There’s nothing like escaping outdoors when the weather turns warm — whether it’s a spot on a balcony, a corner of the yard or a full outdoor room. Our outdoor spaces are getting more colourful and creative every year.
So what might they look like this year? Here are some of the top trends catching people’s eyes.
Indoor style moves outdoors
In the past few years, we’ve seen “outdoor rooms” become more and more elaborate with features like reclining chairs, sofas, sectionals, end tables, accessories and food prep spaces. Now, homeowners are seeking harmony between the indoors and out by matching styles, colours and textures with their indoor spaces. Some accessories and furniture do double duty by moving inside and out depending on the season.
The trend is also working both ways with some outdoor elements making their way indoors — like stone and potted plants.
Grey is the new black
Furnishings for your outdoor room are getting a softer look this year as shades of grey and charcoal hit the stores. The hues aren’t as harsh as black, but still offer a sleek and modern look. You won’t just find them in metal pieces — it may just be the finish of choice for still popular all-weather wicker.
Another durable option: aluminum with the look of painted wood which stands up to the elements and the test of time. You’ll see greys in accessories like cushions and patio umbrellas too.
Fun and colourful accessories
Once again, we can’t take our gardens and patios too seriously. Bright colours and prints can add fun and interest to an outdoor space — like pillows, throw rugs, candles and lights, to name a few. One popular look you’ll see this season is cushy seating sets layered with bright throw pillows.
However, beware of too much of a good thing. Experts recommend moderation when it comes to picking a palate — no more than three or four colours. You can also choose a fun signature colour like pink as an accent against a neutral palette.
Which hues should you look for this year? Tangerine Tango may be Pantone’s Colour of the Year, but bold blues, vivid reds and leafy greens are also expected to be popular.
Mixed media (textures and surfaces, that is)
There’s no denying the draw of a coordinated patio set, but on the whole outdoor spaces are getting more creative. Predicted to be a breakout trend for 2012, a mixture of surfaces and textures offer an eclectic look and feel to the outdoors. Think distressed finishes on furniture, mosaics, stamped concrete floors, a mixture of stone and stained wood.
It’s also a good trend to tap if you’re on a budget because you can mix and match pieces and be creative with things you already have. Items don’t have to be brand new either — worn surfaces, cracks and aged patinas add texture and visual interest, says Better Homes and Gardens.
Nature continues to be a big influence, and this year you’ll see in shape as well as texture. Forget harsh corners and straight lines — furniture, décor and even patios themselves are leaning towards swooping lines and playful curves. The organic shapes help bring together natural and design elements.
Curves are also more forgiving for gardens and patio stones. There’s no need to fuss over straight lines or perfect corners.
Fire pits and bowls add warmth
Think of them as campfires with elegance and sophistication. Fire pits have been a hot feature for a few years now, and the trend shows little sign of cooling off with more modern and functional units hitting the market.
However, it’s important to consider function and safety as well as good looks. Experts advise to think about your needs — will you use it for heat on a chilly night, or do you need a removable screen for cooking? Safety should also be top of mind, and you should be aware of municipal regulations regarding fire features.
Lighting sets the scene
We love summer’s long days, but there’s no reason to head indoors when the sun goes down. Patio lanterns are hardly a new trend, but there are more and more options for outdoor lighting — including energy-saving LED and solar powered collections. One of the latest options on the market are wind-powered lights — like this pendant lamp from Ikea.
This year, lighting isn’t just practical or whimsical — it’s all setting the mood. Think decorative “fairy” lights for a taste of whimsy or glowing lanterns for ambiance.
Patios go green
Bring some life to your outdoor space. While vases of cut flowers are always a hit, experts say decorating with potted plants (think flowers and herbs) and bird feeders will be big on the patio scene. Remember those fun hues we mentioned above? Let nature show off its colours with bright blooms too. You can go as big or as small as you like — potted shrubs and trees are also making an appearance.
Don’t have a deck or gazebo? Decorating around seating areas can help define the space and set the mood. (Think ivy for a cottage feel, for instance.)
Just because you have a beautiful outdoor space doesn’t mean you want an audience. In recent years, we’ve seen shelter go from patio umbrellas to trellises, tarps and roofs. This year, curtains are also making an appearance to add privacy and colour as well as a touch of romance.
Privacy screens aren’t just for your outdoor room: You can build them or buy them to hide storage, your composter, rain barrel or air conditioner. (Home Depot has instructions on how to create an outdoor privacy screen, for example.)
When considering your options, it’s important to think of how much work they will be to set up and maintain. For instance, will they stand up to a storm, or will you have to set them up each time you want to use them?
Going online for inspiration
While everyone dreams of having a backyard straight out of a magazine, print publications aren’t the only place to turn for inspiration. More people are turning to the internet for inspiration and ideas — and there’s plenty of them to be found on magazine and home improvement websites as well as gardening forums.
Social media sites like Pinterest can help you collect and organize ideas. (You don’t have to be a member to snoop.)
Trend reports also indicate that more and more mobile users turn to their devices to shop around for the best deals and selection. Stores are wise to this trend, and offer deals through social media channels — and may match their competitor’s offers.
Sources: BetterHomesandGardens.com, Garden Media Group 2012 Garden Trends Report, Lowes press release, PatioFurnitureUSA.com