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Your Second Living Room

Capitalizing on your outdoor space.

Presented by Chic on the Cheap March 7, 2019

It’s winter in Florida and you know what that means—get outside and enjoy the cool weather while it lasts.  Recently, well-thought-out outdoor living spaces have been a topic of conversation—unique outdoor kitchens, cozy cabanas and even casitas (a fancier name for a pool house).  These ancillary spaces add value to your home and improve the quality of your time spent there.  Many homes have outdoor spaces, some small, some big, some with a pool, some with a vast multi-level landscaped yard.  Whatever space you have, make it unique, make it functional and good looking; make it reflect you. 

Your outdoor space is an extension of your home and the design should be thoughtful, not an afterthought.  Your outdoor space can be just as important as your interior rooms, especially when cooler weather comes.   Below are a few examples of how to enhance what you have.

Recently, a good friend of mine fell in love with the bones and specific mid-century style of a property. She couldn’t resist its unique features and decided to make it a long-term residence. When thinking about how she wanted to put her stamp on the home, she thought about what was functionally missing.  Let’s face it—we’ve all compromised on at least one thing when buying our house or condo! 

The home and detached garage are nestled into a jungle-like landscape on the banks of Phillippi Creek.  The two buildings are situated around a pool and deck.  The only thing missing was an outdoor entertaining space, something very important to my friend’s lifestyle.  Sure, the deck has patio chairs for lounging, but it was lacking an outdoor kitchen and conversational seating. What did work in her favor was that the previous owner was using the back section of the extra-deep garage as an office, and the back of the garage faces the pool. See where I’m going with this?

Since she didn’t need the office space and storage, a cabana remodel ensued!  By removing the French doors and door casing and adding tile flooring, a kitchen and sectional, she took this under-utilized space and made it valuable real estate.  She could have outfitted this space in many different styles, but a piece of art which spoke to her style and color preferences led to a glamorous and feminine space—a perfect match for her personality! The top photo and the two below show her transformation.

Our next example is my own house. Talk about compromising—we bought this home almost solely because of the location and the terrazzo floors! It’s been a labor of love transforming a 1950s home into something uniquely ours and it’s been fun for the most part.  A dilapidated one-car carport had to go, and we used that opportunity to extend the roof of our new-and-improved two-car carport to make a covered patio facing the pool. 

Since we created a space that didn’t previously exist, the sky was the limit as to what we could do.  I did what I often recommend at the start of a project: I made my wish list and worked backward to get to a realistic design based upon our budget and needs.  Spoiler alert—I got basically everything I wanted, probably because I had realistic goals, which is an important tip for any project! 

I identified the key functions—cooking and lounging—and knew I wanted to push the boundaries of what is typical for outdoor seating (sofas and chairs).  It just felt too boring to be honest.  I opted for a full-width bench that’s 18 feet long.  With this length, two people can go to one end and talk more privately, a large group can gather in the middle or 10 young children can line up and eat icy pops.  In the reclined position on the bench, you face a TV, which my husband will tell you is a pretty great way to watch golf on the weekends. 

Our backyard and pool area get a ton of sunlight, so I wanted to create a respite from the bright sun.  I think the opposite of bright sun is a dark night.  Black is the color of night and there you go—I had my color palate.  I wanted a minimalist feel, so less was more: the walls, bench and cabinetry, including the vent hood surround, were all painted Sherwin Williams Iron Ore.  A black bench cushion and honed black granite compliment the wall color.  I have an ever-growing collection of black and white pillows, which are fun to add to over time. 

I’ll share a tip: showing restraint in the color palate (black and white only in this case) allows patterns and textures to shine. The wood grain comes through on the walls and the pattern in the pillows really pops.

While I did a few unique things, such as the style of the vent hood and the long bench, my favorite non-standard element is a sliding screen door instead of a swinging screen door.  This is a major upgrade if you hate the typical cheap-o screen doors, like me. I am very happy with my decision to spend the extra money on this upgrade! 

The last space I will share is a small balcony in a downtown condo.  Since space was limited, a careful design plan was needed.  A chaise lounge served two functions; reclining and seating two guests.  Rocking chairs were a must, and they rounded out the seating configuration. 

An outdoor fire feature was on the wishlist, and a custom coffee table with fire insert fit the bill.  Since it’s offset, there is plenty of usable surface area to set your drink and plate.  In addition to the fire feature, we added lighting in the way of a wall sculpture that has pre-programmed tea lights to create more ambiance.   From the hours of 7 p.m. until midnight, there is a warm glow by which wine can be enjoyed (thank you, Crate and Barrel!).

The last unique feature may not be one you notice right away. Check out the plants… they’re fake!  Yes, artificial plants outside.  This is the solution if you aren’t a full time resident but want to enjoy the feeling of nature when you visit throughout the year. If you can dream it, Lux Art can bring it to life!

Incorporating one or more of these ideas can personalize your space.  Make your entire home, not just the inside, something you love and enjoy.  Outdoor living is where it’s at this time of year so embrace your patio and get outside!

Registered Interior Designer Lic # 5736, LEED AP
Chic on the Cheap