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7 Ways to Refresh Your Outdoor Space for Summer

MAY 12, 2022
Photo credit: Architectural Digest

It may have been an excruciatingly slow warm-up to spring for many pockets of the country, but we can practically feel summer and all its happy energy and lingering sweetness in the air this week. Without hesitation, our favorite thing about the season is shifting living from mostly indoors to mostly out. We’re already mentally planning sunny afternoons vibing with neighbors on the deck and balmy evening dinner parties in our beautifully styled outdoor spaces.

Decorist designers have been at it for a few months now helping clients turn their attention outdoors and choose designs that are either a cohesive extension of or a complete departure from their home’s interiors. We checked in with a few of them recently to find out what’s trending and what their favorite exterior projects are this season. From open-air dining rooms to intimate seating areas, the concepts are incredibly inspiring and absolutely beautiful to look at.

We hope these designer-approved idea-starters for reimagining your outside spaces will be just the nudge you need to kickstart outdoor living season in style!

A Seating Area with Curve Appeal

Image credit: Harmonia Living

Just as we saw curved lines take over furniture and décor in 2021, we are seeing that trend continue in a big way to outdoor spaces. Curved silhouettes allow for better flow and increased open space which is especially conducive to outdoor cocktail parties and any gathering where guests tend to stand and mingle.

From rounded hanging daybeds to sofas and seating areas in the round, there’s something very intimate and sensual about decorating with curvilinear shapes. If your current sofa and other seating pieces still have a lot of life left in them, you can invite in the curved shape with other decor like dotting a few drum or pedestal tables throughout your space, or incorporating a bar cart with pretty curved lines. Get creative with the curvy trend and enjoy how it really changes up your vibe.



A Fresh Take on Tile

Image credit: Athena Calderone for Architectural Digest

Something to consider if you’re looking for a dramatic transformation in your space is to dress up your outdoor flooring in one of the season’s most beautiful trends — decorative ceramic tile. There’s something organically romantic about a tiled space that evokes a holiday on the Mediterranean or a bustling spice market in Morocco. You can easily recreate the vibe of your best, last holiday just steps from your back door. 

Whether as a grounding floor covering or extending up an exterior wall, tile adds loads of graphic interest and texture. It can look polished and modern or vintage and weather-worn — consider the rest of your décor, both inside and out, and follow in the same general design direction for a safe bet. We love the look of a more abstract patchwork pattern as well. If a big design overhaul isn’t in the cards this summer, look to a dining table or outdoor coffee table with a tile inlay to achieve the look, just on smaller scale.



The Optimized Odd Space

Image credit: Kemp Biggs for Architectural Digest 

There’s no need to overlook a small or oblong outdoor space just because it can’t accommodate a dining table. Decorist designers love a limited-space challenge and have been known to do amazing things to get the most out of them so that everyone can enjoy outdoor living at its finest.

A long, narrow picnic table is an obvious choice but can put some people off as being too informal. We beg to differ…it’s what you do with the tabletop and the area around the table that elevates it. Bring out weather-friendly table décor in shimmery finishes, a beautiful runner with an eye-catching texture and stylized lanterns. We love an oversized mural on an external wall, or a series of sconce lights or wall-planters peppered about to create visual interest. Potted plants are another great add-in, especially narrow, tall sizes with a small footprint but big style impact. Grouping different sizes and heights creates a layering effect that feels inviting and relaxed.



The Summer Color Refresh


Image credit: Southern Living

Taking a cue from warmer temps and nature coming into full bloom is all the inspiration you need to inspire a new seasonal color palette. Everything feels lighter and more effortless in summer months and that sensibility should carry over to your décor, plants, linens (and even your menus).

The easiest swaps to make are with outdoor upholstery, accent pillows and area rugs. We love changing out of heavily textured fabrics into something with a bit of a sheen, and playing with foliage motifs like tropical leaves on a macro scale that happen to be trending big this year. Graphically bold midcentury prints are a solid choice as well, as is embracing all the gorgeous blue palettes that are replacing the tonal gray trend. Invite in a few potted tropical plants or trees in sleek, minimalist containers and you have successfully captured the effortless vibe of the season.



A Beautifully Shaded Oasis

Image credit: Hannah Haston Photography

Put the most positive spin on throwing shade with a stylish shade covering that keeps your seating area protected from the sun and heat. Short of extending your roof’s overhang or installing a pergola or covered trellis, there are numerous other low maintenance but beautiful ways to create shade.

We love a cantilevered umbrella, a sleek, modern shade sail and all the cool configurations you can create with a shade cloth hung from an overhead structure. With proper covering executed in a stylish, interesting way, you outdoor area will feel cozier, more comfortable and far more intimate. Whichever shade structure you opt for, the trick is to cover a lot of area and to do it beautifully. It’s not just sun protection after all, it’s a sculptural fixture that will lend elegance and ambiance.



A Zen Garden Vibe

Image credit: House to Decor

Even with most of the country re-opened, we all still need an occasional respite from the hum and whirl of the workweek and a hectic commute. Creating an outdoor Zen space is not unlike creating one inside. The vibe is one of tranquility and coziness with plush seating, textured pillows and floor coverings and a soothing, nature-inspired color palette. We love a southwest, desert-inspired design scheme. Skip the long dining table for smaller low tables in softer round shapes that can still accommodate a meal or cocktail hour. A hammock or swing chair is always a welcome invitation to decompress.



An Open-air Kitchen

Image credit: Architectural Digest 

Motivating your tribe to spend more time outside is a breeze when they can easily whip up light summer snacks and meals without having to leave the lively conversation. When you think outdoor kitchen, you might think contractors and expensive materials on backorder, but you can create a cooking and prep space simply and affordably with a little ingenuity. For a simple DIY setup, shop professional chef stores for a catering prep or commercial work station that can be built out with decking materials and an attractive slab countertop. Shop just about any big box or outdoor furniture for installation-ready modular units that you can configure and install with a little help. You’ll soon be enjoying a delightful season of dining (and cooking) al fresco.


Prefer a little guidance on styling your outdoor space this season? Decorist designers are available to help you create a gorgeous space you’ll get loads of use out of.


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