Take It Outside

Take It Outside

You can build something to fit your space,such as this teak table and banquette produced by Berkeley Mills in collaboration with Studio PCH.

Get more out of your yard by expanding your living space to the outdoors.

Summer comes late to us here in the East Bay. That’s good news. It means there’s still time to prep your backyard for the next two months of typically warm weather.

First, consider how you want to use the space. An outdoor eating area is an obvious choice, and for good reason: Who doesn’t like to dine al fresco? But assuming you have the room, consider an outdoor lounge area, too. This could be as simple as a couple of chaise lounges, or as complex as a fully fledged living room, complete with couches, tables, and rugs. With great looking outdoor furniture available at a variety of price points, you’re limited only by your square footage.

Now evaluate the location. Chances are the backyard has a natural focal point: a cluster of trees, say, or a pretty grouping of plants. If so, place your seating in the best spot to enjoy the view.

Once the layout is set, it’s time for more groundwork-literally. Concrete pavers, outdoor tiles, mulch, grass, flagstones, and pea gravel are all good flooring options, though they differ greatly in terms of style and feel. Look to the vintage of your house and the condition of the terrain to inform your choice.

Next up: furnishings. Both Frontgate (Frontgate.com) and Restoration Hardware (RestorationHardware.com) sell beautifully solid goods, with prices on the higher end to match. West Elm (WestElm.com) and CB2 (CB2.com) offer a nice selection in the mid range, and World Market (WorldMarket.com) and Ikea (Ikea.com/us) have darling choices that won’t break the bank. Wherever you shop, look for materials made to brave the elements. Resin wicker, painted metal, and teak wood will serve you well for years to come.

Durability isn’t the only consideration; pay attention to your palette, too. Echo the colors used inside your home for a seamless, cohesive effect. And don’t forget to take into account your house color and plantings. They act as the walls of your outdoor room.

Yes, with the kind of functionality and beauty you’re adding to it, it’s right to think of this space as a real room. And the same rules for designing indoors work outside, too. Make sure you have adequate lighting to enjoy it late into the evening, but steer clear of harsh fluorescents. String lights, outdoor lanterns, and candles will create a glow that’s far more flattering. Stuck with an unwelcoming, dark corner? A large mirror will do wonders for opening up the space. And if you need a bit more color, try a few throw pillows and rugs. Just be sure to use ones fashioned from outdoor acrylics so they’re sure to last.

Add a fire pit to the mix, and you’ve got a space to enjoy year round, and with a pretty view to boot. Now that’s making the most of your yard.


Sarah Coombs is an interior designer based in Alameda.

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Oakland Magazine
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