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  • Karen

Bring the Inside....Out!

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to start planning that outdoor space you have always imagined!

Outdoor living spaces are becoming more and more popular. A patio or deck used to be a place to sit outside after a long day. Now these spaces are truly ‘living’ spaces and are not only a place to have an every day escape to relax in, but are great spaces to cook in, entertain in and spend time with friends and family. And now more than ever, outdoor spaces have become an important selling feature of a home.

Here are a few things to think about as you are planning your outdoor escape.


If you are planning a brand new space, think about the amount of space you need.

Give yourself plenty of room. Think through if you want to have the flexibility to move seating and tables around for entertaining different sized groups. If you want a dining area, you may need more space than what you initially think. For example, if you have a 4 foot round table, you need to allow about 12 feet in order to add room for chairs and the ability to easily get in and out of those chairs. Also, think through what you want to have in this space... seating areas, a fire pit, an outdoor kitchen, a television, etc. ,before you finalize the size of your space.

Make the space an extension of your interior living space. You can achieve this by adding a great way to connect the outdoor space to the rest of your home. Consider modern over sized doors to really open it up and allow a great transition.

Wanting to have a covered space? There are a few options to consider. You can build a roof extension, a pergola, an awning, or to make it really unique, add a canopy structure. Each offers different advantages and disadvantages to the look, use and maintenance of the space. So think through how you want to use the space and when you want to use the space (especially if you are in Iowa… with our four seasons).

If you are building a permanent structure, think through some fun options for the ceiling… exposed beams, painted ship lap, cedar ship lap, and metal are a few options.

Also, try to incorporate the living space into your backyard. Instead of planting bushes and plants to outline your patio, make it more interesting so it is a seamless transition. How can you do that? Create a walking path from the living space into a flower garden, place a bench in your flower garden, incorporate trees strategically in your yard to add natural shading to your living space and to also be a part of that space, or create a casual seating space in your yard with a fire pit and add a walking path to it. Your backyard shouldn’t be an after-thought as you are planning your living space.

Whether you are wanting to add a deck or a patio, there are plenty of options for material choices when it comes to constructing it. Think through the maintenance of the options you are considering as well as the look you are trying to achieve in your space.


Always, always add planters to your living space. It not only softens the space but adds color and dimension and life to the space. Make sure your planters are sized appropriately for the space. I often see these beautiful large planters crammed in a small space and it just doesn’t work. Have fun with the pots by using different sizes and different textures. Depending on the look you are going for, you can keep your pots all the same color or use pots with different but complimenting colors.

Rotate your plantings with seasonal plants throughout the year. During winter months, utilize those planters to showcase evergreen branches with lights. Also, grass and ferns are a fabulous choice for planters in summer and fall. They provide a clean and modern look but also provide a look with height and interest. Place your planters in the corners of your living space to help outline the space. When doing this, remember the Rule of Three in decorating… group the planters (of various heights and shapes) in odd numbers (1 -3) and I guarantee it will look great!


Consider a fire source. A source of fire draws people in and provides ambiance to the space. I know our kids and their friends were drawn in by our fire pit to roast marshmallows (and other things!). Be sure to check your local building codes regarding outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. I know some cities do not allow permanent fire pits (darn!).

Fire pits have come a long way, looking more like ‘fire features’ than traditional fire pits. They can make a statement in your space so have fun with that. Gas fireplaces look great. There are several traditional and modern choices of fireplaces. Do think through how much warmth you want it to be able to give off in your space. For the best heat source, log burning fire places do a better job of that. Regardless of what you choose, it will add a natural casual space to gather around.


For gathering spaces, there are so many possibilities for types of seating… from modern to traditional to transitional. Go with what makes you feel good! There are a lot of options when it comes to wicker, wood, or metal! Or build in benches if you are starting from scratch. You can match or mix the pieces that you choose. Think through durability, how you will use it and who will be using it. Including a variety of seating options will help friends and family enjoy your space.

Do ‘ground’ your seating area or make it feel like it is its own space by incorporating a rug. A rug can make an outdoor space feel as put together as a living room. Or thinking outside of the box, if you are creating a new patio, lay down tile in that area to make it stand out.

Swapping out pillows is an easy and cost effective way to update your outdoor space each season. Bring in different textures, colors and prints. And add more texture with a casual throw. I like to go with Sunbrella fabric on cushions and pillows. Sunbrella fabric is resistant to fading, stains and mildew. Very important!

Incorporate tabletop décor full of texture and color – small vases and containers are a great way to add accents on tables. And be sure to incorporate succulents or small plants onto table tops.

The bottom line... choose furniture, flooring, fabrics and décor that are stylish but just as important - durable to the outside elements.


A TV is a great add to an outdoor space. It is easier than ever to hang a flat screen anywhere. Just be sure to install it in a covered or enclosed space to guard it from the weather. Also make sure it’s away from the glare of the sun. Not only is that bad on the TV but you won’t be able to watch the TV!


Lighting in your space is functional to extend your time outdoors, but also adds a great mood to the space. And it can be achieved in so many different ways.

String lights help the space feel like an extension of the home’s first floor. I also think string lights bring a special feel to the space and creates a space you want to be in. String lights work great in a Pergola.

Recessed lighting in ceilings or under the roof line are not only functional and a clean look, but they can be set on dimmers to create ambiance. Add pendants or a chandelier if your space allows. This choice is great in dining areas to help define that space. Also, use path lights in walkways or in your flower gardens to extend your outdoor living space at night.

I also like to use low level lights on columns and place them just a few feet off the ground adding a night time accent. Sconces are a fun way to bring lighting into the space. Again, those can also be put on dimmers. So many choices!

And don't forget a ceiling fan. I like to use ceiling fans when I can. Really functional on those hot summer days and they bring an industrial element to the space.

If you can plan ahead, put a light switch both inside your home and out in the living space to control the lights in your outdoor space.


Outdoor kitchen spaces are a must have for that grill chef! Consider built in grills and appliances in stone, brick or cement to anchor them in place and give them a defined space. It is a much better look, if you can do it, instead of having your grill ‘floating’ out there on its own. Make it look like the space where you cook is permanent and is meant to be there.

Outdoor dining spaces can be customized to fit your style and needs. The marketplace has options for all styles, sizes and heights of tables. Add chairs or benches. Or, incorporate a bar top counter top into your space and add fun tiles into the design to make the space pop. Think through the dining experience you want to have outside.

A lot of fun things to think through. We would be glad to help you through it!

Enjoy the outdoors! And create a space you want to be in…or out?!

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