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    Here Comes the Sun

    Now that it’s officially summer in the Pacific Northwest, we decided it was time to do a post about outdoor spaces, especially since many of us have started to spend more of our free time on a porch, patio or in a garden. While these spaces are outdoors and must be weather-proofed, there are opportunities to create, buy or design elements that make outdoor spaces feel more like indoor rooms. By incorporating coverings, fireplaces, kitchen counters and sinks, cooking surfaces, seating, tables, lighting and even walls we can make outdoor spaces more comfortable for us, our families or our guests. Whether you are interested in entertaining this summer, relaxing in your garden or just want to mix things up in your backyard, here are some great ideas for exterior elements that create great outdoor-interior spaces:

    1. S’mores anyone? Using a built-in or moveable fireplace or fire pit as a focal point and gathering space on the patio or in the yard is perfect for entertaining guests or relaxing. There is a range of options from wood to gas-powered and if covered, they can also be used year round in colder climates. (image from

    2. While built in benches and patio seating is always a great option, for those who don’t want to spend as much or who may be moving at some point, there are many companies, like TOSH who are making a variety of outdoor chairs, sofas and stools in a variety of styles (both modern and traditional) to suite a range of needs. Outdoor upholstery is also becoming more available in a wider range of colors and patterns to suite different tastes – allowing for endless opportunities to personalize outdoor spaces with weather-safe furniture that can be rearranged or moved as desired. There are also many local woods which can be finished to withstand rot and mold and many options for wire-framed seating. (images from and

    3. One of the most obvious ways to highlight or create an outdoor space is to create a covering or by placing paving stones that mark different zones. A simple covering can be a trellis-like structure (for growing plants or hanging lights) or made of fabric or canvas (which can be taken down or folded when not in use in the winter). Trellis or arbor structures can be attached to a house or can be free standing and placed anywhere in a yard. Paving stones are a very easy way to create a special space and can be placed in different patterns and come in a variety of sizes and colors. Stones can be combined with step-able plants to further highlight the patterns and designs created. (images from and

    4. Another simple change to outdoor spaces can be done through the addition of lighting. To create variety and hierarchy, different lighting can be used to highlight different zones – for example, larger hanging lanterns can be mounted or hung over places for sitting or talking, smaller string lights or ground lighting can be used to highlight paths and bright barn lights can be used in covered spaces closer to the house. (images from

    5. One of the best uses of a patio is connecting it to an indoor space by installing doors or windows that slide, rotate or fold, and thus open up the exterior wall and make a strong indoor-outdoor connection. When the weather is nice an indoor dining room or living room can expand outside, giving more flexible options for entertaining and relaxing. (images from

    6. An outdoor kitchen, oven or bar can be a bit more costly addition, but for those who live in mostly sunny climates or who love to grill out or entertain, an outdoor kitchen or bar can be a great addition to a backyard or patio space. Kitchen and bar elements can be uncovered or covered, or even housed inside smaller shed-like spaces. Food or drink preparation to happen outside, next to the cooking surface, and thus increases ease of cooking and conversation. (images from and

    7. If putting in a kitchen or bar isn’t in the budget, just providing an outdoor dining space can do the trick: tents and lighter, tarp-like structures can be used for cover, hanging lanterns or string lights, and country-inspired furniture and table settings can completely transform an outdoor space; creating an additional place for morning coffee, lunch or even a dinner party. Even a picnic table, placed correctly with other outdoor elements, can completely transform a backyard space into a dining room. (images from

    8. Finally, potted or hanging plants can also help transform a larger outdoor yard into a series of rooms – reed-like potted plants and stacking planters can create walls, while vertical trellises and vine-growing plantings can create curtain-like elements. Potted plants and raised beds can be used to define smaller spaces and carve out sitting areas. Step-ables can be planted in patterns to create an outdoor rug or carpet and hanging air plants can mimic pendant lights. There are also many designs for seating and tables (both reclaimed and new) that incorporate plantings into the piece. (images from, and