Outdoor Rooms for Less

Tips for creating a luxe-looking outdoor space that won't break the bank

Get the most bang for your buck

Fresh flowers, candles and tablecloths are musts for Peterson's outdoor tables. And, while flea markets and yard sales can yield great decorating treasures, she also recommends a treasure hunt in your own house, where the attic, basement or garage may turn up furniture and accessories that can be reinvented as outdoor decor.

Found some pieces that need a face-lift? Grab a paint can and get to work. "Spray painting is fun, fast and you don't have to mess around with gathering or cleaning paintbrushes," says Peterson, but she warns: "If you're going to make the effort to create something beautiful, use the right spray paint for the right surface and a good quality brand."

Take a sensory approach to decorating your outdoor space, adds Dickhoff. To create a richer, more complete feeling, she recommends items that will enhance a room's sensuous experience:

  • String lights or paper lanterns are inexpensive and impactful.
  • Plants are a big part of the outdoor experience and add shade, texture and a sweet scent to your space. Besides your favorite flowers, try fragrant plants like dwarf citrus trees or herbs, which can double as fresh flavoring for outdoor meals! Visually, it's important to consider the container as well as the plant; for a natural look, choose clay or stone (or lighter resin designed to look like stone) and add splashes of color with painted pottery.
  • Accessories like fountains or wind chimes add ambiance and drown out background noise.
  • Texture is also very important. Furniture and accessories made from rough, natural materials like wood, bamboo or stone create a natural, organic feel.


Luxe it up

"Bring out your everyday or best china, silver and glassware — the real thing — no paper or plastic products," advises Peterson. She also suggests using cloth table covers and chair covers and even soft, colorful hand towels in place of napkins "because they're soft on the face, easy to clean and there's no ironing required."

"Accessories like pillows and throws tame the outdoors with a bit of luxury," adds Dickhoff. Typically "indoor" accessories like serving carts and buffets help you stay organized, she says. Be sure to leave room for these handy accessories when designing your space.

Camouflage the flaws

"If you have a bad view, you can cover it up: Enshroud your space with plants or curtains," advises Dickhoff. Remember to choose fabrics that are treated for outdoors so they don't weather or soil, or use untreated fabrics only in protected areas. "If your space is already surrounded by a wall or fence," she adds, "focus on decorating this element and tying it in with the theme of your room. If you aren't able to cover a bad view, create a new focal point to distract from it."

Need to downplay patchy grass, for instance? "Position a large piece of furniture, such as a picnic table, over it or use an outdoor rug," she continues. Another option: Wood deck tiles, which interlock to create an instant deck in your yard.

Peterson shares a few more tricks to draw the eye away from less-than-lovely areas: Mirrors on tables or walls and cheery paint on a porch ceiling. She also suggests incorporating the space's natural surroundings for great effect. "A tree covering an open patio can serve as a canopy or ceiling. A tall shrub can serve as a privacy wall or a backsplash for a seating area. A path of cobblestones can lead to a shaded grassy area that serves as a resting space for a bench," she explains. "Arrange your furniture to capture the best views. Even the sunset can be a focal point."

Ready to get started? Find beautiful outdoor decorating ideas in the Home Inspirations Gallery. Save your favorite outdoor room photos to your own personal folder or email them to a friend!

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