Taking the Trends to Task: Which Outdoor Design Ideas Will You Embrace (or not) this Summer?

You know I’m a huge fan of vintage outdoor furniture. In addition to my perennial hunt for vintage Brown Jordan that I wrote about a few weeks ago, I also love Woodard, Salterini, and McGuire (for covered spaces). Some of my all-time favorite styles include:

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 10.54.46 AM 1950s Design by Maurizio Tempestini for SalteriniScreen Shot 2018-06-04 at 10.56.08 AM 1950s Set of Four Russell Woodard Sculptura Black Iron Mesh Dining ArmchairsScreen Shot 2018-06-04 at 10.49.32 AM Vintage McGuire Rattan Dining Chairs (should be used in a sheltered space)Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 10.52.04 AM And I cannot forget the vintage Brighton Pavilion chair!! Again, this belongs in a sheltered space (and is also amazing when used as an accent chair in a living- or bedroom!)

So I’m skeptical when an outdoor design trend article comes my way telling me that bent-wire furniture (like the Woodard) is now synonymous with cheap. I get that knock-offs are cheaply made, but classics are timeless, and the pieces I love will never go out of style. This is why I value well-made vintage furniture so much, and why I believe the hunt for them is worth the time. That said, after reading the article on new trends (WSJ Off Duty, “The Ins and Outs of Al Fresco Life”, May 26, 2018, D8), I am intrigued by some of the outdoor design ideas making headway.

Add an Outdoor Heat Source

According to Pinterest analytics, searches for outdoor living space designs are on the rise. Rather than move to a larger (more expensive) house or invest in a costly expansion, more homeowners are looking to make the most of their home’s existing footprint. This means maximizing the use of screened-in porches, decks, patios and yards. In New England, where the warm season is short (to say the least!), more homeowners are considering adding heat sources to their outdoor space. This is one trend I’m onboard with and would love to see happen at my own home some day (as I sit writing this post on a raw, 50℉ June day☹️).

Natural Gas/Propane Fire Pit (my own personal dream, and likely the most expensive investment, but c’mon, who doesn’t love the idea of “Click the remote AND… ambience!”):Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 11.21.45 AM

A Traditional One (nice if I knew how to build a fire. Pretty sure the zoning board in my town would nix this idea as well). By the way, well-made traditional Adirondack chairs will also never go out of style:

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A (slightly) More Portable Flame:Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 11.40.18 AM

Electric Patio Heater: I love this idea, particularly for us New Englanders. The Bromic Patio Heater  can be mounted flush to the ceiling or wall of a screened-in porch or covered patio. Even when not flush mounted (in an existing porch, for example), it’s still no more obtrusive than a ceiling fan. There are plenty of other brands and styles out there as well.

Here’s one more incredible style if you were doing a new build:

Ditch the String Lights

Huh. I’m a little sad about this one, although Andy actually called this early on in the season. I’d suggested maybe we hang some string lights over our deck this year to encourage more evening meals outdoors. He said it would look like a traveling carnival had descended on site. I gave him the stink eye. I’m still not sure I’m onboard with him on this one, but I am willing to explore other options.

And alas, there are other, more understated ways to light your outdoor space. Instead of competing with the stars in the night sky, consider low, indirect lighting. There are more and more all-weather lamps coming on the market. I don’t think I’d leave these somewhere completely exposed, but again on a covered patio they’d be fine. This one is from Crate & BarrelScreen Shot 2018-06-04 at 12.33.15 PM

And of course, there are many, many options for lanterns and hurricanes. These have been popular for some time. You can fill them with strands of battery operated firefly lights or use flameless outdoor candles. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a brand of firefly lights I like. The battery life is short and, what’s more disappointing, the bright, sterile LED light these give off is anything but warm and inviting.

Pottery Barn does make an excellent outdoor flameless LED candle that I highly recommend. It’s expensive, but worth the investment. The battery life is incredible and the warm glow and flicker is realistic looking.

I haven’t seen the specs on the lanterns below, but I would bring them inside after use to protect from the elements. Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 12.37.21 PM

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LED Strip Lights. There is one company (that I know of anyway) that is killing it when it comes to producing high quality LED lights: Flexfire LEDS. We have their strip lights in our own home lining the top of exposed beams in our living room for ambient uplighting. The color rendering is warm (not at all sterile), they’re completely dimmable, and operated by a remote control. I love them. I checked in with Flexfire for this post and they confirmed that they also have outdoor-rated lighting kits perfectly suited for lighting patios, porches and decks. The company is a pleasure to work with remotely. For my living room beam project I just called and explained the type of lighting I was hoping to achieve and asked if they might have a product that would work. They led me through all the steps to make sure I got what I (and my electrician) would need to install them. This is an example from their gallery of how their lights might be used outside:

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Invest in Sleek, Stream-lined Furniture 

Because people are investing more money in their outdoor space, they’re looking for high-quality, comfortable furniture that will stand the test of time and that works seamlessly with the style inside their home. Chunky, boxy dark woven patio furniture is on the wane, while an appetite for fresh, light wood pieces with airy upholstery is on the rise. I’m very excited about the beautiful outdoor pieces making their way onto the market!

…And Subtle, Neutral Accents

While traditional cabana stripes will always have their place, recent advances in performance fabric have brought so many options to outdoor upholstery. Just like outdoor furniture, the line between indoor and outdoor fabric has blurred. These Kerry Joyce pillows available at Restoration Hardware, would look just as much at home on your sofa as on your chaise.

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As would these from Loloi (available at Shop Candelabra)

And these from Serena & Lily:

So, any ideas here that spark your interest? Will you be putting a little more oomph into your outdoor space this summer? I myself am on the hunt for a round outdoor coffee table to add to this little gathering spot (which looks a bit forlorn in all this cold ☔️ today):


And that may be all for the moment…Until, of course, I get my way and get a natural gas stone fire pit 😉!

Thanks for stopping by, and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts (and suggestions for future posts!)


1 Comment

  1. Another great post! I’m partial to the bamboo chairs and like the string lights! Maybe I spent too much time in China😳

Would love to hear your thoughts!