Easy, Breezy: Furnishing the Outdoors
A trend over recent years has the indoors moving outside to create inviting spaces on patios, terraces or in the garden itself. Expressed lavishly, an outdoor living room might have an outdoor flat screen television and fully equipped kitchen with grills and refrigeration. A simpler design could feature a furniture grouping for cocktails and dining.
The availability and wide selection of all-weather furniture, fabrics, rugs, screens, trellises and lighting enable Washingtonians to enjoy the outdoors from early spring to late fall. In addition, present-day outdoor furniture and accessories are so attractive they can move inside and complement your indoor pieces.
Your choice of furniture sets the design style for your outdoor space. If the space is visually adjacent to the indoor living area, you will want the two areas to be compatible in style and color. Here are some options to consider:
Teak: Teak furniture continues to be a classic design style for outdoor living. Its golden brown color can be preserved throughout its lifetime with annual coats of outdoor wood oil, or you may allow it to slowly age to a soft gray.
Aluminum: Originally made for kitchen furniture, new tubular designs are stylish and modern. The durability and light weight of aluminum combined with outdoor fabric pillows make this material an easy-care way to go.
Outdoor Wicker: Outdoor wicker is woven from synthetic hard fibers to have a textured look similar to natural wicker. Whereas teak furniture may be too heavy and aluminum too casual for indoor use, wicker easily makes this transition. The quality of outdoor wicker varies so check out the anticipated lifetime of the furniture pieces and buy the best quality wicker your pocketbook will allow. It will pay off in the long term. Kati Pope, manager of Janus & Cie on M Street in Georgetown, offers advice on caring for outdoor wicker: “Our handwoven synthetic and combination fibers require minimal maintenance. Simply vacuum loose dirt and apply a mix of dish detergent and lukewarm water with a soft sponge or cloth and allow to air dry. The fibers are colorfast, UV and stain resistant and 100-percent recyclable.”
Top quality fabrics, resistant to rain and sun fade, will serve you years longer than cheaper brands. Sunbrella has long been the standard for outdoor fabric, offering variety in patterns beyond the solids and stripes of the past. Perennials, a relatively new brand in outdoor fabric and furnishings, is becoming another popular choice with a selection ranging from faux suedes and velvets to playful, casual patterns. Myra Hines, owner of Hines & Co. showrooms and a resident of Georgetown and New York, says, “Beyond its durability for outdoor use, the Perennials fabric selection has become just as popular for indoors as it is for patios and gardens.”
Outdoor rugs act to define the space and make it more inviting by adding a splash of color and texture. Rugs reduce noise and slippage and simply feel good underfoot. The durability of an outdoor rug depends on the type of material used and how the rug was made. Ben Tabar, manager at Georgetown Carpet, recommends synthetic fiber rugs such as polypropylene for unprotected outdoor areas. “Any outdoor rug should be made of a material that will allow hosing down,” says Tabar, who also warns that natural woven fabrics, such as sisal, seagrass and coir, show water marks and are not stain resistant. He recommends the natural fiber rugs for indoors and protected areas only.
Don’t underestimate the impact of outdoor lighting to create an intimate and enchanting atmosphere. Lights can be permanently installed on tree branches, screens and trellises in a variety of designs. LED technology allows you to select the hue of light from white to pink, yellow, blue and green that best complements the furnishings.
Privacy Screens and Accessories
Whether used for defining space, shielding your outdoor room from prying eyes or protecting people and furnishings from sunlight, privacy screens are an invaluable accessory. You can choose screens that match other furnishings or that provide a needed contrast of color, material or texture. Adding live or dried plants arranged in antique or reproduction urns or pots soften the décor. Overhead fans provide a cooling breeze and deter flying insects while adding a stylish accent to the room.
For Questions or Inquiries: Dena Verrill and Alla Rogers, principals at Dena Verrill Interiors