Tips for Decorating an Outdoor Living Space

outdoor patio makeoverWhen we first moved into this house last year, our inspector said we would definitely want to refinish or replace the deck soon. I didn’t even want to think about the deck, though, because there was so much to do inside! But when Article reached out to me to see if I was working on any outdoor projects this summer, I thought … hmmm … I could be! We’re really happy with the Article sofa that we used in our study makeover, so I knew we’d love their new outdoor furniture too.

Little did I know that a “simple” patio refinishing would turn into an entire overhaul of our outdoor space, giving me a brand new living space perfect for entertaining! All of our hard work seriously paid off, and the new furnishings and decorations truly are the cherry on top of our patio project.

This post is technically the “grand reveal” of our patio makeover project, but I wanted to specifically talk about how to decorate an outdoor space so that it truly feels like an extension of your home. Even if you start with something that looks like this unassuming patio below!

outdoor patio makeoverTo recap, we pulled off the old lattice fencing, refinished the deck flooring, added a new slat wood privacy fence, and topped it off with a slat wood pergola. Obviously, the structural changes made a huge impact, as you can see below, but it was really all of the decorative accessories that made the patio feel cozy and welcoming.

outdoor living space before adding accessoriesBefore Decorating

I began by selecting furnishings from Article’s outdoor collection. I wanted to keep things relatively low contrast so the space felt serene and let the great outdoors take center stage. So I chose the Calo sofa and chair in gray tones that also tied in with the fire pit I had purchased. The Medan lounge chairs add the casual beachy vibe of rattan, but with the durability of metal and synthetic wicker. I love that they’re easy to move around depending on how we’re entertaining out here! For the dining area, I maintained the gray and white color scheme with the Tavola dining table and Sala dining chairs. Article’s wood Tana stools bring a different wood tone into the arrangement and they’re the perfect size for holding snacks and drinks.

outdoor living space after adding accessoriesAfter Decorating

All of the furnishings felt cohesive and stylish in our new patio, but left as they were, the space felt dull and lifeless. I strategized how to best allocate my decorating budget towards items that would pack a big cozy punch, and came up with a few basic decorative techniques. I’m really happy with how the space was even further transformed with some decorative accessories!

Here’s one more before and after for those in the back:

outdoor dining space beforeoutdoor dining space afterOutdoor Decorating Ideas

1. Outdoor Area Rug
Just like indoor rugs, outdoor rugs are helpful tools for visually grounding a seating area and giving furnishings a greater context. They provide a soft place for bare feet to rest, and definitely elevate the cozy vibes. But unlike indoor rugs, outdoor rugs are designed to withstand heavy foot traffic and weather. I use a broom to keep my outdoor rug clean, and from time to time hose it off if it gets muddy. I chose a dark color to ground the lighter furnishings and accessories, but also to hide dirt and debris.

outdoor accessories2. Outdoor Pillows
Pillows can add to the comfort of your seating areas, but also make the space look just as cozy as the living area inside your home. Outdoor pillows are usually filled with lightweight polyester stuffing and should be made from weather resilient fabric. Weather resilient doesn’t mean waterproof, but rather that they won’t fade as badly in the sun and will resist the retention of water, which would lead to mildew. My pillows do get a bit wet in the rain, but they dry super quickly! Some people choose to utilize deck boxes or storage benches to store pillows when not in use.

3. Outdoor Lighting
I transformed an indoor pendant light into an outdoor light (more on that in a later post!), but there are plenty of options that are outdoor ready, like this weatherproof basket-style pendant light from Article. Make sure to pay attention to whether or not an outdoor light needs hardwired. It’s not impossible to run a conduit to your outdoor area if you have some kind of rod or beams overhead, but I chose to use a plug-in option because this project was already complicated enough without electrical work.

String lights are obviously a popular choice for outdoor areas, because they can be draped so easily and simply plug into outlets. I also noticed there are a lot of nice solar-powered light options on the market now too! Some are string lights, some pendants, while others are low or tall torch-style lights. Regardless of what type of light you feel is right for your space, lighting of any kind will add excellent atmosphere (plus visibility!) when the sun begins to set.

outdoor accessories4. Outdoor Curtains
At first, I thought outdoor curtains were a bit over-the-top. But when I looked at the long expanse of slats on our patio fence, I knew a curtain would be the perfect way to visually break it up! I’m so glad I went for it, because these curtains add a new level of sophistication—as though I reserved my own beach cabana for the day. (Minus the beach, that is. Minor detail.)

For the curtain rod, I purchased an extra long galvanized pipe from a local builder supply store. Most hardware stores only sell up to 10-feet long pipes, but I needed 14 feet to space the width of the porch. A 20-foot length cost about $70. Not cheap, but I wanted to avoid needing a middle support for the pipe. This way, I can easily pull both curtains to one side for optimal shade from the sun. The rod is secured with a basic closet rod support.

Make sure you buy curtains that are specifically intended for outdoor use, or mildew will become an issue. I tie back my curtains when not in use with a simple rope tie-back. When the weather turns too chilly to use this space, I’ll bring the curtains and rod inside for the winter.

5. Wall-Mounted Planters
Since I didn’t have any outdoor-friendly art I wanted to use out here, I decided to utilize plants for vertical interest in the space. These planters are specifically made for wall mounting. They have mounting holes on the back, so I just used screws and nuts to hang them on my fence. I chose Silver Falls to fill my containers because they look so lovely and light as they spill down from the planter.

outdoor accessories6. Tabletop Decor
Table runners aren’t just for indoors! Adding this woven-reed runner is my favorite way to make outdoor dining feel more special. I don’t leave it out all of the time, but I’ll put out the runner and candles to make the space feel more special when we’re out there. Terrariums and planters are also great items you can leave out on your table all the time.

7. Potted Plants
Tall plants help visually fill the space around the furniture, especially in corners and surrounding doorways. I chose to use tropical plants out here and have a bright sunroom where they will winter. I’ve learned that there are some evergreens that are hardy enough to survive in pots during an Ohio winter, but I was too nervous to try that this year! I do love the idea of using large box planters and tall evergreens to serve as divisions between spaces. Maybe that will be next summer’s project?

after adding outdoor accessories8. Fire Pits
Rather than using an outdoor coffee table, we decided to buy a propane fire pit. We’ve been enjoying using it for s’mores so far, and soon I think it will really enhance the ambience of fall evenings out here! You can also buy mini propane and lava rock bowls for setting on coffee or dining tables. If you don’t have space for a large one like mine, you can buy taller side-table style fire pits too!

9. Umbrella and Awnings
Obviously, shade is welcome in the summertime! But umbrellas and awnings also add another decorative layer to an outdoor area. I had considered using a retractable awning for the seating area of our patio, but the nice ones are so expensive! I settled on a tilting freestanding umbrella that I can move around depending on the sun’s location. Shade sails are a great idea too! You need spots to anchor the corners of the sail, but the shade they offer is really nice. I just love the charm of an umbrella, though!

outdoor dining areaI keep pinching myself every time I look through the door and see this cheerful space! Truly, I love our outdoor dining space much more than our indoor dining area now. I want to host all of the parties and do all of my work from the serenity of this table. It will be a sad day when winter comes.

outdoor living space after adding accessoriesI’m so grateful to Article for making it possible for me to create my dream outdoor living area. I hope our patio makeover has inspired you and shown you ways to give your own outdoor space some love! While it’s already August, now is the best time to get out there and buy outdoor items on sale! Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be sure to follow up in the comments below. – Mandi

Credits//Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • What an interesting design idea. It is perfect if you have really big lounge zone, but I think, it won’t be a great problem to make something similar, even if you are living in the small flat. My first flat was on the top of the building, and it was really small, but I created really nice place for relax and meditation, and of course it was really comfortable as for me.

    • My first apartment was a basement apartment with a tiny walk-out porch area that was sunken into the ground. It was definitely not spacious, but still fun to make it feel like a special little oasis! 🙂

  • I love the slat privacy fence! It still feels so airy and bright, which is wonderful. I am trying to find ways to add some privacy to my tiny apartment balcony, and this could work.

  • Mandi, your house is beautiful. Your ability to transform a run-of-the-mill space into a dream-space is a natural talent that I personally lack. I don’t know how you do it, but every time you rehab a room, you do not disappoint! Congrats on another job well-done. I hope you have many wonderful moments spent on your new patio. xo

  • I’m curious – how will you store these items for the winter? I have a large balcony on my apartment, but not a lot of storage inside so we have to leave our furniture outside through the long Canadian winters! So far we’ve just covered them with a tarp, but it never quite makes it through the whole winter without ripping, and it’s always a huge mess to clean up in the spring. Thanks!

    • I have folding furniture (bistro table and chairs) on my NYC balcony. I feel you on the lack of indoor storage space. In the winter, I fold the furniture and lean it against the building wall and that seems to work okay. I bring in my planters or keep them outside in empty and in garbage bags. Mandi, you’re an inspiration!

    • While our winters aren’t quite Canadian-level, I live just south of Lake Erie, so we get it pretty bad here too. I’m fortunately to have a spacious basement where I plan to store my metal outdoor chairs (the ones that are white and look like rattan), but I need to purchase weather-proof covers for the sofa, lounge chair, and dining table. Fortunately the material of the sofa and chair is plastic, so it will be easy to clean and won’t wear like a natural material. But I think the covers should do the trick! My brother hasn’t covered his outdoor furniture which is similar to mine, and the colors of the cushions are quite faded.

      • Hi, instead of expensive furniture covers I bet you could make some out of tarps & save $$$. Do you sew?

  • This looks quite amazing. Maybe I will take inspiration and do mine likewise. Mine is almost like your before right now and it is blocking an amazing view that I have. Where did you but the slats?

    • I haven’t had a problem yet! The curtains are washable as well as the cushion covers. And everything is plastic and coated metal, so they’ll stand up to washing quite well.

  • I would love to keep up with your ideas but I need a website that I can see on a regular basis. I am at wit’s end trying to figure out a solution to my screened in porch. I live in Florida and the rain and wind constantly causes the wood porch to flood. I need cost-saving solution to adding outside window treatments that do not require me to get on a ladder to secure them. Any help you have would be appreciated hope to hear from you. Barbara holm.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by window treatments. Curtains? Shutters? And by securing, do you mean installing them, or tying them back when not in use? What is the purpose you’d like your window treatments to fulfill.

  • I’ve found that adding some funky homemade art to accent all the clean and minimalist style furniture really makes an outdoor space beautiful. I’m working on a mushroom made with dollar tree supplies right now that is super cute, lol!

    I am trying to go for a white-themed look for my yard, though! It looks great with all the pops of color in my garden.

  • Hi Mandy,
    What a beautiful backyard patio!
    Did you have to try a lot of different curtains to get the right ones?
    Where are your curtains from?
    Thank you, Lisa, in Roseville California

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