May 26, 2011

The Open Air Living Room

Summer’s the time to reproduce your comfortable, cosy living room outside the home.

BY CHANTAL EUSTACE

Weed out those plain plastic chairs and donate that dusty picnic table. It’s time to let serious style take root in your backyard, with an outdoor living room you won’t want to hose down.

“It’s literally taking the inside out,” says Melina Tai of North Vancouver’s Ginger Jar Furniture, of creating an outdoor living room.

Tai says it’s the right time to invest in good quality outdoor furniture, from couches or sectionals to design-savvy sun umbrellas.

“In Vancouver we don’t always have great weather. When it does come, it’s nice to take advantage of it,” says Tai. “Why not get out there?”

Before you invest in furniture though, she says, take time to look at your needs and lifestyle. For instance, if you’re low-maintenance, select a style that doesn’t require too much upkeep.

Keep things simple, says Graham Rooza, senior product developer for Superstore’s everydayliving.

“Start with a dining or conversation set that is the proper scale to the space that you have, and build your room from there,” he says.

“Great items to start with are a lounger, side table and ottoman. Items like outdoor rugs, planters and gazebos work well to complete your room, as does lighting.”

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to turn a lawn or a patio into a living room.

Inexpensive options – like pillows, throws, outdoor rugs, and planters – add colour and texture to outdoor spaces. And little things, like candles and summer lanterns or a simple heat lamp, can make a huge impact on atmosphere and cosiness.

An outdoor rug will define and ground the space, says Leigh Oshirak, vice-president of public relations and marketing for Pottery Barn Brands. She also suggests choosing accent pieces, just as you would for your indoor living room.

“Colorful outdoor pillows refresh a sectional or lounge chair, and can be stacked for additional outdoor seating,” she says.

“Create a simple new centrepiece for the outdoor table with galvanized planters filled with flower pots or candles.  And galvanized planters filled with ice double as perfect beverage containers for outdoor entertaining . . .”

It pays off to do it well.

Outdoor furniture is built with extra care since it’s intended for a life outside. Some, like upholstered furniture, requires more care than others.

Outdoor cushions should be kept covered when you’re not using them and it’s best to store them away during our wet winter.

Though you can leave most outdoor furniture uncovered all year — thanks to durable ingredients like rust-proof hardware or all-weather materials and finishes — furniture covers help prolong the life of a product, and keep maintenance to a minimum.

Ask about a specific product’s care before you purchase something. And remember, no one wants to eat off a table decorated in bird droppings: A daily wipe-down goes a long way in keeping your outdoor living room livable.

“There’s no better feeling than sitting outside on a beautiful day feeling the sun on your back as you enjoy hosting guests, reading the newspaper or just hanging out with your family,” says Oshirak.

We couldn’t agree more.

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