Although summer is more than half-way over, it’s not too late to host that outdoor gathering you’ve been dreaming
about all season. If you don’t want to invest too much in your soiree, there are ways to make cheap equal chic.
Many indoor items can be recycled to create an elegant outdoor entertaining space that’s just as cozy as your
“Your patio or deck should be thought of as another room of your house,” says Sonny Golden, interior designer
and president of Golden Key Interiors in New Springville. “Manufacturers are making many products that have both
indoor and outdoor uses,” she continues. “There are wonderful fabrics, drapes, accessories and rugs that can be
To start designing your outdoor room without spending a lot, apply these tips from the experts:
Recycle indoor items in unique ways.
Don’t restrict the use of a furniture piece outdoors to the same way it’s utilized inside your home. For example, a
bench can be used as a table by adding a table runner, says interior designer Susan Huckvale Arann, owner and
principal designer of the Bloomfield-based American & International Designs, Inc. “Just about everything you find
in your home can be used outside in some way,” she comments.
Looking to create a bar area? Recycle a storage cart as a “rolling bar,” suggests interior designer Milena
Marguenski, owner of the Grasmere-based MNM Design Studio, Inc.
Or, how about some new serving trays? Take the wooden box in the family room that’s housing the TV remote and
line it with two colorful napkins to serve rolls or crackers, suggests Orlando, Fla.-based interior designer Marc
Thee, founder of Marc-Michaels Interior Design, who lends his expertise to AltogetherHome.com, an online
destination for design advice and inspiration.
Other ordinary items also can be used. “Look around the house for unexpected display pieces.” Thee says. For
example, “A big ceramic bowl can be filled with ice to chill a glass dish of fresh seafood.”
Add elegance. Items like china and decorative serving trays can be used to create an upscale ambiance.
“A dressy tiered server, normally used to display fancy desserts, looks just as great outside with a s’mores display
of marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers,” Thee says.
“And don’t hesitate to stack your grandma’s best dessert dishes right next to this elegant presentation,” he adds.
“Cloth napkins and real plates also are a dressy touch, and reinforce the ‘outdoor dining room’ mood.”
Create seating areas.
Gone are the days of painted redwood picnic tables. Instead, create a conversational setting that is cozy, warm
and elegant. An old throw rug taking up space in your basement or attic can be used to “anchor” your seating area,
Or, “For a picnic flavor, provide plenty of floor pillows borrowed from the family room sofa, and add two or three
garden stools in a vignette to serve as de facto tables while seated on the ground,” he says.
Another option is to seat your guests in chairs from the kitchen or breakfast room. Place them around the rug in a
semi-circle to encourage conversation. Utilize garden stools between the chairs to hold drinks while eating, Thee
Develop a theme with color.
From a nautical to rustic theme, you can use color to create a certain ambiance for your backyard room.
“Color makes a statement,” Ms. Arann says, pointing out you can “use drapery in blues, such as aqua with a pop
of yellow and white, as your backdrop to create a nautical theme.”
You can add to this theme by filling clear glass jars with seashells and coral for table centerpieces.
Add decorative touches. Vases, floral arrangements, picture frames and bowls of fruit add extra detail and
interest to your outdoor room.
“Flowers are a must. They bring life to an outdoor space,” Ms. Golden says.
To get even more creative, pot flowers in an umbrella stand, Ms. Arann suggests, adding that mirrors placed on
picture frame stands also can create points of interest. Additionally, bowls of fruit — particularly a mix of lemons
and limes — help create an organic feel, Ms. Golden says.
Also think outside the box when it comes to placing decor.
“Instead of using centerpieces for decor, use your house walls, fence or anything vertical to hang thin bottles with
flowers or planted bags,” Ms. Marguenski suggests.
Light your room. Hang petite votive lanterns from tree branches to create an intimate setting for your backyard
gathering. Choose mosquito-repelling citronella candles to keep the bugs away.
If you want to add an extra special touch, buy an inexpensive vintage chandelier at a local thrift store to hang above
your seating area.
Thee advises to remove the wiring and electrical sockets, spray paint it a bright color to match the theme of the
evening and hang it from a tree with candles placed where the bulbs used to be.
And use candleholders found inside your home with some type of covering to protect the wind from extinguishing
“Candlelight is always one of the best ways to create an incredible atmosphere,” Ms. Golden says, noting,
“Everything and everyone looks good by candlelight.”
Use drapery to designate your space. Drapes can close off a tented or covered porch area. “If there is inclement
weather or too much sunlight, you can close the space off with drapes,” Ms. Golden says, pointing out, “Treated
fabrics work well outdoors.”
Plus, drapery can be used as backdrop. Ms Arann notes, “Fabric adds texture to any space.”