Transforming backyards into additional living spaces is a growing trend. Even the hottest summer day can turn into a pleasant (OK, bearable) evening, and the other three seasons are mild, which means your patio is a prime perch for relaxing or entertaining friends.
Upgrading outdoor living spaces can range in investment. A higher-end renovation and finish-out could include using a professional designer and contractor to implement adding structures like cabanas, swimming pools, built-in kitchens and covered patios. A DIY project could include updates to existing structures and surfaces that homeowners can do themselves.
We talked to Nicole Arnold, who owns a full-service Dallas interior design firm, Nicole Arnold Interiors. She’s worked with many homeowners to create cool, comfortable outdoor living spaces that work with the rest of their home’s design.
“In a lot of cases, these outdoor retreats are visible from a main living area inside your home; therefore, make sure they look on par with the rest of your home, and, ideally, a natural extension of your interior style,” Arnold says. “Of course there’s a wide spectrum of upgrades and accouterments available to personalize your particular space, and make it aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and functional.”
These are Arnold’s top five tips for accentuating an outdoor living space, regardless of scope or budget.
1. What goes outside should belong outside
Ensure what is placed outside is sustainable, particularly furnishings. Teak, cast aluminum or weather-rated wicker (actually a PVC product) hold up best. Cushions should be of Sunbrella or other outdoor-rated fabrics to prevent fading and mildew. Furniture covers are always a good idea, even when you have a covered porch. They can keep critters away as well as protect against our occasional sideways rainstorms.
2. Make it bright
Adequate lighting is imperative to fully enjoy evening functions. Illuminate with overhead lighting such as recessed cans in a solid ceiling or string lights in an open ceiling, as well as indirect light from outdoor-rated lamps on end tables. Lit candles can be beautiful, and a glass hurricane can help keep them that way in the breeze.
3. Don’t forget the rug
A foundational piece in any outdoor setting is a rug, and today they are easy to find in an array of options. Brightly colored floral or geometric prints enliven neutral-colored furniture, while natural-looking sisal designs add a quiet softness to a more organic and neutral theme. Ensure that a good outdoor rug pad is used to prevent mildew. If mildew does occur, a gentle bleach and water solution can usually be used safely to remove discoloration.
4. Comfort is key
Staying cool can be a challenge in our Texas heat, so things like outdoor water misters around a patio ceiling perimeter or ceiling fans can help tremendously. Depending on the direction your patio faces, there will be a time of the day (or sometimes two) that the sun will bear down, preventing you from enjoying your space. Some great solutions for that are outdoor curtains that can be drawn closed (also adding a layer of softness or a pop of color to your living area), woven wood shades or a mesh-style shade. Any of these solutions can be manual for a smaller budget or automated for more convenient use.
5. Plants add color and texture
Landscaping can be that final touch on your outdoor retreat’s design. Container plants, trees and flower beds add color and texture and soften the hard nature of stone patios, brick walls or wooden structures. Succulents in containers on a tabletop make great heat-tolerant additions, and the experts at your local nursery can tell you which other foliage will work best in your particular exposure.
A version of this story originally was published on Candy’s Dirt.