May 19, 2013

Make the most of your outdoor space

Even the tiniest yard, porch or patio can be made truly special with a few strategic choices.

By MELISSA RAYWORTH The Associated Press

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Drapery panels are added to this small Flynn-designed outdoor porch to emphasize the house’s tall ceiling, minimize its narrow dimensions and give the space privacy. Another trick is to hang oversized art and flank seating areas with two love seats or sofas rather than chairs.

The Associated Press

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Designer Brian Patrick Flynn turned a narrow 14- by 9-foot outdoor space into a full-fledged living room by adding a pergola for shade and suspending outdoor pendant lights. A planter wall provides privacy and a braided indoor-outdoor area rug creates an indoor feeling.

The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

He also suggests using narrow planters to create "long, narrow, raised flower beds that go the length of the space." They provide room for plants to grow, while also creating a ledge that's "great for coffee cups or a casual lunch," he says.

Flynn suggests playing up the height of your space by adding long outdoor curtains or hanging pendant lights.


"I usually paint concrete slabs (on the floor) a bold color or an accent color carried out from an adjacent room," Flynn says. "This helps the patio feel like an extension when you look out to it through a door.

On the flip side, when seated out in the patio looking inward, the consistent use of color flowing inside and outside makes the patio itself feel much more open."

Flynn also suggests using outdoor curtains for a burst of color, and to block an unattractive view or hide items like electrical boxes and storage bins.

"Outdoor draperies are, hands-down, the easiest way to soften an otherwise all-concrete and stucco space, while also being able to control how much or how little neighbors can see."

Or, he says, order a basic trellis from an online retailer like, then "paint it a bold color and use it to instantly make an outdoor space feel more room-like."

And for a burst of natural color, Lambton suggests adding a small, tabletop fire pit for a golden glow at night. "Some are small enough, and they don't put off a lot of heat," he says.


"Most people don't think of using art outside, but it can be done, especially in a DIY manner," Flynn says. "My favorite trick is to use tent canvas and stretch it across a DIY frame made from pressure-treated lumber, and add some gesso to the surface for texture."

Once you've created your canvas, he says, "pick up some exterior latex paint, then get as abstract as you want to play with color shape and texture. Once the art is dry, add a sealer to protect it from moisture, then hang it up to create a focal point, and/or add another layer of privacy."

You can make any outdoor space more beautiful, Lambton says, with just a few hours of effort and a small investment.

"If you get two or three pots and a couple of bags of planting mix," he says, "it's easy to do for a couple hours on a Saturday. Just a little bit of color and life will really dress up your outdoor space."

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Additional Photos

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A tiny patio decorated in the same color scheme appears to be an extension of the adjacent living room.

The Associated Press


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