Friday, June 12, 2009

Ode to Patios

There have been several seasons in my life when all I had in terms of outdoor space was a porch or patio. No lawn. No trees. No plot to plant a garden. And at the time, I let the absence of a yard keep me from maximizing the potential of my patio. This was a mistake, because patios can be fantastic spots for living outdoors.

The Same Tips Apply

Most of the same rules that I’ve touched on earlier this week apply for designing a patio space: paying mind to building good bones, providing furniture, bringing in lighting.... They only need to be tweaked a bit to accommodate a smaller space. For instance:

furniture: obviously scale makes a difference when you have a small space. Resist the urge to monopolize your patio with a standard size round table, umbrella and chairs, and opt instead for a smaller cafe table and perhaps a lounger or two. Or consider small portable benches that can do double duty as seating and/or table surfaces.

lighting: patios are even easier to light than landscapes, so go crazy! I love to unexpectedly see a fancy pendant hanging from a covered patio, or lanterns draped from the railings. Candles, of course, work really well too. Just don’t forget to blow them out!

good bones: even though patio space is tight, plants are a must if you want to create a true outdoor atmosphere, so make sure you leave room for a few containers. And like a yard, don’t just fill your pots with flowers. Diversify by adding some taller grasses or even some shrubs. I love boxwoods in containers lining a patio wall, or reeds standing tall in a corner, or a large fern by the foot of a lounger. Just remember that containers usually require more water than landscapes, so don’t let your pretty ornamental grass turn brown from neglect in the hot sun.

Flexible Advantages

In addition to these design tips, it is nice to consider that in a way, patio design is the best of both worlds. You can create a comfortable, inviting outdoor space with less money and maintenance than a lawn. No mowing. No weeding. No mulching and digging. Furthermore, unlike a yard, you can switch up your designs from year to year, changing plants and layouts as your tastes and interests change. Perhaps one year you love the Tuscan feel, and splurge on geraniums, lavenders and cedar. And then the next year you crave a more formal English design, and opt for topiary boxwoods and verbenas. Patios provide flexibility in a way that a landscape cannot.

So enjoy your “yardless” outdoor space and start designing!

Previous Related Outdoor Living Posts:
taking my design obsession out
light up the night
good bones
**don't forget to visit Retro Summer 09's webpage for more information on this summer's series!**

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