says. “Think lots of neutrals coupled with gorgeous, jewel-toned greens and furniture and accessories that create a truly indoor-outdoor vibe.”

4. Concrete

Photo by David Hertz & Studio of Environmental Architecture
Concrete is having a major design moment—it’s cheap, durable, and easy to stain or stamp with funky colors or patterns. This year, designers predict the cool composite will be everywhere inside and out—from benches and tables to planters and fire pits.

“The cool factor of concrete works well in many settings, regardless of the age or aesthetic of the home,” says South Carolina designer Leigh Meadows-McAlpin, who’s particularly fond of the concrete pieces in Mr. Brown Home’s outdoor collection.

5. Alternative flooring options

Photo by Finch London 
Outdoor rugs have been a mainstay of exterior design for years, but a new crop of budget-conscious flooring alternatives has emerged to shake things up this season.

For example, porcelain is becoming a new favorite because it’s durable, simple to install, and mirrors indoor trends—making it easy to provide visual continuity between inside and outside.

Porcelain pavers can create this beautiful transition without creating a huge divide between the two living spaces,” says Joe Raboine, national design and training specialist with Belgard.

Harmon also loves Ikea’s beechwood deck tiles, which she’s used in her own backyard to dress up her space on the cheap.

“These tiles are workhorses,” she says. “They take 10 minutes max to install, are well-priced, and are of great quality. They’re a really inexpensive way to freshen up your patio or balcony without spending a lot of money.”

6. Vertical gardens

Photo by Carolina Katz + Paula Nuñez
“With outdoor space under an all-time demand, homeowners are getting creative to use the space they have,” Raboine says.

Enter: Vertical gardening, which maximizes available space and affords even small-space dwellers the ability to grow their own herbs and veggies at home.

Add elegance by installing vertical structures such as arbors, arches, pergolas, and gazebos. They’ll “help create the ambience of an outdoor garden ‘room’ and give a sense of height and depth to an otherwise small space,” Raboine says.

7. Bold lighting concepts

Photo by Mondo Exclusive HomesLook for patio pictures
Have a flair for the dramatic? Extend it to your outdoor lighting to kick up your space’s cool factor.

“This year is the time to brighten up the exterior of your home in unexpected ways,” says Michael Amato, creative director at the Urban Electric Co.

“If you have an all-white painted brick or stucco home, adding lighting in a fun color like blue with gold hardware creates interest,” he suggests. “If your house is already painted a fun color, lighting presents a great opportunity to work in a contrasting color for a striking statement.”

8. ‘Sling’ furniture

Photo by Pioneer Family Pools
The watchword this season for outdoor duds? “Sling.”

Even if you’ve never heard the term, you’ve most definitely seen sling furniture. This stuff is made of durable, woven materials and doesn’t require frills such as upholstery and cushions—which can be challenging to clean and store away in the winter. It’s sleek, streamlined, and easy to maintain.

Sling furniture is “strong, comfortable, and wears well in the sun,” says Tina Anastasia, a partner at Mark P. Finlay Interiors.

Bonus: “It’s come a long way with the technology in the weaving,” she says. “It can be bleach-cleaned, is easy to rinse off, and it dries much quicker than cushions.”

Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues.

Continue reading Outside Is the New Inside, and 7 More of the Year’s Biggest Outdoor Design Trends

Bright Ideas for Designing with Plants

Plants can provide a healthy and calming addition to the kitchen or bath – and with the right planning and coordination, they can provide an equally healthy addition to your profitability.

Continue reading Bright Ideas for Designing with Plants

Cun Design Excavates Raw Materials for Beijing House Conversion

Besides using bamboo in unexpected, exceptional ways at the Beijing office of Elephant-Parade, Cun Design likewise explored and elevated simple materials at nearby Blue Moon Films. In this case, founder Cui Shu took on the conversion of a 1990’s house, excavating to expose bare brick and raw concrete. Cui says that the once-pristine surfaces of the walls, doorways, and windowsills had been showing the traces of time—only 20 years, to be sure, but Chinese construction of the ’90’s is not known for its craftsmanship. So he proceeded to hack away. He removed walls to open up the interior and improve views of surrounding gardens as well as cutting out part of a floor slab to bring sunlight down to the basement. With all those subtractions, he also added a volume in weathering steel, yielding a total square footage of 4,500.

Fully transformed, space once dedicated to domestic uses now serves office functions. Reception, a conference room, a library, and office areas fill the ground level. More offices and workstations occupy the second. The result, although obviously contemporary, nevertheless does not try to hide its history. “It’s more like a time line,” he says, “recalling the past and spying on the future with a current design language.”

It occupies a 1990’s house, now renovated and expanded with an addition in weathering steel. Photography by Wang Jin and Wang Ting.
Removing part of the concrete slab brought sunlight down to an executive office. Photography by Wang Jin and Wang Ting.
Mirror clads structural columns. Photography by Wang Jin and Wang Ting.
Clapper-boards from Blue Moon productions adorn a screen outside the restroom. Photography by Wang Jin and Wang Ting.
Aluminum frames the tempered-glass flooring. Photography by Wang Jin and Wang Ting.
Its brick-and-concrete wall was cut out to accommodate sinks. Photography by Wang Jin and Wang Ting.

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Inside Out Painting Series: Sydney Opera House

You know the idea of using plants and flowers in a room, bringing the outside in? For years, this concept has been very popular in designing an interior space that would make the occupants feel like they are experiencing being in nature simultaneously. This idea is still in practice and provides for great human experiences.

Continue reading Inside Out Painting Series: Sydney Opera House

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