(BPT) - From barbecues and games of bocce to parties and candlelit dinners, your outdoor space can be a hub for entertaining friends and family.
'Try to create a living room for your outdoor space,' says Kate Anthony, owner of Kate & Company Design Studio and Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California - San Diego, a campus of Argosy University. People spend a lot of time on their indoor living room spaces, and she recommends extending the interior home out to your exterior.
Whether you have a small patio or sprawling backyard, interior design experts from The Art Institutes system of schools provide six simple tips for making the great outdoors a great place to eat, play and entertain.
1. Focal points
Edward Varias, owner of E.V. Design and Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California - Hollywood, a campus of Argosy University, says a focal point brings everyone together, and can include furniture, a fountain, a fireplace, or any piece that will provide a 'wow' factor. An outdoor rug can serve as a focal point and help define an area, and a fire pit makes a great place for guests to gather.
2. Seating groups
'Define the space for the type of entertaining you need,' says Varias. Determine the size of your space, the number of people you will typically be entertaining and whether you will use the space for eating, drinking and socializing, or playing games. In a larger space, you can mix dining, hanging out and garden spaces to provide your guests with more areas to enjoy.
For a small space, seating can be a simple bistro table and two chairs. For larger spaces, you can incorporate sofa and chair groupings, along with a small coffee table. Anthony adds that a circular furniture pattern allows everyone to see each other, which is great when playing cards.
'Select several vistas or view points for people to explore depending on the space; utilizing the space in several locations creates gathering areas, such as a garden to explore or seclusion for meditating,' says Varias. Anthony encourages people to think about creating areas for games such as bocce and says that seating or rugs can help establish designated areas without fences or barriers.
In creating vistas, you can use a combination of natural and manmade elements. This can include creating garden areas with rocks and fountains and adding little surprises such as statuettes, pagoda lanterns and seating for two, says Varias.
The first step in landscaping is cleaning up the space and trimming bushes, trees and overgrown plants to create a fresh palette. Anthony recommends hiring a professional landscaper as they will be able to tell you what plants are appropriate for your climate. If a landscaper isn't in your budget, Varias encourages you to take advantage of the people at your local home and garden stores. They will be able to make recommendations based on your climate and the look you are trying to achieve.
Plants can help add color, style and definition to your space, and Anthony says not all plants need to be in the ground. 'You can create great little vignettes throughout the yard by using varying sizes of planters.' Potted plants can also be brought in during the winter to keep them looking great year after year.
Lighting can set the tone for any type of nighttime event. Varias recommends providing ample lighting for your focal points and providing a mix of electric lighting and ambient lighting such as candles and candelabras. Other easy DIY lighting includes strings of lights, which can be used year-round and simple solar lights.
Anthony recommends bold accessories for outdoor spaces. Your starting palette will be very neutral, with a lot of greens and browns, and you can add pops of color with pillow cases or colored plants. Storage is another area to consider. You won't want your hose and garden tools lying around the yard, so a storage bench or shelving can keep everything nicely organized.
The tips above can be adapted for spaces of varying sizes and can range from simple DIY to high-end customized projects.