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Porches, Patios, And Outdoor Design

SIPPING ice tea, wiping a small bead of perspiration from the brow, and good conversations with friends. That should describe a true southern afternoon on the porch. And of course, a comfortable piece of furniture to sink into; durable, yet spunky tables and rugs, and maybe an outdoor window treatment for shade from the sun.

Our porches and decks have truly become an extension of our homes. It’s a place to entertain, relax, and spend time with family and friends. Luckily furniture companies have come out with a variety of furniture styles, colors and sizes to accommodate almost everyone’s needs.

Outdoor room with modern wicker and teak furniture.

As well, fabric mills have made it easy to maintain great looking fabrics that resist sun damage, mold and mildew growth, and are easy to clean. Just because your home may not have a grand terrace, with acres of lush green grass or a water view, does not mean you cannot create a “to die for” outdoor oasis!

Some of my favorites

All-weather wicker is great for folks who love the “cottage” or “vintage” beach look. It works well with traditional southern architecture and details as well. There are now bolder wicker colors and warm earth tones to choose from. At Posh Living, we love to show our customers furniture from Whitecraft, a company whose wicker looks antique and distressed, but comes in resin with Sunbrella cushions to be put right out into the weather.

If you seek the cool modern California look, check out these manufacturers of refined outdoor pieces — Giati, Henry Hall, and Janus Et Cie. These companies have a tremendous selection of furniture pieces made of stainless steel, aluminum and painted metal with polyester powder coatings for that sleek style you may be seeking. These materials can endure the sun and outdoor elements.

If you want something with a little warmer feel, these companies also specialize in resin-fiber woven furniture pieces that create a “faux rattan” look. The resin-fiber “Hularo” is pretty neat for two reasons — first of all it is recyclable, and secondly it resists tearing and UV deterioration. Another material that creates a clean look is furniture made of teak wood. Teak will stand the test of time and will help you to create a true coastal feel. Over time with direct or even indirect sunlight teak will “silver” and turn more of a gray color. To maintain teak’s warm golden color you can apply an oil and sealer, which most companies will recommend you do once a year before the summer season. There are also several modern designs out recently from Whitecraft.

You must have outdoor friendly fabrics to make the maintenance as easy as possible, and for them to last over the years. Sunbrella pioneered the outdoor fabric business. Everyone is familiar with their tough, fade-resistant fabrics on outdoor awnings for windows and doors on commercial buildings. There are several fabric companies who have followed their lead, including Robert Allen (the Susan Sargent line is fabulous), Duralee, OutDura and Perennials. You can find bright stripes and florals as well as more warm and earthy tones in these fabric lines. There are endless opportunities to make a “splash” with color for a bold statements or use soft off-whites and neutral color tones to create a tranquil outdoor living space.

If you are planning on taking a garden space and making it a cozy retreat, we recommend Elegant Earth lightweight concrete furniture pieces and accessories. Concrete pedestal tables, benches, and planters are weather proof and finished with interesting stone-look finishes for European chic.

Table and chairs by Fermob.

Also popular are metal café tables and chairs. We prefer those from Fermob, a high quality French company that makes all of the furnishings for the parks and gardens in Paris. They are made of steel with a baked enamel finish, and stand up very well to the weather. Here in hurricane country, we appreciate the European designs, as they cleverly and quickly disassemble for storage. Fermob has designs ranging from classic ice cream chairs to sleek, modern, tropical colored lounges.

Once you’ve made your selections for your main furnishings, I would then recommend a fun outdoor rug to help tie it together. Our favorite outdoor and cotton rugs are made by Dash & Albert. If you are looking for something with a more natural feel that will blend with the trees, try an outdoor woven vinyl rug that mimics the look of sisal, but you can hose it off!

Lastly, choose accessories that finish off your outdoor oasis. Try not to buy everything at once and let the pieces reflect your travels and personality. This will add more interest and spark conversations while you are sipping your tea and enjoying good company. And don’t forget about adding candles and soft lighting to capture the ambiance of your Outdoor Room.

Enjoy your life outdoors! Start with a selection of high-quality outdoor pillows:

© July 2008 Layla S. Altman. May not be reproduced without permission.

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