Get the most out of your outdoor space with these 12 lessons in outdoor living, just in time for outdoor lounging and entertaining.
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Love Your Outdoor Living Room
Pull up a chair -- or a sofa or bench. Comfortable furniture invites lounging and lingering. This cushion-covered banquette is actually made of plastered concrete, and it helps define the corner of Tim and Susan Anderson's backyard in Los Angeles. (Concrete a little too permanent or imposing? Try low sofas.) Lightweight butterfly chairs are easy to move around as more people join the conversation, and lanterns and throw pillows add punches of color. Tall, sculptural plants such as giant birds-of-paradise and spiky brown cordylines create a wall of sorts, giving the corner an intimate feel.
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Make It Lush
Create a green welcome with simple plant solutions like ficus. Fast-growing vines such as these will quickly cloak walls and soften a rustic wooden gate, which is the entrance to the Andersons' small front garden.
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Create a Conversation Pit
Don't scrimp on dimensions in the great outdoors. The extra-wide seat cushions on this banquette allow plenty of room for casual groups, as well as a serving surface for a tray of appetizers. (Since it's outdoor fabric, spills wipe off easily with water.)
Paradise punch pillows, 22" square, in Multi, by Trina Turk; horchow.com.
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Embrace the Bench
Declutter a small patio by switching out a cluster of chairs for two modern, comfortable benches upholstered in outdoor fabric. Instead of bringing in bouquets for dinner parties, try a potted plant as a permanent centerpiece.
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Find a Hideaway
A shady green part of the garden seems a world away even though it's really just a few steps from the kitchen and all the hubbub of the backyard play area. Use a colorful low coffee table and sculptural hoop chairs instead of a traditional cafe table and folding chairs to reinforce the feeling of a mod secluded den.
Hoop chair, 26 inches, steel frame, powder coat, in Cream, with Taupe cord; and coffee table, 48 inches round, stainless steel frame, powder coat, in Espresso, with glass mosaic tile in Tangerine; plainair.com.
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Define Your Palette
Develop a distinctive mix of colors and patterns that marries outdoor upholstery, throw pillows, and ceramic tiles to play off what's happening in the flower beds. Here, pink, orange, and yellow tones really pop, but they're also grounded by the earthy neutrals of stone tiles and brown-leaved succulents and grasses.
Clockwise: Peacock print (#174281), in Punch, and zebra print (#174260), in Bamboo, by Trina Turk for Schumacher; fschumacher.com. Lucifer WG cement tile, 8 inches, in Multi; mosaichse.com. Sunbrella fabric (#5425-0000), in Cocoa; sunbrella.com. Jake Stripe fabric (#800-33), in Lotus; perennialsfabrics.com. Super Paradise print (#174321), in Punch, by Trina Turk for Schumacher; fschumacher.com. Sunbrella fabric, Bravada Salsa (#5601-0000), in Red and Orange; sunbrella.com.
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Create a Dream Spot
Place a comfortable daybed on the patio instead of an ordinary and expected chaise longue. (Here, it's right off the master bedroom, so the toughest weekend decision is whether to nap inside or out.) Striped pillows echo the striated leaves of the potted cordyline flanking the door. An outdoor rug helps define the parameters of the "room" and softens the stone and concrete underfoot. A ceramic stool serves as a handy side table and does double duty as an extra seat when you're entertaining.
Daybed, 4 feet by 8 feet, stainless steel frame, powder coat in Matte Black; plainair.com. Thick-stripe decorative pillow, 18 inches by 36 inches, in Orange; jitidesigns.com. Fretwork all-weather area rug (#01260), 7 feet 11 inches by 11 feet, in Sand/Coffee, by Martha Stewart Living Collection; homedecorators.com.
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Turn Up the Heat
A fire pit is a focal point for a seating area; plus, it extends the outdoor entertaining season beyond the warmth of summer. This model has a gas hookup that can be easily switched on with a key (hidden from the kids), but a wood fire in a concrete vessel also works.
Deep Wok fire pit, pottedstore.com.
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Focus on the Foliage
Emphasize rich brown, gray, and silver leaves rather than flowers, which can come and go quickly in the garden. Informal flower beds can be anchored with a larger sculptural plant such as this blue agave, and a grouping of other colorful drought-tolerant succulents.
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Gain Some Party Space
When topped with cushions, a low wall adds valuable space for extra seating for a larger gathering. Tiles bring an unexpected dose of pattern in a poolside space that might ordinarily just be plain concrete.
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Dare to Go Pale
Light-colored fabric can be tricky to keep clean outdoors, but this cotton-canvas butterfly-chair cover can go right in the laundry or can be folded up and stored indoors when not in use.
Butterfly chair, 30 inches by 30 inches by 35 inches, Black frame with White cover; circa50.com.
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Maximize Tight Spots
Don't let hard-to-use spaces like this narrow sliver between the end of the pool and a sunken utility area go to waste. Use one space-saving double chaise instead of two separate ones, and arrange decorative stools (used as side tables) in the same symmetrical way you would in your living room. Hang electric lanterns from a large tree to complete the feeling of a stylish outdoor room that's cool and shady during the day and romantically secluded at night. Zebra bamboo pillows, 22 inches square, in Yellow and White, by Trina Turk; horchow.com. Cotton pompoms throw, 50 inches by 60 inches, in Vibrant Yellow; karmaliving.net. Medium Rosslyn pot, 11" by 17", in Bauer Orange, bauerpottery.com. Case Study double chaise, 10 inches by 50 inches by 79 inches, stainless, with linen cover in Basil; modernica.net. Landscaping by Judy Kameon, Elysian Landscapes; elysianlandscapes.com.