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Home for the Summer
Whether it's your beach rental or permanent home that could use a pick-me-up, follow decorating editor Rebecca Robertson's outdoor decor tips (which she demonstrates at her Long Island, New York, home). These projects can all be done in a weekend but promise a long season of laid-back outdoor living.
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Create a Message Center
Rebecca paired a mailbox with a chalkboard to receive letters and leave messages for friends. "People drop by all the time, and we like to be able to tell them to meet us at the beach," she says. Painting the pieces the same color makes them look like a set.
Series 100 porcelain (on steel blackboard), nyblackboard.com. All-mount horizontal mailbox, by Gibraltar Industries; homedepot.com. Paint, exterior in Bluebird, by Martha Stewart Living Paint; homedepot.com/marthastewart.
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Spruce Up the Entry
Repainting the front door changed the whole personality of the house. "I chose blue because it complements the gray in the shingles," Rebecca says. "And with the white trim, it has that classic nautical look that says 'summer' to me." Using the same blue as on the mailbox and chalkboard frame ties the space together.
Paint, exterior in Bluebird, by Martha Stewart Living Paint; homedepot.com/marthastewart.
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Automate Your Watering
Once installed, a set-it-and-forget-it drip irrigation kit freed the family from a demanding watering schedule. When choosing from the wide range of kits available, consider your plumbing setup and garden bed specifications.
Irrigation kits, from rainbird.com.
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Swap Out Old Lighting
"A downward glow is gentler and more flattering than the light cast by an upward-facing bulb," says Rebecca, who replaced the front porch's existing fixture, which had an exposed bulb, with this gooseneck light. The lamp's galvanized finish gives it an informal, slightly aged look that fits right in with the cottage's aesthetic.
Austin sconce, barnlightelectric.com.
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There's no way to completely keep wildlife out of your yard (short of erecting a tall fence), but you can pick plants that are less appealing to them. Rebecca opted for these deer-resistant, low-maintenance beauties.
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Make an Umbrella Statement
An umbrella is to a patio what a rug is to a living room: a key piece that unifies the space's palette. So choose wisely. This umbrella's graphic print echoes the look of the bench cushions and stands out against the wooden furnishings.
Umbrella, in Air Blue with White Lattice; retail.warpweftandco.com.
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Make Storage Multitask
Solve two outdoor problems -- a lack of seating and of storage -- at once. Rebecca transformed three wooden chests with paint and custom cushions (made of waterproof foam and fabric).
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"In the summer, the backyard is our dining room, and we always need an extra surface for drinks and dishes," Rebecca says. Her solution: Create a bar using a basic shelf and brackets. When it's not in use, it can be folded down so it doesn't get in the way.
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Take advantage of the decorative potential of an outdoor wall by hanging a constellation of plates. "These dishes add color, and because they're monogrammable, they let us put our stamp on the place," Rebecca says. Melamine plates are a smart, family-friendly choice outdoors because they won't shatter if they get knocked down -- by kids in a heated game of tag, say.
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Cook Up an Herb Garden
Planting herbs (such as mint, parsley, rosemary, and sage) just outside the back door converted the garden into an extension of the kitchen. "We're much more likely to snip herbs as we cook when they're just a few steps away," Rebecca says. Plus, most of these plants are deer resistant.
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Fashion a Clever Sand Trap
To sideline sand before it gets tracked into the house, a sprayer was attached to the base of the outdoor shower. (If you don't have a shower, try attaching a sprayer to a hose.) Placing a bench nearby makes rinsing off less of a balancing act.
25-foot coil hose with nozzle (similar to shown), homedepot.com. Roll-out teak floor mat, homeinfatuation.com.
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Splash Out on a Coordinated Shower Cutain
"I can't believe we went without a shower curtain for so long," Rebecca says. "There were very few people brave enough to shower out there." Provide privacy and a shot of color by picking a fabric that matches other elements of your space. Keep the curtain from blowing by placing stones in the pocket around the bottom.
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Dry Dock Towels
By mounting a row of hooks (far left), Rebecca gave towels and beach gear a handy place to dry. "We used to just sling everything over the backs of chairs," she says. "This looks so much nicer."
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Put Runoff Water to Use
An outdoor shower can often result in a muddy pool of runoff water. Here, a water-permeable gravel path (bottom right) was topped with a grid of bluestone pavers and edged with two-by-fours to capture the water, which then seeps back into the soil and gets taken up by nearby flower beds.
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Let Roses Live Off the Grid
An imperceptible yet sturdy alternative to a traditional trellis, a network of eye hooks and picture wire were used to create the effect of a rose-covered cottage. Roses can be trained around corners or in slender columns by loosely tying stems to the wire with twine.
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Set Some Boundaries
Two-by-fours and wooden stakes were used to form a border that keeps plants inside the beds -- and lawn mowers out. The wood will age nicely, fading to gray over time.
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Open a Watering Hole
To combat flies and mosquitoes, Rebecca invited birds into her yard by placing a bath in the garden. Bonus: Any water splashed by excited birds gets absorbed by the plants.
Birdbath, by Eva Solo; emmohome.com.
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Lock Up Your Garbage
Regular trash cans were replaced with this unit, which has latches to deter critters. "We no longer spend our mornings cleaning up after the raccoons that ransacked our garbage," Rebecca says.
Three-can heavy-duty trash bin, White Lid with Gray; bearicuda.com.
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Choose Smart Seating
The slim profile of these folding deck chairs makes it easy to store them in the off-season. Plus, the dark stripes of the loomed cotton seats help camouflage stains.
Deck chairs, in Collioure Roy Cotton; lestoilesdusoleilnyc.com.
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Set Up a Campfire, and Then Let the Sparks Fly -- Safely
The same wood-framing technique used to edge the garden beds was applied around the fire pit. While the sand used to level the surface absorbs charcoal and flyaway sparks, the base makes the campfire feel like a focal point. "The fire pit is our yard's main attraction," Rebecca says. "The summer is all about unplugging for us, and it's nice to just be out there, talking and watching the fire."
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