It’s one thing to go through the seasonal ritual of setting up your outdoor space. It’s another to create one that you and others simply love being in.
Each year provides a new opportunity to plan a flower bed off the patio, add an updated feature such as deck lighting or pick up a new piece or two for the front porch. Preferably, on sale.
You don’t need a lot of space. Even a patio off a condo or apartment can be transformed into a small retreat to enjoy.
Here are 10 things we love about outdoor spaces:
• A spot for breakfast: Whether you head to a porch, patio, deck or lawn, the early hours of the day are a splendid time to enjoy a cup of coffee and light breakfast outdoors. Even better? Weekend breakfast or brunch served on the grill. Invite your relatives, close friends or tennis pals. Find some recipes for grilled breakfast pizzas, eggs and sausage, fruit kabobs, etc. Or make something up. Breakfast on the grill can be a nice change from late-afternoon cookouts – and cooler, too.
• Outdoor retreats: Western New Yorkers have a real knack for creating outdoor hangouts. These offer varying degrees of privacy, protection from the elements, ambience and accoutrements, but they all get people out of the den. Many people have porches or decks, but we also see gazebos, umbrellas, tents and canopies – both modest and grand. And – this is so very WNY – many screened-in garages, especially in the suburbs.
• Window boxes: Window boxes – whether simple or lush – are full of charm when full of thriving plants. They make the front of the house look so friendly and welcoming, but why stop there? You can hang one at the window of a garage or shed, or install several on the deck railing or along a fence. Just be sure you choose the right foliage and flowers for the spot and good potting soil, and promise yourself you’ll keep them watered and cared for according to tags. Then prepare yourself for compliments.
• Something else we love: Shots of lime green, such as that you will find in a sweet potato vine. It looks smashing in a patio container with pink, red or purple flowers.
• A little whimsy: From playful garden statuary to colorful flower pots, light touches keep things from getting too serious in the landscape. You don’t want to overdo it but, come on, who can’t find a perfect spot for a quirky bird sculpture or metal frog peering through a pair of binoculars?
• Movable furniture: While much of today’s outdoor furniture is heavy and sturdy enough not to blow all over the place – a good thing – it’s nice to have several pieces that are movable and versatile. A bench or outdoor ottoman that can do double-duty as a seat or side table, perhaps. Or stackable chairs that can be pulled out to the front yard for a spontaneous neighborhood get-together.
• Water works: We’ve all seen koi ponds and waterfalls installed in gardens, and they are lovely. But even the sound of trickling water coming from a small, free-standing outdoor fountain near the patio can be soothing. So can the sound of rain on an awning, if we take the time to sit and listen.
• Illumination: Outdoor lighting comes in different forms and for different purposes, and several upcoming local gardens walks and tours will include evening hours for viewing select illuminated gardens. Some lighting is useful, installed for function and safety. Other creates ambience or, in the case of novelty string lights, a sense of fun. Flameless candles are something to look into as well. Done well, outdoor lighting will keep you awake past your normal bedtime because you simply won’t want to go inside.
• Lawn games: Maybe we’ve been flipping through the pages of the L.L. Bean Home summer catalog too much, but a lawn set up with a classic game such as croquet or tournament bocce makes us want to play. Volleyball, Ladderball, KanJam and other fun games motivate us to set down the cold beverage and get out there, too.
• A garden bench: A perfectly placed garden bench that has been passed down through the generations is special, but many options are available today for those looking to add a little serenity to a spot in the garden. There’s often a sculptural quality to a garden bench that is pleasing to the eye. Here’s the other thing: It’s often comfortable, but it doesn’t have to be the most comfortable seat in the yard. One garden writer once described a garden bench as “a pleasant place to pause.”
And who doesn’t want to do some of that this summer?