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MAY 09 2018

Outside Is the New Inside, and 7 More of the Year's Biggest Outdoor Design Trends




Outside Is the New Inside, and 7 More of the Year's Biggest Outdoor Design Trends

By Holly Amaya | May 9, 2018



The days are getting deliciously longer, temperatures are climbing, and the backyard barbecue invites are just pouring in. The seasons, they are a-changin'—and as we swing into summer, there's no better time to give your outdoor space a boost.

"This year it's really about making your outdoor space function like an interior space for all things fun, lounging, and entertaining," says San Diego interior designer Gretchen Kennelly.

Read on for designers' top tips to harness the year's hottest design trends and really maximize your pad's outdoor potential.


1. Outdoor 'rooms'


Photo by Shuler Architecture 

Now more than ever, designers say, homeowners want their indoor spaces to blend seamlessly with the great outdoors.

Your main goal is to find ways to bring the inside out: Frame sitting areas with water- and mildew-resistant curtains. Anchor furniture with outdoor rugs. And fill tall planters with low-maintenance ornamental grasses to create the illusion of walled space.

If you have a covered deck or patio, consider covering the ceiling in raw, untreated wood planks to warm things up. And mount wall sconces to add mood lighting for those late-evening glasses of rosé.

Kennelly also likes to place large daybed pieces in an outdoor space and position cabanas over them for shade.

"This creates a great place to retreat and lounge with a glass of wine at the end of a long day," she says.

And if space (or your budget) is tight, try this trick from designer Christina Harmon: Grab a rope hammock on Amazon, decorate it with outdoor pillows and a pretty throw, and "voilà—it's an automatic pop-up outdoor area for under $300," she says.

2. Innovative new fabrics


Photo by Sofas by Design

For years, Sunbrella's been the Old Faithful of outdoor fabrics; you can do pretty much anything to it and it bounces right back.

But there are a lot of other great options out there, Harmon points out. She likes polyester terrycloth, which "looks like a towel, but is totally made to be used outdoors."

Other great alternatives we love include indoor-outdoor wovens from California designer Peter Dunham and performance velvet (yep, you read that correctly) from Chicago-based Holly Hunt.

We've "reached a new level this season with outdoor furniture that looks and feels just like indoor furniture," says Deborah Holt, a marketing manager with Sunnyland Outdoor Furniture in Dallas.

Don't want to spring for new furniture? Check out Neverwet, which comes in a spray can and creates a moisture-repelling barrier on a variety of surfaces, including canvas.

"This product is incredible at water-coating virtually any fabric," Harmon says.

3. True-blue (and green) hues


Photo by Johnson Design Inc.

Deep blues and greens are the name of the game this season. From cushions to umbrellas to tiles and everything in between, expect to see lots of lush, rich Côte d'Azur-inspired hues.

"This year, it's all about outdoor spaces that feel luxurious rather than cheesy," Harmon says. "Think lots of neutrals coupled with gorgeous, jewel-toned greens and furniture and accessories that create a truly indoor-outdoor vibe."

4. Concrete


Photo by David Hertz & Studio of Environmental Architecture

Concrete is having a major design moment—it's cheap, durable, and easy to stain or stamp with funky colors or patterns. This year, designers predict the cool composite will be everywhere inside and out—from benches and tables to planters and fire pits.

"The cool factor of concrete works well in many settings, regardless of the age or aesthetic of the home," says South Carolina designer Leigh Meadows-McAlpin, who's particularly fond of the concrete pieces in Mr. Brown Home's outdoor collection.

5. Alternative flooring options


Photo by Finch London 

Outdoor rugs have been a mainstay of exterior design for years, but a new crop of budget-conscious flooring alternatives has emerged to shake things up this season.

For example, porcelain is becoming a new favorite because it's durable, simple to install, and mirrors indoor trends—making it easy to provide visual continuity between inside and outside.

"Porcelain pavers can create this beautiful transition without creating a huge divide between the two living spaces," says Joe Raboine, national design and training specialist with Belgard.

Harmon also loves Ikea's beechwood deck tiles, which she's used in her own backyard to dress up her space on the cheap.

"These tiles are workhorses," she says. "They take 10 minutes max to install, are well-priced, and are of great quality. They're a really inexpensive way to freshen up your patio or balcony without spending a lot of money."

6. Vertical gardens


Photo by Carolina Katz + Paula Nuñez

"With outdoor space under an all-time demand, homeowners are getting creative to use the space they have," Raboine says.

Enter: Vertical gardening, which maximizes available space and affords even small-space dwellers the ability to grow their own herbs and veggies at home.

Add elegance by installing vertical structures such as arbors, arches, pergolas, and gazebos. They'll "help create the ambience of an outdoor garden ‘room' and give a sense of height and depth to an otherwise small space," Raboine says.

7. Bold lighting concepts


Photo by Mondo Exclusive Homes - Look for patio pictures

Have a flair for the dramatic? Extend it to your outdoor lighting to kick up your space's cool factor.

"This year is the time to brighten up the exterior of your home in unexpected ways," says Michael Amato, creative director at the Urban Electric Co.

"If you have an all-white painted brick or stucco home, adding lighting in a fun color like blue with gold hardware creates interest," he suggests. "If your house is already painted a fun color, lighting presents a great opportunity to work in a contrasting color for a striking statement."

8. 'Sling' furniture


Photo by Pioneer Family Pools

The watchword this season for outdoor duds? "Sling."

Even if you've never heard the term, you've most definitely seen sling furniture. This stuff is made of durable, woven materials and doesn't require frills such as upholstery and cushions—which can be challenging to clean and store away in the winter. It's sleek, streamlined, and easy to maintain.

Sling furniture is "strong, comfortable, and wears well in the sun," says Tina Anastasia, a partner at Mark P. Finlay Interiors.

Bonus: "It's come a long way with the technology in the weaving," she says. "It can be bleach-cleaned, is easy to rinse off, and it dries much quicker than cushions."


Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues. Follow @hollyamaya

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