Outdoor Rooms: Don't Make These 7 Design Mistakes

weird vintage patio
Swordfish trophies dominate the wall of this amazing vintage patio. Found Image Press/Corbis via Getty Images
  • 01 of 08

    Follow Basic Design Rules and Common Sense for a Great Space

    ugly backyard
    The focal point on this patio is the barbecue. Joey Kotfica/Mobile Moment/Getty Images

    Rooms inside a house are pretty straightforward: a dining room is used for dining, a bedroom for sleeping, a bathroom for bathing, and so on. How you approach designing your outdoor space is an entirely personal decision, but there are some basic rules to follow. Among them:

    • Focal point: Establishing a focal point is an essential part of smart design for an outdoor room. Focal points help guide the eye to a favorable part of the room and away from a less favorable area. They can also act as...MORE points of interest.
    • Vertical space: If your outdoor room has a wall or two, or even a suggested wall, take advantage of the space by using urns or vases with tall ornamental grasses or patio trees, climbing vines or espaliered shrubs. Also think about using hanging outdoor lights, chandeliers, wind chimes, pedestals and raised planters.
    • Style or design: If you have no clue how to decorate, consider the architectural style of your house along with its proportions the exterior materials used. Also look at the house for patterns and details you can replicate in your outdoor room.

    Knowing the mistakes commonly made in decorating an outdoor room might help you weed out the good from the bad and prevent you from going down the wrong road

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  • 02 of 08

    Forgetting It's Outdoors, Not Indoors

    indoor furniture outside
    A living room set finds a new home outside. Felipe Dupouy/Getty Images

    Some enthusiastic decorators get so carried away that they forget they are furnishing an outdoor room. Maybe you've seen someone's patio that looks like they pushed the living room sofa, lounger, coffee table, and even fake plants outside. Or, they've relegated the old sofa from the den to the patio or backyard. Don't even think about it.

    It's always good to reach for a seamless transition between your interior and exterior, but using the same furniture (or something very...MORE similar) is taking it too far. You are, after all, outside. Loosen up and relax.

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  • 03 of 08

    Too Much or Not Enough Furniture

    umbrellas in yard
    Two umbrellas provide shade for a small table and nothing else. Lisa H. Taylor

    You're thrilled to finally have a designated outdoor room —a place just outside the back door where you can get away from it all, entertain, escape, spend time talking, eating, playing games or even watching movies with your favorite people.

    Inside those three-or-so outdoor walls you have amassed your favorite patio furniture -- that Brown Jordan Tamiami set you scored from an estate sale last year, along with Grandma's porch glider, your husband's beloved couch from the deck of his...MORE former frat house, and the kids' plastic dining set. No wonder it looks more like a patio furniture yard sale rather than a cohesive, carefully curated and arranged outdoor room.

    Tying It All Together

    The furniture pieces don't have to match, but something should tie them together -- materials, color, height, scale, era, etc. Too much of anything crammed into one space is probably not the look you're after, nor is it functional or liveable. Select items from your collection that look good (alone and together with other pieces), are comfortable and will hold up outdoors.

    If you're starting from scratch, either buy new or used items in good shape that go together -- again, through materials (wood, aluminum, sling) and design (shape, style, era, if old).

    Minimalism and Nonexistant

    In our cluttered worlds, many people prefer the KonMari method, or the simplicity of minimalism. This can be lovely, just don't forget to add a hint of personality--a piece of pottery, a plant, a pillow.

    Then there are those who are either indecisive or procrastinate when it comes to furnishing any room, and leave it empty. This is space you could be enjoying. Do something!

     

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  • 04 of 08

    Under Accessorizing or No Decor

    patio set on deck
    A patio set on a deck with no accessories or plants. bluehill75/Getty Images

    Picture this: you go to a store to purchase one of those comfortable deep seating outdoor sets with two connecting sofas and matching ottomans. Maybe you buy a table or two with a frame that matches the set. This type of set is usually all tan, beige, taupe, fawn, off-white or black.

    After coming home, you set it up in your outdoor room, take a few steps back, and wonder what's missing.

    Accessories. And by that, we mean outdoor accessories, not something you move from your living room to the...MORE outdoor room. Outdoor accessories should be waterproof and able to withstand the elements, although you will wisely bring them inside or under cover during the off season or weather events, like tornadoes, hurricanes, storms, etc.

    Outdoor decor and accessories include:

    • Garden statues
    • Pottery, containers, urns
    • Ornaments
    • Wind chimes
    • Hanging ornaments
    • Outdoor wall art
    • Pillows and cushions
    • Candles
    • Lighting fixtures

    Of course, you can have an outdoor room with too many accessories, which becomes busy, excessive, confusing, and overstated.

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  • 05 of 08

    No Plants

    rooftop terrace
    A beautiful terrace with a stunning view needs some greenery. Terryfic3D/Getty Images

    In planning an outdoor room, you thought that you had included all of the components: a nice deep-seating set, a few occasional tables, and an urn or two. Hmmm—what seems to be missing? How about the green stuff, as in potted plants, patio trees, a dish garden, or even a vase of cut roses from nearby bushes?

    Plants can help soften an outdoor room. If chosen wisely, you can even add a sweet-smelling plumeria or gardenia into the mix, for a pleasant experience when light winds kick up the scent in...MORE the evening.

     

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  • 06 of 08

    Poor Furniture Arrangement

    bad furniture arrangement on patio
    Furniture is awkwardly arranged on this fake-turf terrace. Michael Cogliantry/Getty Images

    Think about seating arrangement and creating conversation areas when you design a patio or outdoor room. The settee or chairs should be close enough to carry on a conversation without shouting, leaving enough space to move around. Chairs should be gathered around a low table for drinks or plates.

    If you line up patio furniture against the walls of your outdoor room—sort of a "firing squad" design approach that doesn't always work indoors or out—you'll have a nice big bare spot in...MORE the middle of the room. Which will be great if you plan on using the space for dancing or a little after-dinner karaoke.

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  • 07 of 08

    Color Issues

    average patio set
    A tan patio set in need of color accents. Flickr member osseous

    Mistakes with color design occur when either too little color is used or the wrong colors are used together. Much of the outdoor furniture available comes with cushions in neutral tones, like white, tan, beige, or gray. This is great, serving as a subtle background for colorful pillows and accessories in a few well-chosen or favorite colors. It looks bland or incomplete if the set is left alone, with no accents—like it was pulled out of the box and you got distracted.

    On the other hand, using too...MORE much color can present issues, but if they complement one another, the effect can be lively and vibrant.

    Some suggestions:

    • Primary Colors: As a refresher, primary colors are red, blue and yellow. These can work outdoors by allowing one color to take a dominant role while the others are used more sparingly. For example, the same hue of blue is repeated throughout the outdoor room and surrounding landscape, followed by a smaller amount of yellow. Red is used as an occasional accent.
    • Earth tones: This would include browns, tans, greens, etc. Punch it up a bit with a bright orange or royal blue pillow and pottery.
    • Analogous: Three colors side-by-side on the color wheel, like yellow, yellow-orange and orange.
    • Favorite colors: You know what these are. Hopefully, no mauve or dusty rose.
    • Colors in the garden: Pick up on colors from the garden, like those purple irises, orange calendula, a blue similar to the pool water, or even green—there should be plenty of that.
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  • 08 of 08

    Proportion and Scale

    patio furniture with tall backs
    Outdoor furniture with unusually high backs. Lisa H. Taylor

    Let's take the space of your outdoor room—say it's a 12 x 12-foot gazebo. Now gather all of the elements that go into that room—outdoor furniture, accessories, and plants—and fill it up. If you have, say, one tall bistro table with a couple of matching chairs and an 8-inch pot of calla lilies left over from Mother's Day, your outdoor room might look kind of bare. Minimalism is nice, but neglected or not well-thought-out is another thing entirely.

    Overcrowding

    On the other end of the,...MORE umm, scale, let's say you have a plethora of patio furnishings, and you can't wait to crowd them all into your new outdoor room. There might be no space in which to walk, not to mention everything looks like you're holding a garage sale under a tent.

    In a well-proportioned outdoor room, the space should be designed for your favorite activity. This might include dining, relaxing, or entertaining. How about an impromptu game of badminton? Good luck with that. Choose furniture that is attractive, functional, and that fits the space. Add accessories sparingly at first, with smaller objects placed in front of larger ones, whether it's plants, statuary or other types of garden decor.