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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
"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.
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."
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.
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.
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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