Home & Garden

Create Your Summer Oasis


By Janet Armstrong, Accredited Interior Designer, CAPS Certified

I bet you’re as excited as I am about longer days and warmer temperatures. The beautiful weather makes us all want to maximize our time outside, enjoying the sunshine and heat. As you gravitate to the outdoors, does your exterior space inspire you or does it need an update? No matter its size, you can create a calm, comfortable place to relax.

When planning your summer oasis, consider that outdoor spaces are an extension of your indoor spaces and a reflection of your personal style. First, evaluate whether you have the room, need or desire for a single or multiple zones for gathering, cooking, dining and lounging with family and friends. Multiple rooms can be separated with the use of plants and shrubbery or structures such as lattice, railings or a pergola. If you have one space available, delineate zones by groupings of furniture and accessories so it is clear what the function of each zone is.

Who Is Using the Space?

Once you have determined whether you will have one or more rooms, consider who will be using the space. If those enjoying the space include children, consider low-maintenance materials and finishes for less stress and easy maintenance. If there are more ‘mature’ people using the space, consider the height of seating for ease of sitting and rising. The number of people using the space will help you determine the amount of seating, such as sofas, chairs and benches. It will also assist in determining the size and shape of your outdoor dining table as well as the number of chairs required to accommodate those dining al fresco with you.

Decorating the Space

This is where the fun begins. Whether you are redoing your outdoor space or just want a refresh, there is a wide range of outdoor furnishings from which to choose. The selection of materials includes wicker (natural and manmade), wood and plastic (that actually looks very natural), and there are also multiple colours. This breadth of choices enables you to customize furnishings to fit the vibe you want and to reflect your interior colour palette as well.

Along with the key pieces of furniture, include occasional tables to provide surface area to set books and beverages. Outdoor ottomans are perfect additions to these spaces. Not only do they provide additional seating, they do double-duty as side tables. I am a big fan of the ceramic ones as they come in a range of colours and patterns, adding depth and texture.

Outdoor pillows, cushions, umbrellas and area rugs are available in durable, fade- and mildew-resistant materials, ensuring your outdoor spaces are comfortable, stylish and long-lasting.

In terms of outdoor dinnerware, melamine is the perfect option. The patterns, colours and textures of today’s melamine pieces are impressive, including accessory pieces such as trays, platters and bowls. The broad selection allows you to pull together your own look by combining different colours and coordinating patterns for a truly fun, informal dining experience.

Likewise, drink ware has evolved beyond plastic and is available in shatter-proof materials and a wide range of colours and textures. There are many styles, making it easy to have a glass for every type of beverage you might serve. Beverage accessories such as dispensers and tubs make self-serve stylish and practical, so entertaining is more relaxed.

For the finishing touch, add in accessories such as lanterns, candles, lights and artwork to make your outdoor spaces cozy, comfortable and festive, whether you’re relaxing during the day or entertaining after the sun has set. Plants add a soft, cooling effect to spaces, and a mix of succulents, broadleaves and ferns of varying heights provides visual interest. Taller plants are perfect fillers for empty corners too and can provide definition between zones.

Creating outdoor rooms and can be a fun, inspiring way to make the most of available space and to show your summer style. Once you have crafted your outdoor oasis, relax and enjoy it whether you are spending a quiet afternoon alone or entertaining family and friends.

Janet Armstrong (www.simplyswankdecor.ca) is a graduate of the Interior Design Institute of Canada, CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist), Chair of the Decorators and Designers Association of Canada (DDA Canada) and Board member of LivABLE Design.