Tips for Decorating an Outdoor Living Space

When we first moved into this house last year, our inspector said we would definitely want to refinish or replace the deck soon. I didn’t even want to think about the deck, though, because there was so much to do inside! But when Article reached out to me to see if I was working on any outdoor projects this summer, I thought … hmmm … I could be! We’re really happy with the Article sofa that we used in our study makeover, so I knew we’d love their new outdoor furniture too.

Little did I know that a “simple” patio refinishing would turn into an entire overhaul of our outdoor space, giving me a brand new living space perfect for entertaining! All of our hard work seriously paid off, and the new furnishings and decorations truly are the cherry on top of our patio project.

This post is technically the “grand reveal” of our patio makeover project, but I wanted to specifically talk about how to decorate an outdoor space so that it truly feels like an extension of your home. Even if you start with something that looks like this unassuming patio below!

To recap, we pulled off the old lattice fencing, refinished the deck flooring, added a new slat wood privacy fence, and topped it off with a slat wood pergola. Obviously, the structural changes made a huge impact, as you can see below, but it was really all of the decorative accessories that made the patio feel cozy and welcoming.

Before Decorating

I began by selecting furnishings from Article’s outdoor collection. I wanted to keep things relatively low contrast so the space felt serene and let the great outdoors take center stage. So I chose the Calo sofa and chair in gray tones that also tied in with the fire pit I had purchased. The Medan lounge chairs add the casual beachy vibe of rattan, but with the durability of metal and synthetic wicker. I love that they’re easy to move around depending on how we’re entertaining out here! For the dining area, I maintained the gray and white color scheme with the Tavola dining table and Sala dining chairs. Article’s wood Tana stools bring a different wood tone into the arrangement and they’re the perfect size for holding snacks and drinks.

After Decorating

All of the furnishings felt cohesive and stylish in our new patio, but left as they were, the space felt dull and lifeless. I strategized how to best allocate my decorating budget towards items that would pack a big cozy punch, and came up with a few basic decorative techniques. I’m really happy with how the space was even further transformed with some decorative accessories!

Here’s one more before and after for those in the back:

Outdoor Decorating Ideas

1. Outdoor Area Rug
Just like indoor rugs, outdoor rugs are helpful tools for visually grounding a seating area and giving furnishings a greater context. They provide a soft place for bare feet to rest, and definitely elevate the cozy vibes. But unlike indoor rugs, outdoor rugs are designed to withstand heavy foot traffic and weather. I use a broom to keep my outdoor rug clean, and from time to time hose it off if it gets muddy. I chose a dark color to ground the lighter furnishings and accessories, but also to hide dirt and debris.

2. Outdoor Pillows
Pillows can add to the comfort of your seating areas, but also make the space look just as cozy as the living area inside your home. Outdoor pillows are usually filled with lightweight polyester stuffing and should be made from weather resilient fabric. Weather resilient doesn’t mean waterproof, but rather that they won’t fade as badly in the sun and will resist the retention of water, which would lead to mildew. My pillows do get a bit wet in the rain, but they dry super quickly! Some people choose to utilize deck boxes or storage benches to store pillows when not in use.

3. Outdoor Lighting
I transformed an indoor pendant light into an outdoor light (more on that in a later post!), but there are plenty of options that are outdoor ready, like this weatherproof basket-style pendant light from Article. Make sure to pay attention to whether or not an outdoor light needs hardwired. It’s not impossible to run a conduit to your outdoor area if you have some kind of rod or beams overhead, but I chose to use a plug-in option because this project was already complicated enough without electrical work.

String lights are obviously a popular choice for outdoor areas, because they can be draped so easily and simply plug into outlets. I also noticed there are a lot of nice solar-powered light options on the market now too! Some are string lights, some pendants, while others are low or tall torch-style lights. Regardless of what type of light you feel is right for your space, lighting of any kind will add excellent atmosphere (plus visibility!) when the sun begins to set.

4. Outdoor Curtains
At first, I thought outdoor curtains were a bit over-the-top. But when I looked at the long expanse of slats on our patio fence, I knew a curtain would be the perfect way to visually break it up! I’m so glad I went for it, because these curtains add a new level of sophistication—as though I reserved my own beach cabana for the day. (Minus the beach, that is. Minor detail.)

For the curtain rod, I purchased an extra long galvanized pipe from a local builder supply store. Most hardware stores only sell up to 10-feet long pipes, but I needed 14 feet to space the width of the porch. A 20-foot length cost about $70. Not cheap, but I wanted to avoid needing a middle support for the pipe. This way, I can easily pull both curtains to one side for optimal shade from the sun. The rod is secured with a basic closet rod support.

Make sure you buy curtains that are specifically intended for outdoor use, or mildew will become an issue. I tie back my curtains when not in use with a simple rope tie-back. When the weather turns too chilly to use this space, I’ll bring the curtains and rod inside for the winter.

5. Wall-Mounted Planters
Since I didn’t have any outdoor-friendly art I wanted to use out here, I decided to utilize plants for vertical interest in the space. These planters are specifically made for wall mounting. They have mounting holes on the back, so I just used screws and nuts to hang them on my fence. I chose Silver Falls to fill my containers because they look so lovely and light as they spill down from the planter.

6. Tabletop Decor
Table runners aren’t just for indoors! Adding this woven-reed runner is my favorite way to make outdoor dining feel more special. I don’t leave it out all of the time, but I’ll put out the runner and candles to make the space feel more special when we’re out there. Terrariums and planters are also great items you can leave out on your table all the time.

7. Potted Plants
Tall plants help visually fill the space around the furniture, especially in corners and surrounding doorways. I chose to use tropical plants out here and have a bright sunroom where they will winter. I’ve learned that there are some evergreens that are hardy enough to survive in pots during an Ohio winter, but I was too nervous to try that this year! I do love the idea of using large box planters and tall evergreens to serve as divisions between spaces. Maybe that will be next summer’s project?

8. Fire Pits
Rather than using an outdoor coffee table, we decided to buy a propane fire pit. We’ve been enjoying using it for s’mores so far, and soon I think it will really enhance the ambience of fall evenings out here! You can also buy mini propane and lava rock bowls for setting on coffee or dining tables. If you don’t have space for a large one like mine, you can buy taller side-table style fire pits too!

9. Umbrella and Awnings
Obviously, shade is welcome in the summertime! But umbrellas and awnings also add another decorative layer to an outdoor area. I had considered using a retractable awning for the seating area of our patio, but the nice ones are so expensive! I settled on a tilting freestanding umbrella that I can move around depending on the sun’s location. Shade sails are a great idea too! You need spots to anchor the corners of the sail, but the shade they offer is really nice. I just love the charm of an umbrella, though!

I keep pinching myself every time I look through the door and see this cheerful space! Truly, I love our outdoor dining space much more than our indoor dining area now. I want to host all of the parties and do all of my work from the serenity of this table. It will be a sad day when winter comes.

I’m so grateful to Article for making it possible for me to create my dream outdoor living area. I hope our patio makeover has inspired you and shown you ways to give your own outdoor space some love! While it’s already August, now is the best time to get out there and buy outdoor items on sale! Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be sure to follow up in the comments below. – Mandi

Credits//Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

// HT