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Fun with furnishings: Four ways to diversify outdoor decor for warmer months

04/09/2013 01:43 EDT | Updated 06/09/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - As winter-weary Canadians welcome the return of warmer weather, many won't have far to travel for the opportunity to revel in the outdoors.

Whether spending time solo or hosting a backyard bash, those with a deck, porch or patio at their disposal are keen to pass the time idling or entertaining in their outdoor space.

Decor specialists highlight four ways homeowners can update their exteriors.

1. Colour change. Some tend to gravitate towards the dark side when selecting hues for lounge chairs, chaises and sectional sofas. While brown and black-coloured weaves remain popular, look for an emergence of pieces featuring frames in paler shades.

"Some of the lighter weaves now — the whites, the light greys — it really sort of gives an airier, lighter feel," said Andrew Bockner, principal of Andrew Richard Designs in Toronto.

Fans of a more rustic look may eschew wicker or metal furnishings in favour of wood. Bockner has embraced use of reclaimed teak due to the hardwood's ability to withstand the elements.

"It can stand the test of time. It stays outside for years and basically it just turns a little grey which is a beautiful colour for it, anyway."

For pre-existing furniture, consider taking the do-it-yourself route for pieces in need of refreshment.

"If it's a wicker or a wood, it can get a fresh coat of paint or stain," said Heidi Richter, stylist on HGTV's "Decked Out" and "Disaster Decks."

Updating cushions in weather-resistant materials is another cost-effective method to dress up the backyard, she added. And prepare for a furniture flashback with many retro-inspired fabrics — and even the pieces themselves — channelling the past.

"People are picking up old vintage pieces and maybe painting them in a really nice, bright poppy colour," said Richter, owner of Toronto design and project management company HR Design Inc.

"You're not doing all of your furniture — it's just one accent piece. So you're not married to it if you decide you like a different colour the next year."

2.Made in the shade. While some may choose to go light and bright with outdoor furniture, Bockner suggested selecting darker hues for overhead canopies to help mask the dirt and residue from the outdoors.

Larger cantilevered umbrellas also offer the benefit of protection without poles "interrupting your space," Bockner noted.

Injecting some added green with plants and foliage can lend some visual warmth as well as some added privacy.

"If you're in a smaller backyard and not worried about the trees so much, vertical planting is something that's really nice," said Richter.

When opting to bring in potted plants rather than flexing your green thumb and digging in the dirt, Richter said it's important to be mindful of maintenance and sustenance when the weather cools.

"If it's something to stay outdoors all year, you need to ensure it's hearty enough to do that, and use an insulated plant pot where the roots won't freeze in winter."

3. Space savers. It's not just sofa beds and convertible tables: multipurpose furniture items which have been space-saving staples in interiors are being tailored for the outdoors.

"I absolutely love multifunctional pieces," said Bockner, who carries items like tables which double as storage chests.

"When someone has a small space and a piece that functions for them in two different ways, it really allows them to use their space to the fullest."

Bockner said they've also scaled down the size of pieces being showcased, creating lounge sets suitable for porches or condo terraces with benches that tuck underneath dining tables.

Day beds are another cosy addition for a porch or a small space. Larger variations can double as a chaise, lounge or hangout area for families to enjoy, he noted.

For individuals considering new furniture, Bockner recommended opting for deep seating rather than dining sets when adding pieces.

"I find that anybody who has a lounge set and a dining set, they spend 80 to 90 per cent of the time in that lounge set. I've been over at peoples' homes where they're like: "Let's take the barbecue over to the lounge; let's do it more casually.

"Adding deep seating, adding comfortable furniture in your outdoor space will extend the time that you use it," he added. "It'll extend the opportunities to entertain and it will extend the opportunities to spend down time with family."

4. Shine on. There are many ways to keep your outdoor oasis illuminated well past sunset, and there's no need to settle on a sole source to brighten up your surroundings.

Richter said "layering the light" can help add depth and dimension to the space. If you bring in low-voltage LEDs on the stairs to the deck, consider also incorporating candlelight and lanterns, and perhaps some sconces flanking the door.

"It just adds a great ambience. Then you can adjust as the mood suits," she said.

"If you're entertaining and it's fun and it's a lively party, you can even string up paper lanterns to add a little warmth and fun. But if it's just you and your hubby having a romantic evening, just go with the candles or the fire pit."

Tabletop ethanol fireplaces not only look beautiful but can add a touch of warmth on cooler nights, Bockner noted.

"They give you about five or six degrees. That might extend the time you can use your space by maybe three to four weeks on the end of each season."

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Online:

Andrew Richard Designs: www.andrewricharddesigns.comHR Design Inc.: http://hrdesign.ca

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