It’s barbecue season! That means it’s time to beautify your back patio and garden in preparation for leisurely al fresco dining and entertaining. Since I have such a meticulously maintained and aesthetically perfect back yard (insert cackling from friends who have been there or look of disgust from fastidious neighbors), I can give you the tips you need to make your dream outdoor space a reality… Okay, the description of my back yard isn’t entirely accurate. It’s not meticulously maintained and aesthetically perfect, but the part about having a back yard is totally true.
Luckily I happen to know a couple of design gurus in New York who create Better Homes and Gardens worthy environments for a living. I—with withering weeds and weathered patio furniture—need their help in a big way, and they have kindly agreed to share their insider tips on making outdoor spaces fabulous. I suspect even those of you with the greenest thumbs and most primped patios will pick up some great tips here.
I turned to New York interior designer Audi Martel of Space Outfit to get the scoop on how she created her oasis in the woods at her Upstate New York cabin. According to my kids, it’s the coolest place they’ve ever been (they have good taste). It feels like an exclusive boutique B&B with a rustic opulence you see in travel magazines. But some of her outdoor decor comes cheaper than any discerning guest might guess.
1. The Best Deals on Plants
“Plants and trees are very expensive, but they are so important to beautifying any space, indoor and out,” says Audi. “My favorite thing to do with garden settings and patios is to save money (for my clients and myself) AND save a life! You can find great discounts in the sale sections of the nurseries at Home Depot or Lowe’s. I will take the hydrangea, peonies, evergreens, or anything that literally has two green leaves left and buy it. Sometimes these plants are as cheap as $1. You’d think you need a green thumb or knack for gardening, but in actuality once you repot these babies in some good soil and water them, they thrive. Often they were just buried in a sea of plants and didn’t get enough attention or water. They seem to be stronger once they take hold because they’ve been through rough times (like humans).”
2. Pots & Lanterns (and free plants!)
If you can’t afford a couple bucks for sale plants, you can also just buy the discounted pots and break off leaves from existing succulents and leave them outside. There is nothing to do after that. Full sun and Mother Nature does the maintenance from there. Though they do love well drained rocky soil. I’ve actually used gravel before.”
3. Outdoor Furniture That Lasts
“Outdoor furniture is also crazy expensive, and often, in my experience, is not great quality. Don’t get me started on the $10,000 table I bought and sent back twice. L.L.Bean has great sturdy Adirondack chairs for porches, patios, and around the fire for $250-ish. Frontgate also has great quality. I purchased poolside lounge chairs 10 years ago for around $600 for a pair, and they are still in great shape.”
The Angara Grill Table fits in this category, providing a gorgeous patio focal point to decorate around. It’s a table and grill all in one, which eliminates the eyesore issue of your standard backyard bbq. No grill is more stylish than this one. (I also just learned that the grill is designed in sections to make for easy washing—all the parts fit right in the dishwasher!)
Rebecca Spinner, principal designer at Bespoke Styling & Interiors, is brimming with ideas to turn your patio into a cool retreat or the hotspot of your ‘hood. Here are a few easy and irresistible ideas ones that will have your neighbors eyeing your outdoor decor with envy…
4. Palm Fronds and Graphic Stripes
“This season I say glam up your patio and make it totally Dorothy Draper dazzling, like the Beverly
Hills Hotel or Bungalow 8, the club it inspired in NYC (sadly no longer open),” suggests Rebecca. “Mix black and white striped outdoor pillows with green and white palm frond pillows. World Market, Target, and Etsy offer chic and affordable pillows. Add trees to the design scheme—real, or fake, like this silk tree if you don’t want to worry about caring for real ones.
This is the ultimate in glam luxury. Light it with real candles or mini taper tea lights from Target or Candles4less. Make your patio its own destination. A private members only club for you and the special friends you invite, with colorful specialty cocktails to simulate sitting around the pool in Beverly Hills (freeze fruit or juice in large ice cubes or put fresh fruit in the drinks, and always have hors d’oeuvres on hand).”
5. Bohemian Chic Back Patio
“The second look that has my tail in a frenzy and is equally as chic but much more bohemian and eclectic is the boho hippie patio with draperies, lanterns, hammocks, pillows, and floor cushions—arranged to create cheery nooks to lounge and relax in while sipping your cocktails. Make it trendy and comfortable and your friends will never want to leave! Collect pillows and cushions from pricier spots like Lulu & Georgia or Abc Carpet and Home or find deals at World Market, Home Goods, or Target. Color is everything. It’s summer! Have fun and go all out! Start with a Pinterest page of your ideas and make them a reality!”
6. Fairy Lights
“Always have fairy lights; this is just a necessity for creating the perfect cozy patio oasis. You can find tons of well-priced options at World Market. Try stringing the lights across the top of the area in thin strands, rather than along the walls or fence.”