Think Outside the Box

By Cathy Lee Posted in: Celebrate StyleImprove

With a little creativity and the help of these guidelines, you can turn your outdoor living space into an entertainment area that’s cozy and fashionable

Here in Hawaii, when it comes to entertaining, so much of the festivities happen outdoors. Whether you’re planning a holiday party or an anytime outdoor barbecue, I have some tips for both light fluff-ups or remodeling to create a whole new outdoor entertaining area.

Here’s the trick: The idea is to create an outdoor room. You can create an outdoor game room, an outdoor living room or an outdoor dining room. Whatever direction you decide on, give it the feel of the complete room, right down to your color palette, materials and finishing accents.

The main difference will be finding things suitable for the weather. Look for outdoor, weather-resistant rugs in modern looks and materials like mesh vinyls or natural fibers like sea grass. For upholstery, Sunbrella and others make an amazing variety of prints and fabrics.

You can even take the concept of accent walls outdoors using exterior paint. And art? Outdoors is not the place for your oil paintings, but for works of wood, glass or metals like wrought iron.

For this client in Discovery Bay, I had a smallish lanai to work with. This project was a quick fluff-up to make the outdoor space as inviting as the indoors.

The first thing I did was change the weathered flooring material to an outdoor carpeting. I kept it in the same dark color as the indoor flooring, so the transition was almost seamless. (A more affordable alternative would be an outdoor area rug.)

Then, by finding some patio furniture, colorful pillows and a modern art piece for the wall, I created a setting that’s inviting to entertain or relax in. I finished staging it with some iced tea, and this fluff-up took only a little bit of time and money, but had a huge impact.

The most common mistake people make with outdoor spaces is getting matching sets of furniture. You can’t beat the pricing, but these can look uniform and uninteresting, so if you have one, find a way to make it uniquely yours.

You can change out the bolster pillow and add a throw, or instead of using a five-piece set, break it up and switch out the coffee table or side table for a more interesting one. This way your arrangement will look more personal — and not like the exact same set your neighbor has!

Now, if time and budget allow and you really want to invest in a great outdoor entertainment area, see if there’s room to extend that space or create a free-standing one, as I did at this home off Waialae Golf Course.

When I saw the property, it had a small, roofed bar that I called the hot dog stand. Instead of trying to make it bigger, I tore it down and made the entire footprint larger. Where before there was just a bar stand with a few barstools, now there was an entire outdoor living room, complete with television, surround sound, outdoor chandelier and barbecue area.

The first step was to think about materials. Was my flooring going to be tile? Some rustic wood decking? Flagstones? I needed something that would wear well and look amazing, so I went with natural quartzite.

To give it the look of a living room, I designed the tiles in a pattern that looked like an area rug. The materials I chose for the TV cabinet, furniture and chandelier were all designed for outdoors, but in concept, all the elements of an indoor living room were there.

Yes, this was a big project. But the end result was spectacular and added tremendous value to the home.

So whether you’re looking for added resale value or simply love to entertain outside, literally think outside the box — and go big outside.

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom and she recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse. Lee’s interior design work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops. To find out more, go to www.cathyleestyle.com.