Take it outside: Tips for affordable, fun and functional outdoor living space

We are having a sizzling summer in southwest Florida and most of us are staying as close to the air conditioning as possible!  However, summer will not last forever and now is a good time to think about these tips from my article in ASID Professional Design Magazine. They will help you to enjoy your your outdoor spaces when the weather allows time on the lanai or porch!  

Special to ASID Professional Design magazine, Summer 2011

By Wrenda Goodwyn, ASID Industry Partner

As a decorator, I have always believed the outdoor space is as important as the  indoor space.  It extends your living area, adds an additional room to the home and can be a cozy retreat.  Whether designing a small patio in a condo or apartment, a huge lanai with pool or a screened porch, it can be the favorite part of a Florida home all year.  And it can be done affordably!

Come up with a plan. Do you want this to be an extension of the living area through open doors (use similar fabric and furnishings) or do you want it to be a separate nook apart from the living area (use wicker, antiques, eclectic collections).  How do you want the space to feel?  Tropical, beach cottage, contemporary, country, cozy, etc.   Be sure to work with the client to determine your direction and have a plan before they begin making purchases!


 Incorporate weather- resistant furniture: sofa, chairs, chaise lounges, dining table.  My favorites:  rattan sea grass, wicker, metal, mosaic table tops.  (Pottery Barn, West Elm, Aida Gray Home, Pier 1, Restoration Hardware).  Tip:  Think comfort. Source: West Elm.


Tropical paint colors and fabric prints.  Tip:  This is a chance to do something a little different than anywhere else in the home.  Bright and tropical or more muted and subdued colors.  

Photo of ASID Professional Design magazine article by Wrenda Goodwyn
Photo of ASID Professional Design magazine article by Wrenda Goodwyn

ASID Professional Design magazine Summer issue.


This is the most important element in any outdoor space.  There are so many wonderful all-weather fabrics that are fade resistant, mildew resistant and easy to clean.  Many Florida homes use these in indoor living areas as well as outdoors. (Kravet, Kravet Soleil, Sunbrella, Kravet Green). These are not the old-fashioned, stiff, outdoor fabrics.  They are beautiful, soft and practical.  Many are green and kind to the environment.  Trimmings for pillows and cushions also are available in performance fabrics for the outdoors.  Tip:  Hang drapes from ceiling to floor and tie them back with a beautiful trim. Gives the space a sophisticated, romantic feel.  Also may be used for privacy and shade from the sun during the day.


This really ties an outdoor area all together and works in any size space.  My favorites:  Raffia, sisal, commercial carpeting cut to size. (West Elm, Kravet, Home Goods, The Rug Company, ABC Carpet). Tip:  An option to the carpet is to paint a portion of the outdoor area a color, do a creative border and put a coffee table, bench or eclectic antique in the center.    


Outdoor space takes on a different (and cooler!) tone in the evening so in addition to lanterns and candles, incorporate landscape lighting in pathways, borders and in large pots around plants.  Solar lighting is a good, easy option.  (Ace Hardware, Lowes, Home Depot, Target).  Tip:  Add an outdoor chandelier over the outdoor seating or dining area! Romantic.

For patio ceilings:

Benjamin Moore "Morning Glory."Paint: One of the most affordable ways to add some pizzazz to outdoor space is with paint.  Some of my favorites:  Paint the ceiling Benjamin Moore Morning Glory and the walls  Atrium White.  Color combinations are endless and depend on the feeling you are going for, how the space is being used (extension of living area or separate area) and on the space and lighting.  Tip:  Benjamin Moore's White Collection (not really white and beautiful!) 


If space permits, you may want to incorporate a water feature for a soothing sound (Lowes).  Also:  Colorful ceramic pots.  Ceiling fan.  Vases or buckets of flowers.

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator and ASID Industry partner. Visit her website at www.spectacularspaces.com. Call her at 239-949-1808 or e-mail wrenda@spectacularspaces.com. Her monthly column, "Home Inspirations" appears in the Fort Myers News-Press on the last Saturday of each month.