The line between indoors and outdoors continues to blur as the desire to enjoy outdoor spaces furnished with interior comforts becomes the norm. Driven by the need for peaceful respites to balance stressful lives, people are consciously carving out more time and creating sophisticated spaces for enjoying outdoor settings with family and friends.
The yearning to entertain year-round -- in every region of the country -- fuels the momentum to develop outdoor "rooms" that provide comfort and style for as long as the seasons will allow.
Manufacturers have addressed this growing trend by offering lighting, furnishings and fabrics that can be used both inside and out, with a new level of refinement that provides a graceful transition between living spaces. Comfort and the desire for low-maintenance options also are important considerations behind these design evolutions.
We can look at an outdoor room as similar to an indoor room, but with walls formed by trees, hedges or fences connecting to the home's exterior walls. Outdoor "flooring," in the most basic sense, can be as simple as grass, pebbles, or stepping-stones, or as elaborate as a well-designed multilevel deck or slate tiles installed on a concrete pad. Ceilings may be outlined by tree limbs, pergolas, retractable awnings or permanent roof structures.
A wonderful retreat can be created regardless of space or budget. Think about the people who will gather there, their comfort, and the mood you want to create. Consider how the outdoor area will be used. For example, regular dining furniture groups will seat a crowd, low-seating conversation groups are ideal for casual gatherings, and elevated dining and bar groups make the most of a view.
Because of the growing popularity of outdoor rooms, the selection of outdoor furniture is considerable. Look for comfortable chairs and sofas with stylish, stain- and mildew-resistant fabrics. For coffee tables and end tables, materials are important, as glass-topped tables are joined by those with tumbled marble, tile, stone, slate, and metal--the choices are endless.
Lighting is also key element for outdoor use. Developing a more detailed lighting plan for your outside environment can create ambience and increase functionality. Executing that plan is easy with the many choices available today: general lighting and ceiling fans, accent fixtures to highlight greenery and architectural elements, specialty lighting to provide safety along pathways, and even portable lamps made just for outdoor use.
Elements that stimulate the senses, such as water and fire, are natural components of an outdoor retreat. Think heaters, spas, water gardens and meditation areas.
Remember that beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder; surround yourself with furnishings and outdoor elements that make for a pleasing and functional gathering place, and you will have create the perfect outdoor room for your needs.
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