Archive for May, 2011

Outdoor Essentials

With the changing of the seasons the time has come for outdoor festivities and grilling for guests! While most of us greet the season with great anticipation it can still be overwhelming when sprucing up your outdoor space. I’ve detailed my list of outdoor essentials in hopes that my checklist might help to ease your backyard burdens this season.

How many of us fall prey to flashy displays and end up with too many outdoor items? Guilty as charged. The first step toward avoiding buyer’s remorse is to remove furniture covers and pull the cushions out of the shed. Assess the damage from winter storage and spring rains and make your plan of attack before heading to the store. Throw out the items beyond repair and note pieces that might benefit from a fresh coat of spray paint. Keep a list of the items you need to purchase with you in your purse or wallet for easy access.

My must haves are the same year to year. My checklist ensures that I don’t forget something and I’m fully prepared for my first shindig. Honestly I couldn’t live without my GRILL. I make a survey of the parts and tools I need before anything else. Sometimes you need to order special parts from the manufacturer and this could take weeks so plan ahead. Gas grills or great if you don’t want the hassle of charcoal but for the diehards I recommend the Big Green Egg.

Next I make sure I’ve got plenty of SEATING for myself and my guests. I have a lounging area near the grill so I can converse with my guests while preparing a meal and a tall bar stool to rest my rump. Then of course I need a table big enough for everyone to eat together. I can’t get enough of teak furniture- holds up to the weather and is built to last. A little pricey, but if you watch there are great deals to be had! Although, I can see wisdom in the philosophy of buying cheap cushioned furniture and replacing it each year.

As an entertainer it becomes an obligation to have items to keep your guests cool and comfortable. I love multi-function items. This rustic COOLER from Cabela’s is the ultimate outdoor indulgence. It functions as a serving table, storage unit, bottle opener, and of course keeps your drinks ice cold. Strategically placed box fans on a low setting help move the air and keep it cool without being so loud to drown out the conversation.

Next, a seemingly obvious item on my list is PLANTS. I can’t tell you how many outdoor spaces I visit that don’t have a speck of life around. Somehow it doesn’t feel like the outdoors to me without plants. Unfortunately I was not given my mother’s green thumb and I find myself repotting nearly half my plants each year. Ensure that you have color and height variance that can tolerate the conditions and sunlight in your area.

Almost there, it’s time to LIGHT the space! Some find that a few strands of Christmas lights fulfill their lighting needs. I prefer the clear globe stands because they somehow remind me of my time in Tuscany. More decorative options are available seasonally at outdoor stores and my all-time favorite: Target. Tiki torches with a little citronella in them are a great way to create atmosphere and keep away unwanted pests.

Now the only thing missing is the ACCESSORIES. I always leave this for last in my budget because you can spend as little or as much as you want here. Never underestimate the power of a welcoming lawn gnome or a whimsical pink flamingo! Colorful pillows and cushions can enliven your space as well as coordinating place mats and tableware. Outdoor rugs invite customers to take off their shoes and get casual while providing comfort from rough concrete patios. However you accessorize just be sure that you don’t get carried away and blow your budget along with all that hard planning!

Check out my other outdoor decorating posts while you’re here. Finally- just be sure to send an invite my way for your next backyard party!


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Not Just For Window Dressings

Draperiesn. coverings, hangings, clothing, etc., of fabric, especially as arranged in loose, graceful folds.

Curtained WallNowhere in this definition is the word “window” utilized! So stop relegating these beautiful fabrics to window openings. Draperies have several uses throughout the home. Whether you are looking to add beauty or function, creative use of draperies can enhance your space with personal flare and style.

Fabric can add a visual depth to any space. Rooms with a monochromatic color scheme most benefit from visual texture but most rooms can successfully integrate fabric hangings into the design. The actual weave of the fabric can also effect the feel of a room. Gauzy linens can be classic or casual while embroidered patterns and silks appear more sophisticated.Velvet Curtain

Whether utilized as a curtained wall or room divider, a carefully placed drapery can help to absorb sounds reflected off hard surfaces. Tile, stone, even gypsum walls and ceilings reflect most of the sound vibrations that hit its surface. Full fabric folds absorb the most sound but straight hanging drapes still help to contain the noise level within a room.

Gauzy Canopy CurtainsDraperies not only create privacy from the outdoors but can also create areas of privacy within the home itself. Canopies or ceiling hung draperies around a bed add elegance and even enchantment for any bedroom. Adding a curtained off “changing area” in a large bedroom can provide privacy for a quick wardrobe change as well as conceal unsightly jewelry, laundry, or shoe storage. Draperies function as a beautiful transition from room to room and provides privacy as necessary, such as between a dining room and a messy kitchen for dinner parties.

Starting a drapery project of your own? We’d love to share your before and after photos here on our blog. Submit your photos to and share your project with our readers!

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Affordable Patio Decor

If you read my last blog on “Taking the Indoors, Out!” you might have started asking yourself, what are some affordable ways to spruce up my outdoor space? It’s your lucky day. I’ve collected a few of my ideas from my project book and tried to hunt down some photos on the web for you. Let me know what you think.

One of my favorite ways to bring life to a patio is with plants. I recommend groupings of plants of all different shapes, colors, and sizes. Single pots tend to look lonely without a partner or other object to keep it company. Those ceramic plant pots can add up fast so for the budget conscious there are several plastic and styrofoam alternatives. These can be quickly dressed up with a can of spray paint to be boldly colorful, metallic, or rustic to match any style.

If you are looking for something a little more unique try finding old cups, glasses, or large bowls in garage sales to put smaller plants in. A cute mismatched teacup set would be a great place to plant herbs to use in your cooking without the major maintenance of a garden. Even old sinks with faucets left on them can be perfect for planting and provide a great conversation piece.

Curtains provide a glamorous look for the outdoors and can also function as necessary privacy screens. Stringing wire or clothesline from trees or patio ceilings provide an efficient “curtain rod.” In areas protected from wind or rain, shower rods make a good place to hang a curtain from as well. Keep in mind you’ll need to wash outdoor curtains about once a month and should be taken down during the harsh winter season.

While seeking out photos for this article, I ran across this cute idea. It’s a simpler technique for bringing whimsy into your outdoor space. Dainty handkerchiefs adorn this clothesline to provide some color and nostalgia into this simple space. The coordinating seat cushions help to unify the space and make it a defined area. Utilizing a few LED Christmas lights intermittently would jazz up the look even more (and keep the bulbs cool for fire safety).

For a finishing touch use any plastic container as a cooler for party beverages. Spice things up by putting them in hanging baskets or a plant stand. You can also use a nice oblong watermelon in the same fashion for an evening. Cut an oval in the top and clean out all the pulp (or serve to guests). Slice off a portion of the bottom for a flat surface so the watermelon doesn’t rock back and forth. Fill with cans, bottles, and ice- voila!

Hopefully this will help you with your patio at home or inspire other projects around the home. We’d love to see pictures of your outdoor space! Post them on the blog or e-mail them to us and we’ll be sure to share them with the web.

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