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Patio Prep — A Designer’s Guide


When you have an inviting outdoor space, you’ll find yourself making any excuse to move everything there, from holiday meals to casual hang time with friends. But how do you create such a space? Michelle Sturgis, owner and principal designer of Slate Studio, recommends treating your patio just as you would any room inside your house. “Make sure all the comforts of indoor living translate outdoors,” she advises. “You’ll double your space!” Here are some of Sturgis’s top tips for making yours the place to be this season.

1) Resist the urge to match everything.

Those 12-piece furniture sets at a discount might be tempting, but it’s much more eye-catching to curate various complementary pieces. Have fun by mixing and matching different textures, like a concrete coffee table with teak furniture, or rattan side tables to accent a fabric couch. Consider including existing furniture or antique-store finds as part of the collage — but you’ll want to be sure the older items don’t look worn out. For instance, for any wooden outdoor pieces, you can use Furniture Clinic’s Garden Furniture Restoration Kit, a recent Good Housekeeping Seal recipient, to keep them well-maintained throughout the season.

Furniture Clinic Garden Furniture Restoration Kit

Furniture Clinic Garden Furniture Restoration Kit

around the fire pit

Kate Stoupas//Getty Images

2) Level out your lighting.

Give your space a glow-up by thinking about it from three perspectives: low, middle and high. Ways to introduce light at ground level include low-voltage LEDs on step risers, solar lights to adorn a pathway and floor lanterns with battery-operated candles. For mid-level lighting, think about your tabletop space and the area surrounding it. Opt for a table with a built-in fire pit, spring for some pretty candelabras or pick colorful centerpiece-style lanterns. Incorporate uplighting around your landscaping for an eye-level effect. And while string lights are one of the most popular ways to add high-level lighting, other fun options include rattan drop pendants, or chandeliers if you have a pergola.

3) Create texture with outdoor fabrics.

The more layers you have, the more comfortable your vibe will be. Consider hanging curtains in a pergola or covered patio to add privacy and softness. Outdoor rugs can go a long way toward creating a cozy atmosphere. And mix and match floor poufs, pillows and blankets for a warm, casual feel. If your outdoor fabrics ever start looking worse for wear, spruce them up with Furniture Clinic’s FabriCoat, which lets you restore them to their original tone or even alter their shade. Go a step further and help your fabric resist spots and stains with Furniture Clinic’s Carpet & Upholstery Protector.

FabriCoat Fabric Paint

FabriCoat Fabric Paint

cozy terrace with bamboo furniture

asbe//Getty Images

4) Be strategic with color.

Even fabrics designed for the outdoors will eventually fade with constant exposure to the sun. For longevity’s sake, lighter colors like creams and pale grays are good choices for furniture upholstery — even if they do fade a bit, the color will still look as it should. Save darker colors for items like outdoor rugs, especially if they’re shaded by trees or furniture. And for brighter pops of color, use throw pillows and blankets that can easily be stored away when not in use.

5) Make it user-friendly.

The better-organized your outdoor space is, the more often you’ll use it. So make sure odds and ends like paper towels, spray bottles, compostable utensils and a lighter are always on hand in attractive storage bins. Or, if you’re not one for scattered pieces, consider options like a storage bench that doubles as seating or a beautiful outdoor shelving unit.

sun patio with four deck chairs

hiphunter//Getty Images

6) Don’t forget the sunscreen … for your furniture

A little TLC goes a long way when it comes to outdoor-furniture care. Wooden pieces get hit especially hard by the weather, causing the loss of natural oils, deterioration and warping. But regular use of a high-quality furniture oil, like Furniture Clinic’s Wood Teak Oil, another Good Housekeeping Seal holder, provides UV protection, replaces natural oils and prevents dryness and splitting.

Furniture Clinic Teak Oil

Furniture Clinic Teak Oil

Furniture Clinic Teak Oil


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