Turn your outdoor space into a comfy retreat

Kerrie Kelly held a string of get-togethers at her home on a recent weekend, but she entertained friends and neighbors in her outdoor rooms — as in her side patio, her driveway and her backyard.

She gathered them around a communal table, under bistro lights and around a fireplace. On the fence hung a sign that said “friendship.”

She brought the intimacy of her home into the open air.

These days, with the popularity of performance fabrics, woods and finishes, Kelly, an interior designer based in Sacramento, says “anything you have indoors is now spilling outdoors.”

She says the staying power of “staycations,” or taking vacations at home instead of traveling elsewhere, has cultivated a desire for people to bring resort-like aesthetics and comfort into their outdoor spaces.

Edyta Czajkowska, owner of design firm Edyta & Co. in suburban Chicago, says the options in outdoor furniture have exploded.

“Outdoor furniture has come a long way, and I think it's just so interesting how some of the outdoor furniture nowadays looks just as good as the indoor furniture,” Czajkowska says. “You can create a beautiful outdoor space.”

A paramount example of indoor-type furniture coming outdoors has been the advent of beds and daybeds under the open skies.

“It's almost like we're taking our whole house outside, right?” says Joanne Kamppinen, senior director and divisional merchandise manager over outdoor and pets for, an online furniture store based in Omaha, Nebraska.

She adds that being outdoors is “all about comfort,” and daybeds allow people to sprawl out.

They also add a different aesthetic to the backyard.

With outdoor beds, “you have almost this Bohemian look or something super sleek that provides a range of styles,” says Kelly, owner of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.

The beds often come with canopies that provide shade or intimacy for smaller or one-on-one conversations. Kamppinen adds umbrellas also have started coming in 11-foot sizing for more extensive shade.

Seating with silhouettes and shapes that stay lower to the ground have also risen in popularity, Czajkowska says.

She points, for instance, to the Ibiza Lounge Chair sold by Restoration Hardware that's essentially an elegant take on a beanbag, curving up without a solid aluminum or wood frame.

Kamppinen says sectionals are as popular as ever, but especially the kind that can be easily configured and adapted to a variety of seating situations.

A sectional set called the Belham Living Monticello on, for example, comes with ottomans that can be arranged as stools around an all-weather wicker table or that can be used as side tables.

Sectionals with frames made of resin wicker, she says, are especially easy to clean; other structural materials, like cast aluminum and woods like teak, eucalyptus and acacia also hold up well to weathering.

This is particularly important to surface elements like tables, which Kelly says have become more communal in outdoor yards, mimicking a trend in restaurants because of their versatility and practicality.

“There are so many things that we can do in that larger communal table,” Kelly says.

“Kids can have their iPads on one side, parents can have their wine on the other, a person can be on an end reading a newspaper, but we're all together in a type of way.”

She points to tables with integrated benches that serve sleek takes on traditional picnic tables.

“To have everyone together regardless of what the activity is, I think that table really allows for that.”

Coffee tables with built-in fire pits in the center also encourage togetherness, Czajkowska says. Those tables bring in the intimacy and elegance of a flame while still allowing surfaces for drinks and food.

“For ambience, (fire pits) set the mood for outdoor entertaining,” Kamppinen says.

In addition to the natural light from a fire, think about illuminating an area by hanging lanterns around outdoor spaces. Kamppinen says lights often also come in sets of three different heights for variance.

Czajkowska points to battery-powered lighting that can sit on the ground, as well as lamps that come in shapes like cubes or globes.

“You can have them scattered throughout the patio or pool area, and it adds a really beautiful ambience,” she says. “It's not really harsh, and it gives you a glow.”

Use an umbrella large enough to shield all guest around the table from the sun. courtesy of Hayneedle
When setting up outdoor seating, arrange the same conversational setups employed in dining and living rooms. courtesy of Hayneedle
Outdoor patterned throw pillows are on-trend and provide added comfort and seating options. courtesy of Hayneedle
When setting up outdoor seating, arrange the same conversational setups employed in dining and living rooms. courtesy of Hayneedle
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